When the Lakeland Arts Trust acquired Blackwell it did not contain any original furnishings. Today the objects in the period room displays are drawn from the Trust’s own collections and loans from other institutions and private lenders.
Baillie Scott Armchairs
We have acquired a rare pair of armchairs designed by the architect of Blackwell, Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott (1865-1945). Blackwell’s collection already contains a number of items relating to Baillie Scott and Blackwell, such as the folio of his entry to the 1900 House for an Art Lover competition and another recent acquisition, one of the beautifully-carved master moulds for the elaborate plasterwork ceiling in the White Drawing Room – but the chairs are the first examples of his furniture to be acquired by the Trust.
The Arts & Crafts chairs have come halfway round the world. They were purchased in 1905 from JP White of Bedford, the company that made all the furniture designed by Baillie Scott. When their owner emigrated to Canada several years later she took them with her. She subsequently gave them to a friend, in whose family they have remained ever since.
The chairs, made in oak with inlaid decoration of harebells, are in wonderful condition and retain their original leather seats. The simplicity of their design, as with much of much of Baillie Scott’s furniture, is deceptively modern and exemplifies the Arts & Crafts principle that good design is timeless. In the New Year they will go on display in one of Blackwell’s period rooms. Curator Kathy Haslam said: 'This is a very important acquisition for the Trust, and is the perfect way to round off Blackwell’s tenth-anniversary year. We are thrilled that there will be more items designed by Blackwell’s architect here for our visitors to see'.
The folio mentioned above is the subject of a display in 2012, A House for an Art Lover: MH Baillie Scott's Folio.
Seated Madonna by Philip Eglin
Seated Madonna, a porcelain figure by Philip Eglin, has been acquired by the Lakeland Arts Trust for Blackwell, the Arts & Crafts House. Eglin is one of the UK’s foremost ceramic artists, described by writer and curator David Whiting ‘as a great celebrant not only of our rich ceramic inheritance, but some of the complexities of our broader visual and social culture.’
Blackwell held a solo show of retrospective and new work by Eglin at Blackwell earlier this year. The multi-layered language of reference and allusion in Eglin’s ceramics makes for work that challenges the viewer to think beyond the norm in their response to it. As the Trust continues to support, display and promote the work of contemporary craftspeople and artists working in the field of applied and decorative arts, the acquisition of contemporary work enables it to continue to enhance and broaden the scope and nature of the displays at Blackwell, where studio ceramics are displayed alongside historical objects. These juxtapositions create dialogues between object types, styles and periods which serve to explore and question the notion of contemporariness in design, and within this context Seated Madonna represents a significant acquisition. In Eglin’s own words, the display of work by contemporary artists and craftspeople at Blackwell ‘continues to help encourage and allow for as wide an audience as possible to experience and be inspired by the art’.
- Baillie Scott Armchairs in the Main Hall at Blackwell. © Tony West Photography