Arts & Crafts Decoration

In Blackwell there is an outstanding amount of original decorative detail which still survives. During the late nineteenth century there was a resurgence of interest in hand-made crafts, encouraged by such figures as William Morris and John Ruskin, in a reaction to the impersonality of mass produced industrial goods. Throughout the historic house the Arts & Crafts architect, Baillie Scott, has incorporated a wide variety of crafts. These include tiles in the fireplaces, carved stone as well as wood carving, stained glass, mosaic floors, wrought iron and lead work, hessian wall hangings and the beautiful plaster work of the White Drawing Room. All of the detail is carefully woven into the fabric of the historic building rather than being ‘applied’ simply as decoration.

On the ground floor only three main rooms were used by the Holt family on their regular visits to Cumbria. These are linked by a corridor that is impressive, and a masterly piece of design in its own right. On leaving the modern reception area, formed from the servants’ quarters, we are drawn along the corridor by the increasing level of light.

Half way down this passage is the original main entrance porch with its mosaic floor, studded door and carved lintel. The window shows delicate stylised tulips, swaying in the breeze, interwoven with a flock of birds which re-appear in the decoration throughout the house.

Rowan leaves and berries form the dominant decorative theme downstairs. Taken from the Holt family’s crest incorporated into one of the hall windows, they reinforce the idea of the Arts & Crafts house as a mountain retreat and can be seen in the carved wooden frieze in the Hall, the textile wall hangings in the Dining Room, and the lyrical plaster frieze above the panelling in the White Drawing Room.

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  • © Tony West Photography