Posted by: marymarthatours | December 8, 2011

Blackwell, the Arts & Crafts House


Blackwell, the Arts & Crafts House at Bowness-on-Windemere

Situated overlooking Lake Windemere in the English Lake District, Blackwell House offers its visitors beauty inside and out. The house was designed by Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott in 1898 as a vacation home for Sir Edward Holt, a wealthy Manchester industrialist.

 TheHouseArchitectClient, website



M. H. Baillie Scott and Sir Edward Holt

Baillie Scott (1865-1945) studied   architecture in Bath and on the Isle of Man where he designed his own home, named Red House, and the Majestic Hotel in Onchan. He was an early participant in the British Arts & Crafts Movement along with William Morris and John Ruskin, whose home Brantwood is also in the Lake District. Following their Arts & Crafts philosophy, Scott’s designs rely on simplicity of form, local materials, and impeccable workmanship.

Scott was not only an architect, but an accomplished artist. His watercolor renditions of his design interiors are soft in style and rich in appeal.


Interior for Scott’s House for an Art Lover

One of the most remarkable aspects of Blackwell is that it has survived for over a century with most of its interior decoration and furniture intact. This was not because the Holt family lived there, but because they did not. After WWI, the Holts rented out the house, and during WWII it was used to house students evacuated from Liverpool. The building continued as a school until 1976 and later became office space. None of the many occupants choose, or could afford, to make alterations, so the decorative details of the house were preserved.

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Blackwell, the main hall and the white room

In 1997, in an effort to save the house, the Lakeland Arts Trust made an offer to purchase the property, “even though, at that point, the building was not actually for sale and there were no funds for the purchase” (Blackwell website).  With eventual financial backing and donations, the house was purchased and restored. It was officially opened to the public by the Prince of Wales in September 2001.

The original gardens at Blackwell were designed by Thomas Mawson, noted landscape architect and garden designer. He lived in the Windemere area and ran a successful Landscape Nursery with his brothers there. A prolific designer, Mawson’s gardens can be found in many parts of Britain, in Europe, and in Canada. I am convinced that the garden he designed for his brother’s house, Shrublands, which was pictured in the 1907 issue of the Studio Magazine, was at least part of the inspiration for the garden at the home of the Studio’s publisher, Charles Holme, the Manor House at Upton Grey.


Mawson garden at Shrublands, near Windemere in Cumbria

At Blackwell, Mawson’s garden design contained his usual combination of strong architectural features and accompanying planting. Here a series of terraces are arranged to lead the view out over Lake Windemere and across it to the Coniston Fells.


The terrace garden at Blackwell looking toward Lake Windemere

Perhaps when we are at Blackwell on our “England in Miniature” Tour in September 2012, we will take our lunches out to the café tables on the upper terrace. There we can dream about those days in the early 20th century when a wealthy Manchester family came to Blackwell for their holidays and enjoyed the very same views.

(By Mary)

 Photo credits:

Mawson garden at Shrublands: The Studio Magazine, 1907

Blackwell, White Room: copyright Rob Farrow and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License 2.0.

Blackwell, Terrace: copyright John Salmon and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License 2.0.

All other photos: website, used by permission.


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