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20 April 2014
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Cumbria
Blackwell House
© Courtesy of the Lakeland Arts Trust.

Blackwell House - interior and gardens

The architect, C R Ashbee, wrote that "the proper place for the Arts and Craft is in the country". If so, then Blackwell is perfectly placed.

Perched high on a hillside overlooking Windermere, the house is stunningly situated. Constructed between 1897 and 1900, the Grade I* listed building is of international importance, standing as it does at the crossroads between Victorian architecture and 20th Century Modernist style.

Architect M H Baillie Scott designed Blackwell House for Sir Edward Holt, a wealthy brewer from Manchester. It was intended as a weekend retreat for Holt and his family, and demonstrates the aspiration shared by many city industrialists to find an alternative country lifestyle and establish a family seat. Unfortunately, two fires destroyed most of Baillie Scott's drawings and records, so Blackwell House, the only Baillie Scott building open to the public, is one of the most important surviving examples of his work.

The building is a superb illustration of architecture inspired by the so-called 'Arts and Crafts' movement of the late-19th Century - this was a loosely linked group of architects, designers and artists who advocated rejuvenating the skilled crafts that were being replaced by mass production. Blackwell perfectly demonstrates the innovative house design which sprung from these ideas. In his writings, Baillie Scott often stressed his idea of "the soul" of a house - a calm, still, quiet earnestness, rather than the showy pretentiousness found in many modern mansions of the time. This quality is the essence of Blackwell.


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