Ulverscroft: Stoneywell Cottage

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Stoneywell Cottage emerges from the surrounding landscape and was built as a summer house for Leicester industrialist Sydney Gimson, director of Gimson & Co. Vulcan Works. This wonderful building was designed by the Arts & Crafts architect and furniture designer Ernest Gimson and built with fellow architect Detmar Blow. Stoneywell Cottage remained in the Gimson family for three generations until the National Trust acquired it in 2012.

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Completed in 1899, the building is constructed of granite and slate rubble stone and originally had a thatched roof. Following a fire in 1939, the roof was replaced with Swithland slate by Humphrey Gimson. Stoneywell features original woodwork throughout the building and fully incorporates the simplicity of the Arts & Crafts movement.

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The Dining Room

The Dining Room is the first room you enter through the front door and was originally the kitchen until 1953. The last owners of Stoneywell, Donald and Anne Gimson, created a kitchen behind the door near the dresser (above top left) which had been the larder, earth closet and coal store. The beautiful oak table dominates the centre of the room and was made by Sidney Barnsley.

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The Sitting Room

The Sitting Room is accessed by a broad flight of slate stairs from the Dining Room. Providing wonderful views from the window seats, the room is an idyllic setting to unwind. The room features an inglenook fire, an Orkney chair and rush-seated chairs made for the National Trust by Lawrence Neil who still uses many of Gimson’s tools.

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The Main Bedroom

The Main Bedroom is accessed by a staircase from the Sitting Room below and features wonderful furniture, exposed beams and a triangular one light window. This quirky room has a walnut coffer (above right) which was designed and carved by Joseph Armitage. The coffer was made for Basil Gimson’s 21st birthday by Sidney Barnsley and was bought to Stoneywell in 1947.

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The Main Bedroom

In the 1950’s, the Walkthrough Bedroom (below) became a Nursery for Donald and Anne’s daughter Sally. The room has a beautiful colour print above the door to the landing which is from a painting by a Viennese schoolchild. The print was sold to raise money for the Red Cross following World War One as Sydney had been involved in helping Belgian refugees who had fled from Germany.

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Walkthrough Bedroom/Nursery

The Well Room (below) was so named owing to the fact that you step down into the room. The room was used as a bedroom for Donald’s son Roger but had previously been used as a summerhouse.

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The Well Room

Edward Barnsley was commissioned to make the bookcases which fit into the eaves of the room and accommodate the second hand books collected by Basil Gimson. The Well Room has a wonderful collection of furniture and working toys.

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The Well Room

The two cane chairs above were made by the Leicester firm Dryad. Reviving the traditional craft of basket making, Harry Peach, who was a friend of Sydney Gimson, followed the fashions of the continent but the firm’s production was sadly ended with the invention of the American Lloyd Loom.

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Mount Olympus

The bedroom on the top floor of the building was used by many visitors to Stoneywell and was named Mount Olympus – the highest point in the ancient Greek world. The room was much smaller than the present size before the fire of 1939 and was accessed by a ladder from the Nursery. The room has a wonderful collection of Arthur Ransom novels and a chess set (below) made by Donald Gimson.

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Towards Mill Lane is the conically roofed Well House (below). The Pump House is shared with Lea Cottage and was built in 1899 by Ernest Gimson for Mentor and Sydney Gimson. The one storey round building is constructed of granite and slate rubble stone with a Swithland slate roof and is Grade II Listed. Stoneywell Cottage is Grade II* Listed.

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Lanercost Priory: Outer Gatehouse

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To the west of Lanercost Priory stands the remains of the inner arch of the priory gatehouse. Forming a link between the outside world and the canons inside, the surviving part of the outer gatehouse above would have faced into the precinct and the building would have extended to the edge of the road. Dating to the early 13th century, the gatehouse was constructed of squared calciferous sandstone and coursed rubble which was taken from the nearby Roman wall. The gatehouse remains feature a chamfered segmental arch of three orders, hood mould and moulded corbel stops with fragments of fan vaulting. The current gates reflect the Arts & Crafts interests of George Howard, ninth Earl of Carlisle, who erected them during his restorations. The surviving inner arch of the gatehouse is Grade I Listed.

Blackwell Arts & Crafts House: Windows

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Stained glass (White Drawing Room)

The sense of place and love of nature that underpinned the life and work of those designing Arts & Crafts buildings is found in abundance at Blackwell. Advocating a simple life in which the home would be a place of harmony and beauty, Arts & Crafts architecture was a reaction to an aggressively industrial age and was championed by John Ruskin and William Morris. Blackwell has mostly escaped any alterations and almost all of its original decorative features have survived. Throughout this historic house, Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott has incorporated a wide variety of crafts with detail carefully woven into the fabric. The Lake District setting is reinforced by the decorative and impressive carvings, tiles, stained glass and plaster work which reflects the natural environment. The orchestration of distinctive sharp planes and sandstone window mullions, set flush within the facades rather than recessed (as above), create a striking and impressive building that is beautifully integrated into the landscape. Delicate stylised tulips swaying in the breeze are a common motif to be found throughout the house.

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Just as Morris harboured a vision for the infusion of inspiration, through art and nature, into the lives of ordinary people, Baillie Scott wanted to provide suitable alternative accomodation for “people with artistic aspirations but modest incomes.” Morris celebrated the power and beauty of nature as part of the wider Romantic movement that drew attention to the natural environment at a time when the ‘dark Satanic mills’ of industrial capitalism were changing the face of Britain for ever. In a letter to his daughter Jenny in 1885, Morris commented on his journey through Cumbria noting “though I knew it was beautiful journey… I was really quite surprised at the beauty of the country; I think it is the loveliest part of all England: I will tell you about it when I see you. If ever we ‘retire from active service’ I must sit down somewhere near Kirkby Stephen.”

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“A house may possess that inscrutable quality of the True Romance. Not shallow, showy and pretentious, as most modern mansions are, but full of still, quiet earnestness which seems to lull and soothe the spirit with promises of peace.” M.H.Baillie Scott, 1906.

Blackwell Arts & Crafts House: Book Covers

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Many of the makers associated with the Arts & Crafts movement wrote highly imaginative novels and they often had beautifully decorated covers littered with motifs in the Arts & Crafts style. Dating to circa 1900, the above books are on display at Blackwell Arts & Crafts House and were designed by the decorative artist Talwin Morris. The book spines feature stylized flowers with swirling grass motifs and are stored in a similar richly decorated bookcase.

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Blackwell Arts & Crafts House: Master Mould

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On display at Blackwell is the above master mould which was used for the White Drawing Room ceiling. Dating to circa 1898 and designed by Baillie Scott, the fruitwood design is carved with interlocking rowan branches and features on the plasterwork ceiling of a grid comprising four different designs, of which this is one. Plaster moulds would be cast from the fruitwood master mould and the actual ceiling panels created from the plaster versions.

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Baillie scott, in his 1906 book Houses and Gardens, stated that the rowan had been “specially desired” as a decorative motif by his client Sir Edward Holt to reflect the Holt family crest- three stylised rowan trees.

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White Drawing Room Ceiling Panels

Blackwell Arts & Crafts House: Dwarf Cabinet

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On display in the White Drawing Room is an oak cabinet designed and made by Alec McCurdy. McCurdy was a short term student of Stanley Webb Davies who was a prolific furniture maker of the Arts & Crafts movement based in Windermere. Davies aligned himself closely to the philosophy of John Ruskin and produced furniture by only using traditional techniques and the finest quality materials. McCurdy went on to study at the Barnsley workshop and became a well known maker in his own right.

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Blackwell Arts & Crafts House: Panels with Knights

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On display at Blackwell Arts & Crafts House, as part of the Glasgow Style: Arts & Crafts from 1890-1930 Exhibition, was two brass panels detailing Knights. Dating to circa 1900, the panels are the work of the 19th/20th century Scottish sculptor and silversmith Peter Wylie Davidson. Having studied at the Glasgow School of Art, Davidson founded a design and metalwork studio in Glasgow in the 1890’s and published a book entitled Educational Metalcraft in 1927.