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: 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 & Craft House: Fireplaces

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First Floor Bedroom

Blackwell Arts & Crafts House was designed by the British architect and Arts & Crafts designer Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott. In common with other Arts & Crafts architects, Baillie Scott incorporated elements from earlier periods into his designs for houses. By recycling materials in this way, he was showing respect for the past by salvaging material that had little monetary value but represented the skill and vitality of craftsmen of earlier times. One example of this at Blackwell is in the Dining Room with the 18th century fire back being incorporated into the design. Seen as a substitute for the sun, Baillie Scott designed the fireplaces of the house with inglenook fireplaces appearing in several of the rooms. The fireplaces feature tiles designed by the English potter and tile designer William De Morgan who was a major figure in the Arts & Crafts Movement.

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White Drawing Room

The inglenook fireplace in the White Drawing Room (above) is the most complex and elegant in the house. Incorporating many different elements, the fireplace features carved wooden capitals that branch out to reveal little birds, fruits and leaves.

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First Floor Dressing Room

Each of the bedrooms was individually designed with bold colour co-ordinated schemes which linked the walls, windows, tiles and fireplaces.

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First Floor Bedroom

Writing in The Studio (15th November 1895) Scott stated “It is at the fireside that the interest of the room is focused, and in our inconstant climate we may be driven, at almost any season of the year, to seek there that brightness and warmth which we fail to find in the outside world,”

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The Main Hall

Blackwell Arts & Crafts House: Oak Bureau

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In the White Drawing Room at Blackwell Arts & Crafts House is a bureau designed by the British architect MH Baillie Scott. Dating to c1901, the bureau is made of oak inlaid with boxwood, ebony, holly and pewter. This piece of furniture was manufactured at the Pyghtle Works in Bedford and was priced at £8 8 shillings with the option to purchase in a more economical form with the omission of the inlaid work and use of painted pine instead of oak or mahogany.

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