Sykehouse Cottage

A beautiful C17th Holiday Cottage in the Lake District

Windermere Weekender

Windermere Weekender

boats_with_legs08A Celebration of Boats, Steam and Stories from Windermere Jetty at Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House: Saturday 29 & Sunday 30 August, 10.30am – 5pm

Our very favourite Arts and Crafts house is planning a marvellous weekend of interactive arts and crafts for the last weekend of August.  In the grounds, there will be innovative sculptures, live music, craft activities, and a large scale creative weaving project and much more.

A great fun Lancaster-based theatre company called Inner State who seem to specialise in “Boats with Legs” will be performing and Dan Fox’s Sound Intervention will be creating some marvellous sounds.

Admission includes entrance to the house, exhibition and all activities.  Adult £8.50 (without donation £7.70), Children FREE.  More details about the event, click here.

Evelyn De Morgan at Blackwell

south lakesIf you are in the South Lakes this Summer, why not pop into Blackwell to see their exhibition : Evelyn De Morgan: Artist of Peace which is running until 13 September?  Evelyn was the wife of the (nowadays) more well known Arts and Crafts ceramicist, William de Morgan.  In their day, William (1839-1917) and Evelyn (1855-1919) De Morgan were both highly respected artists in their own right.  In addition to art, they became involved in many of the leading issues of their time including prison reform, women’s suffrage, pacifism and spiritualism.

The show focuses on the pacifism of Evelyn and her reaction both the First World War and the Boer War; many of the works were shown in her 1916 exhibition held in aid of the Red Cross.

De Morgan’s paintings bear the influence of early Renaissance art as well as that of her Pre-Raphaelite contemporaries, yet her style is distinctive in its rich use of colour, allegory and the dominance of the female form. Following from her interest in Spiritualism, her paintings frequently display an interest in the confinement and limitations of the physical body on earth. Often this is resolved through death.

All the work is on loan from the De Morgan Foundation whose interesting website can be found here.

Museums at Night Festival 2013

2013 Museums at NightThere is something deliciously exciting about being somewhere you are not normally allowed – especially at night.  Here in the South Lakes there are some fun things to do over the 16 – 18th May as part of the national Museums at Night Festival.

‘a greeting of good ale’ 16 May 7.30-9.00 £4 Dove Cottage. Wordsworth is famously known as the “simple water-drinking bard”, but the archives tell a different story.  Discover more about the history of Dove Cottage, formerly the Dove and Olive-Bough Inn,  and enjoy a free beer and food tasting.   Further details at The Wordsworth Trust website here.

Arts & Crime, Murder at Blackwell 16 May at 5.30, 6.30, 7.30, 8.30. Free but limited to 15 so booking essential.  You’ve mistakenly entered the end of a dinner party in the 1920s: what has happened and is someone still ‘at large’? Let the theatre company, Bear Necessities, lead you through Blackwell in search of the culprit.  Further details at the Blackwell website here.

Dozing at Dove Cottage 17 May & Secret Sleepover 18 – 19 May Dove Cottage  Dozing at Dove Cottage, for 14+, will be an eventful evening of activities exploring the cottage, a bite to eat, and a movie marathon followed by the sleepover.  Listen to some ghostly tales on the torch-lit trail and enjoy twilight arts & crafts activities before setting up camp in the museum for the night!  The Secret Sleepover is for children aged 7 – 13 years old, but adults will enjoy it too – a minimum of 1 adult for every 5 children. £10 pp includes breakfast, accommodation and materials for activities. Further details at The Wordsworth Trust website here.

Cranium Sculptorades at Abbot Hall 18 May From 6.00pm, games start after 7 until 10.  Free event, just turn up on the night!  Why stay in and play board games when the Lakeland Arts Trust team is challenging teams of visitors to a giant game of Cranium Sculptorades? Further details at the Abbot Hall website here.

The Ruskin Museum

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Ruskin Museum

The Coniston Room

The Ruskin Museum, down a side street and hidden away, is a huge cabinet of curiosities.  I felt like some sort of Alice wandering around a Museum Wonderland, each area as intriguing as the next.  It’s delightful toy box of memorabilia, informative displays and original artwork.   After a relatively recent revamp, its collection is split into three rooms to help visitors navigate their way around such a disparate yet fascinating collection: The Coniston Room including the small sailboat “Mavis” the original “Swallow” from “Swallows & Amazons”; The new Bluebird Room with lots of details about the World Speed Record attempt; and the Ruskin Room, a lovely Victorian parlour crammed with watercolours and other memorabilia of Ruskin and Collingwood.

What I truly like about the museum is that there is such a variety of objects that, if you are with a family, then everyone will find something of interest – although, I must confess to getting overwhelmed at so much on display.  I’ll have to come on my own sometime.  The boys loved the “Mavis” and the miniature stone houses from the John Usher collection.  I was fascinated by the Neolithic finds and copper mining display whilst Bill spent time in the Bluebird Room, staring at grainy black and white photographs of the speed king, Donald Campbell.  We all loved Ruskin’s slightly rusting and used watercolour paint boxes and dog eared sketch books.

Bluebird Room

The Bluebird Room

Ruskin sketchbooks

The Ruskin Room

You need an hour at the very least to sample its delights.  The museum’s own (quirky) website is here to check on exact location in Coniston, prices and opening times.

If you want to read my post about a young boy’s encounter with Donald Campbell, click here.

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Alec Miller : master carver and sculptor

Alec Miller  Portrait by William Strang, 1903

Portrait by William Strang, 1903

Our family has roots in both the South Lake District and the North Cotswolds, so I am always delighted when I find links between these two beautiful parts of the country.

One strong connection is the Arts and Crafts movement and, within that, a true craftsman, Alec Miller. At the age of 23, he joined CR Ashbee’s experiment of the Guild of Handicraft in Chipping Campden in 1902 – already a trained and working sculptor.  When the Guild folded in 1908, Miller stayed on in Campden and formed a partnership with his younger brother, Fred, and a fellow carver, Will Hart, calling themselves:  “Messrs. Miller & Hart, Architectural Sculptors and Carvers” at “The Studio, Campden, Glos.”

Around 1910, Alec was commissioned to do the woodcarving at the Parish Church of St Mary & St Michael, Great Urswick, just south of Ulverston.  The work is fairly unusual because it is the work of one man and includes the rood screen, the choir stalls, the pews and statues of St James and St John.  The wood carving here is delicate and approachable; it has a warmth and vitality which makes you like Miller very much.  (South of Ulverston on the A590, past Swarthmoor, left turn to Great Urswick.  About 25 minutes drive from Sykehouse Cottage.)

He was also responsible for the decoration in the Coronation Hall, Ulverston, some 3 miles away.  The building is a traditional proscenium arched theatre built between 1911 and 1918 to commemorate the Coronation of King George V.  Miller designed  the extraordinary ornate plasterwork, foliage and putti, with a “Britannia and the Empire” allegorical frieze.  All of this was originally cast in cement, then hand finished with carving by Alec Miller.  (About 20 minutes drive from Sykehouse Cottage.)

In addition, Alec Miller also carved several war memorials in the South Lakes area: at Dalton-in-Furness – with a carved flame on the top, found opposite the Town Hall; at Millom – a very tall war memorial the central feature of which is a statue of St Michael overcoming a dragon; at  Seascale – in front of St Cuthbert’s Church, a Celtic cross in red sandstone carved with vine tendrils and traditional Celtic patterns; finally, further North, at St. Bees – a large St George and the Dragon war memorial with curving side panels.

In Jane Wilgress’s biography of her father she writes ‘in the years of the first World War, … The Ulverston work must have kept the wolf from the door in these difficult years for the arts.’

My thanks goes to Carol Jackson of CADHAS for the detailed information.  Further information can be found on their website:

Blackwell : Baille Scott’s masterpiece

Blackwell Exterior -®LATRecently restored, Blackwell was built in 1900 as a holiday retreat for a wealthy Manchester brewery owner, just south of Bowness overlooking Windermere.  (About 30 minutes drive from Sykehouse Cottage on the eastern side of Windermere.)  The house is of international importance and was given a Grade 1 listing in 1998.  So, although it’s quite expensive to visit (£7.20 Adults; Children up to 16 Free), it is DEFINITELY worth the money if you are interested in the Arts and Crafts.

It is a truly wonderful example of Arts and Crafts architecture, with many original decorative features still intact and there is a school of thought that Blackwell is such a complete vision precisely because it was built as a holiday home in the Lake District rather than a day to day residence.  Think about it: who could live up to the designer’s perfect vision 24 – 7Blackwell dining room stained glass -®LAT?

The rooms are carefully furnished with the blend of Arts and Crafts and early country-made furniture advocated by Baillie Scott, containing many pieces by the leading Arts & Crafts designers and studios – furniture by Morris & Co and Voysey, metalwork by W A S Benson and ceramics by Ruskin Pottery and William de Morgan.

The curators want you to experience this first hand and, deliciously, visitors are encouraged to sit and soak up the atmosphere in the beautiful fireplace inglenooks and are free to enjoy the house as it was originally intended, without roped-off areas.

Blackwell The White Drawing Room -®LAT

The White Drawing Room

The house also run a series of well curated exhibitions and displays, usually with an Arts and Crafts feel, throughout the year and have a lovely Tea Room.

The first show of the year is called New Glass – Ancient Skill, Contemporary Artform.  With a selection from the UK and Europe, the selling exhibition includes the work of established and emerging makers as well as drawings, models and photographic documentation of processes.  Works will be shown in the exhibition galleries and through the house itself.  The show is the first collaboration between the Lakeland Arts Trust and the Contemporary Glass Society and runs from 31st January to 12th May 2013.

Further details can be found by visiting Blackwell’s own site here.