In his hugely influential book Das Englische Haus (1904-5), Hermann Muthesius called M H Baillie Scott 'the poet among the domestic architects'. The house of his that he singled out for special attention was Blackwell, built between 1898-1900 on a hillside above Lake Windermere in Cumbria: '[it] combines dignity with great comfort and a poetical atmosphere within,' said Muthesius.
Baillie Scott envisaged Blackwell as a total work of art, where craft skills found expression in carved wood, plaster and metalwork, in fabrics and stained glass. Although the property has been in institutional use for many years (first as a school, then as offices), and looks the worse for wear, most of its original features are still intact; indeed, some have recently been rediscovered as plasterboard panels have been removed and fireplaces unblocked. Now plans are in hand to restore Grade I-listed Blackwell in its entirety and, with the creation of new exhibition facilities, make it a national centre for display and study of the Arts and Crafts.
Instigator of this project is the Lake District Art Gallery and Museum Trust, which in the early 1990s renovated eighteenth-century Abbot Hall in nearby Kendal as an art gallery. The architect is Allies and Morrison, with Diane Haigh - curator of the exhibition Baillie Scott: The Artistic House (aj 5.10.95) and author of the accompanying book - as project director. The total cost will be more than £3 million but the trust believes that, if it can raise £850,000 by January 1999 for the purchase of Blackwell, there is 'a strong indication' that the Heritage Lottery Fund will provide the remaining £2.24 million.
Plans for restoration embrace the extensive garden, which was integral to Baillie Scott's conception of Blackwell but is now largely grassed- over and bereft of former planting. Jane Brown, an authority on Arts and Crafts gardens, will be landscape adviser.
Blackwell will be open to the public this coming weekend, 12-13 September, as part of Heritage Open Days. Details tel: 01539 722464