Bridge House, Ambleside - a quirky spot in the Lake District


Bridge House, Ambleside - a quirky spot in the Lake District

Bridge House can be found in the attractive small town of Ambleside in the Lake District. It must be one of the most photographed little buildings in the world.

And even before the invention of the camera it attracted the interest of artists, inspiring JMW Turner among others.

This tiny 17th-century building stands on a small stone bridge over Stock Beck - looking most peculiar. It may have been built as a folly, an apple store or a summer house - no one is really sure.

In the 17th century, the Braithwaite family lived at nearby Ambleside Hall. The Braithwaites needed a way to reach their property on the far side of Stock Beck.

It seems likely that the Braithwaites first built a bridge over the beck, and later added a house on top of the bridge - perhaps to store apples from their nearby orchards. The humpbacked bridge may even predate the house by several centuries.

The house is a 'one up, one down' design, with two small rooms linked by an external stair. The roof is made of traditional Lake District slate, with small tiles at the ridge and progressively larger tiles towards the eaves.

Bridge House once had doors opening onto each bank so people could pass directly through the house and cross over the beck below. The rear door was later blocked and a chimney inserted.

In the 18th century, Bridge House was used as a counting house for a pair of mills that stood nearby. Since then it has been put to a variety of uses - a weaver's shop, cobbler's shop, an antique shop, a chair maker's shop, and a tea room in the Victorian period.

Most surprisingly it was used as a dwelling, with records showing a family of 8 living in these two tiny rooms. The inhabitant was a basket weaver called John Rigg.

In 1926, the now dilapidated Bridge House was rescued by a group of locals, including the husband of Beatrix Potter, and passed to the care of the newly-formed National Trust.

Further reading

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