Bridge House - A 17th century survivor

Head to Ambleside for a look at the quirkiest little building in the Lakes © Tony West

Head to Ambleside for a look at the quirkiest little building in the Lakes

The most curious relic

Today, Bridge House stands over Stock Beck in the middle of Ambleside as a quirky reminder of Ambleside’s past; it is a 17th-century survivor. Thousands of visitors come every year to see it and have their picture taken but few actually know much of its varied past.

Family fortunes

The growth of old Ambleside is associated with a succession of families dating back to the early 14th century. The Braithwaites were an incredibly influential family and originally built Bridge House to access their lands on the other side of Stock Beck and also to store apples from their orchards, which surrounded Bridge House.

A 17th-century survivor

It’s pretty spectacular that Bridge House has survived throughout the centuries as Ambleside has changed and developed around it. Its survival could be down to its many practical uses over the decades which include being used as a counting house for the mills of Rattle Ghyll, a tea-room, a weaving shop, a cobbler's, a chair maker's and, at one time, a home to a family of eight!

A source of inspiration

In 1858, Harriet Martineau wrote in her popular Guide to the English Lake District that ‘the odd little grey dwelling ... is the ancient house which is considered the most curious relic in Ambleside of the olden time. The view of the hill and rocky channel of the Stock ... is the one which every artist sketches as he passes by.’ This statement holds true today, as thousands of tourists pass by eagerly snapping their version of this picturesque building of yesteryear. Furthermore, the list of artists who have painted Bridge House reads like a who’s who of the art world.

The bid for Bridge House

It was in the 1920s that the residents of Ambleside recognised that Bridge House was in need of repair and they began fundraising. This small group of residents showed tremendous foresight in securing not only the safety of this monument, but also the aesthetics of the area. It was a great display of public action and conservation. By the end of the project, a grand total of £1,244 11s 10d had been spent on Bridge House, securing its future.

An icon for the Lakes

Today Bridge House has become an icon for Ambleside and the Lakes as a whole. So if you’re in Ambleside, why not wander down to Stock Beck and have a look at Ambleside’s most curious relic?