The many lives of Bridge House

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

Latest update 09.06.2014 12:21

Bridge House in Ambleside is one of our smallest, quirkiest, special places, but its story is intertwined with this bustling Lakeland village and the beginnings of the National Trust.

Essentially, it’s a one-up one-down dwelling built on a bridge over a beck, probably dating from the 17th century. Originally thought to be part of Ambleside Hall, it’s been put to several uses since it was built, beginning life as a simple bridge to pasture, then an apple store, summer house and family home.

In 1679 the Braithwaite, family who owned much of the land around Ambleside rented Bridge House to Michael Tyson. This was at a time when the weaving mill industry was starting to take hold and the area became known as ‘Rattle Gill’ due to the noise of all the mills. It was thought that when all the mills along this stretch of Stock Beck were working, Bridge House was used as a counting house. It’s also been used as a cobblers shop, an antique shop and in 1805 it opened as a tea shop when we believe the range was installed.

We know from a census in the 19th century that it was lived in by a rush seat and basket weaver named John ‘Chairy’ Rigg and his family of six children.

It was put up for sale in 1920 when it was bought by local residents, who loved the little building over the beck – including the wife of National Trust founder Canon Rawnsley and William Wordsworth’s grandson - who gave it to the National Trust, and in the 1940s it became our first information centre in the Lake District.

This spring we re-opened Bridge House to the public and for the first time, visitors are able to enter the upstairs rooms and see the original range where Chairy Rigg sat to weave his seats.

Sadly, the condition of the range is so poor, we are not able to risk lighting it. We know many of you love this special little building, so we are asking for your help to raise £6,500 to restore the range.

It will need specialist expertise to remove the brittle cast iron and re-forge worn parts with traditional sand casting techniques. You can help to light a welcoming fire in Bridge House once more by simply sending a text on your phone. Text NTBH22 and the amount you’d like to give to 70070. Visitors to the house who are kind enough to donate £5 or more may be offered one of a limited number of Bridge House mugs as a ‘thank you’. They are really lovely, so it is well worth a visit while stocks last.