Putting the heart back into Bridge House

The range at Bridge House Ambleside Cumbria
Published : 17 Feb 2016 Last update : 18 Apr 2016

The range at Bridge House was installed in the second half of the 19th century but it has been unusable for many years, preventing us from really bringing the heart of this quirky relic to life. But this Spring, for the first time in decades visitors to Ambleside will once again see smoke rising from the chimney of quirky little Bridge House.

It’s a painstaking job

Over the winter, master craftsman Tim has been working hard to restore the range to its original working state.

Tim, who specialises in the conservation of historic ironmongery, began by carefully dismantling the range before moving the parts offsite to his workshop, where he gently eased the moving parts back to life. Some of the parts needed to be remade, Tim made exact patterns of the originals and a foundry cast new pieces using moulds made from Tim’s patterns. Then it was back to Bridge House to re-assemble and polish.

Tim says: “It was thought that the stove was installed circa 1805 but we now know that it was much later than that, because of the flat plate which wasn’t invented until 1858. It was certainly a fun jigsaw puzzle to put back together.”

While Tim was busy in his workshop we also had to install a flue lining for which, to allow access, we needed to remove the chimney capping stones. Prior to removal every stone was carefully photographed and numbered with chalk to ensure each stone was returned to its original position.

The painstaking process of restoring the 19th century range at Bridge House has taken most of the winter, but now it’s complete we have lit the flame under a welcome homecoming for this essential piece of Bridge House. 

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 and a chair maker's.

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.

As well as creating a warm welcome for visitors, the improved air circulation and the heat from the range will also greatly benefit the fabric of the building. The restoration work cost approximately £8,000 to complete, almost half of which has been covered by generous donations from visitors and supporters.

Fiona Green, Manager for Bridge House says: “To have the stove working again is wonderful. It has made such a difference and, during our first week of opening, the fire alone attracted many visitors and has been the subject of much discussion. Thank you so much to everyone who supported this work; hope you’ll come and visit!”

Bridge House is open daily from 11.30am to 4.30pm until 30 October. So if you're in Ambleside, be sure to pop by, warm yourself by the fire and find out more about Ambleside’s most iconic 17th century survivor.