The Lake District’s new Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories will open its doors on 23 March following a £20 million development by Lakeland Arts working with award-winning architects Carmody Groarke. Principally funded by the National Lottery, and located within the Lake District National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the museum will display the internationally important collection of boats that reflect themes of technical, social and business development in one of England’s most picturesque settings.
Designed by UK-based architects, Carmody Groarke, Windermere Jetty is one of the first contemporary buildings to be constructed on the shores of Windermere in over 50 years. A cluster of seven buildings, the new museum is clad in copper with sculptural silhouettes that frame stunning views of England’s largest lake. A series of new jetties on the lake allow visitors to sail on Osprey (1902), one of the museum’s fully-restored Edwardian steam launches and enables the regular lake cruise boats to dock and bring visitors to the museum.
The new museum tells the story of 200-years of boats, boating and boat building in the Lake District through its internationally significant collection. Owned by Lakeland Arts, the collection of over 40 vessels is the only one of its kind in the world. For the first time over half of the collection, which ranges from Victorian steam launches to record-breaking speedboats from the 1980s, will be on display. Vessels in the collection include SL Dolly, thought to be the oldest mechanically powered boat in the world, Beatrix Potter’s tarn boat which she used to sketch in, and the 50-foot luxuriously-designed Victorian steam launch Branksome (1896).
Windermere Jetty is on the site of the former Windermere Steamboat Museum, which was founded in 1977 by George Pattinson, a steam enthusiast who amassed the unique collection of boats which are all associated with Windermere. Prior to that the site was used since the 1920s as a sand and gravel works. The museum has been designed by architect’s
Carmody Groarke as a cluster of several buildings within the park landscape. A Boathouse sits at the heart of the composition where boats can be experienced in their natural context – on the water. The sculptural forms of the buildings make reference to vernacular Lake District buildings in their characteristic overhanging roof canopies, which extend the museum’s environment from inside to outside. All walls and roofs of the museum
are covered with oxidised copper to consolidate the whole architectural ensemble. It is intended that the copper will gradually weather over time and blend the appearance of the museum into the natural environment of the landscape setting. Emphasis is placed on making a strong connection between people, boats and water, as well as providing a re-interpretation of the site’s industrial and picturesque heritage.
THE CONSERVATION WORKSHOP
The museum features a unique open access conservation workshop where visitors will see the team of skilled conservation boat builders conserve and restore vessels that would otherwise be lost to history. The team use traditional boat building, engineering and boat finishing skills and extend the skills and opportunities through training, apprentice and volunteer programmes that train the next generation. The museum will showcase the quality of their work as visitors will see live conservation and the finished boats on display and on the lake.
THE GALLERIES AND EXHIBITIONS
The museum will tell the stories of the boats, who built and owned them and how they were used on Windermere. The museum will open with five themed displays: Just Visiting, Life of Luxury, War & Innovation, Spirit of Adventure and Speed. Each will tell unique stories of the people whose lives are linked to the collection, such as steel magnate Henry Schneider who used his yacht TSSY Esperance (1869), to commute to work. These stories will tell visitors about the craft and history of boat building on Windermere and the fascinating and eventful personal stories behind the collection. Key highlights of the museum’s collection include:
- 11 vessels listed by National Historic Ships as nationally important
- Four vessels that are part of the National Historic Fleet
- 10 classic Windermere steam launches (1890s / 1900s)
- A rare early yacht, Margaret (1780)
- SL Dolly (1850), thought to be the oldest mechanically powered boat in the world
- Beatrix Potter’s tarn boat, which she used to sketch in on Moss Eccles Tarn
- Pioneering motor, speedboats and hydroplanes used on the lake from 1898 – 1980
- Canfly (1922), powered by a seven-litre Rolls Royce aero engine
- Two fully-restored boats on the lake, one of which visitors will be able to sail on when the museum opens (limited places, pre-booking essential, additional charges apply)
The lakeside café will offer visitors traditional Lakeland recipes with a contemporary twist, with stunning panoramic views onto the lake. The menu will showcase the incredible local ingredients that Cumbria has to offer. A selection of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options will also be available.
Windermere Jetty, Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories © Marcus Ginns. Image courtesy of Lakeland Arts.