The Simpsons: An Arts & Crafts Family

Friday 21st September 2018 to Sunday 6th January 2019

Backwell Arts Crafts logo

Time: 10:30am to 5pm daily (from Nov 1st 4pm)
Email: info(at)
Telephone: 015394 46139
Venue: Blackwell the Arts and Crafts House
Town: Bowness-on-Windermere
County: Cumbria
Postcode: LA23 3JT
Google Map: View here

The Simpsons: An Arts & Crafts Family at Blackwell in Bowness-on-Windermere is an exhibition that looks at one of the most creative family enterprises in both Cumbrian and Arts & Crafts history. It explores the Simpson family’s craftsmanship throughout Blackwell and presents work by Arthur Simpson, one of the master craftsmen of the movement. Although Blackwell has staged exhibitions of Arthur's work before, this is the first exhibition of work by the Simpsons family as a whole. It places them in the context of the Arts & Crafts Movement in the Lake District.

The exhibition offers the chance for visitors to see rarely displayed items from the Lakeland Arts collection including textiles, embroidery, leatherwork, furniture, wood carving, original drawings and designs. It also features a selection of loans from Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery as well as several unseen pieces from private collections. Highlights include personal items made by the family members for each other and a design for a carving at Blackwell.

Arthur Simpson was born in Cumbria in 1857. He showed an early flair for wood-carving, working in London before returning to establish his famous Handicrafts workshop in Kendal and showroom in Windermere. The superb workmanship of his furniture, with clean simple lines, found a ready market locally. Much of the woodwork in Blackwell was created by the hands of Arthur Simpson. But although well-known in Cumbria, Arthur was somewhat overlooked in the wider story of the Arts & Crafts movement.

As well as being a master craftsman, Arthur was an astute businessman and had an eye on the future. He was able to pass on his skills to his children, encouraging them to have an artistic outlook. They, in turn, became a creative force.

The Simpsons: An Arts & Crafts Family

Jane Simpson, despite a lack of prior experience, found herself to be a natural at embroidery. Wanting to be actively involved in the business she produced startling embroideries, leatherwork and needlepoint bedspreads inspired by the natural world around her. Daughter Hilda also produced embroidery, creating delicate lace-work, and both sons became apprentices under their father’s guidance.

Chelsea Eves, exhibition curator said: "Arthur Simpson was one of the best carvers of his day. The workmanship put in to his furniture was truly outstanding. There is so much passion in his work. It’s remarkable that each of the family of five were hugely talented in their own right. And under the stewardship of Simpson they worked collaboratively. But while they had notoriety in Cumbria, The Simpsons were overlooked elsewhere, and little is written about them in the annals of Arts & Crafts history. This exhibition will focus on the family’s creative work but also look at who they were. We are keen to tell their stories for the first time."

Admission £8.80 Adult (without Gift Aid donation £8)  |  Children U16 by donation

Blackwell Arts and Crafts is just one and a half miles south of Bowness in the heart of the Lake District. The house itself was completed in 1900, designed by Arts and Crafts architect M.H. Baillie Scott as a holiday home for Sir Edward Holt, a brewer and former Lord Mayor from Manchester. It’s said to have significant international importance as it stands at the crossroads of Victorian design and modern 20th century architecture. Throughout the house, furniture, objects and fine art have been introduced to re-awaken the interiors in sympathy with Baillie Scott's original designs and ideas about the layout and decoration of houses.

Blackwell copyright Tony West Blackwell Arts and Crafts House in Bowness-on-Windermere photographed by Tony West

The Simpsons: An Arts & Crafts Family - Your Events Guide for Bowness & Windermere

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