Windermere Jetty - Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories opens its doors to the public

  • Internationally significant collection of 40 vessels tells the story of boats and boat building in the Lake District 
  • Owned by Lakeland Arts and designed by architects Carmody Groarke, it is one of the first contemporary buildings on the shores of Lake Windermere in over 50 years
  • Visitors are able to sail on Osprey, a fully-restored Edwardian steam launch

The Lake District’s new Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories opened its doors on 23rd March following a £20million 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 displays 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, are 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).

The Design 

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 can 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 showcases the quality of their work as visitors can see live conservation and the finished boats on display and on the lake. 

The Galleries and Exhibitions 

The museum tells the stories of the boats, who built and owned them and how they were used on Windermere. The visitor journey of the museum which has been crafted by London based exhibition designers Real Studios, aims to accommodate for both boat enthusiasts and casual tourists alike. The museum has opened with five themed displays: Just Visiting, Life of Luxury, War & Innovation, Spirit of Adventure and Speed. Each tells 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 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 are able to sail on

The Cafe 

The lakeside café offers visitors traditional Lakeland recipes with a contemporary twist, with stunning panoramic views onto the lake. The menu showcases the incredible local ingredients that Cumbria has to offer. A selection of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are also available.

Gordon Watson, Former Chief Executive of Lakeland Arts said: ‘The opening of Windermere Jetty by Lakeland Arts is the exciting culmination of the project to create a new museum on Windermere in the heart of the Lake District. It is thanks to the support of local people and the many organisations that have funded Windermere Jetty that we have opened the museum in March 2019. We look forward to welcoming visitors to Windermere Jetty which Carmody Groarke architects have designed as a cluster of buildings around the Boathouse so that the museum connects people, boats and water. We are particularly thankful for the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund as the principal funder, the DCMS Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund, Regional Growth Fund, RDPE and South Lakeland District Council, trusts and foundations and private donors for their tremendous support for the project.’

Andy Groarke, Director of Carmody Groarke commented: ‘Since being selected as architects for the project in an RIBA competition in 2011, we have been enormously proud to work closely with Lakeland Arts and stakeholders to realise their vision for a new museum on Windermere. We created a museum whose design would make a connection between people, boats and water, and which would also reinterpret the site’s industrial and picturesque heritage. ’

Nathan Lee, Head of HLF North West, said: ‘This is excellent news for the Lake District and Cumbria which is already a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We are delighted to see this new flagship museum on the shores of Windermere - one of the UK’s most famous lakes - thanks to National Lottery players.’

The total project costs for the Lake District’s new Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories is £20 million. Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is the major funder for the museum, contributing over £13m to the project. HLF grants are made possible by National Lottery players. The project is also supported by the DCMS Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund, Regional Growth Fund, the Rural Development Programme for England and other trusts and foundations.

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