Find a Hotel
Windermere, originally a small hamlet called Birthwaite, came to prominence with the completion of the railway link from Kendal. The railway terminated at Windermere to avoid the steep descent to the lakeside at Bowness and proved to be highly lucrative, bringing in 120,000 visitors in its first year, mainly from the industrial towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Horse-drawn carriages were laid on to ferry passengers to and from the station to the lakeside, whilst hotel-based charabancs took guests on local sightseeing excursions.
Up to the 19th century, Bowness-on-Windermere was a fishing village. With the extension of the railway to Windermere and regular influxes of Victorian visitors, the commercial opportunities were soon realised. A rash of hotels, villas and boarding houses rapidly sprang up to accommodate the tourists, all vying for a view of the lake. In 1869 the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway was built and linked to ferry services from Lakeside, cementing Bowness's position as a fashionable daytripping resort.
By the 19th century, wealthy businessmen from the urban areas began to regard the Lakes as a haven of scenic tranquility, acquiring grand country retreats. Belsfield (now a hotel) was bought by the iron magnate, Henry William Schneider, in 1869 as a commuter home (he built a jetty at the bottom of the garden so he could sail to Lakeside in his steamboat, Esperance). Storrs Hall was acquired by John Bolton in 1806 on proceeds from the slave trade. Brockhole, built in the late 1880s by Henry Gaddum, a wealthy silk merchant from Manchester, became a convalescent home before opening as the National Park Visitor Centre in 1969. And lastly, Blackwell, an architectural gem from the Arts and Crafts era, was commissioned by Sir Edward Holt, a wealthy brewer from Manchester.