A BUILDING reputed to be the most photographed in the Lake District has undergone renovations for the start of the tourist season.
The historic one-up-one-down Bridge House that has spanned Stock Beck in Ambleside since the 17th century has been given a facelift.
Work has included repainting the interior in authentic heritage colours and installing wrought iron handrails to help visitors negotiate the steep stone steps over the river.
A future task will be the restoration of a 19th century cast iron range for which The National Trust will be seeking donations from visitors.
York blacksmith Chris Topp provided the wrought iron, which has been worked into handrails by Coniston blacksmith Stephen Stalker.
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The restoration work has been overseen by Lewis Surveying Associates whose director Paul Lewis said: “It has been a real privilege researching and working on such an iconic building and we are delighted with the ancient charm of the interior.”
Originally the structure was built as a bridge connecting orchards with Ambleside Hall, the home of the Braithwaite family, which once stood on the hill above the beck.
It then became a house and was used as an apple store in the early 18th century with a door at both ends so that it could still be used as a covered bridge and as a summerhouse.
Later in the 18th century, when there were two water-driven mills alongside the beck, it is believed to have been used as a counting house, as shown by the holes on the internal window sills and lintels where iron bars were once located.
In 1815 the rear door was blocked and a range installed with a flue over the door. The door lintel and reveals still remain embedded in the wall.
A sketch of the property by William Green, ‘Etched from Nature’, and published in 1821, shows the building at this time.
Painted by John Ruskin and M W Turner, the property is also reputed to be the most photographed building in the Lake District. Bridge House became a tea room for some years but by 1843, when the new Rydal Road was built alongside, it was lived in by local man ‘Chairy’ Rigg, his wife and six children.
In 1905 a cobbler was mending shoes downstairs and keeping his pigeons upstairs and by 1926 it was being used as an antiques and gift shop, when it was bought by local subscription for £450 and donated to the National Trust for permanent preservation.
In 1956 the Trust opened Bridge House as its very first information and recruiting centre in the country, a use which continues to this day.