Windermere Jetty Museum opens

The Lake District’s new Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories opened its doors on 23 March following a £20 million development by Lakeland Arts. 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 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 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 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. 

Nathan Lee, Head of HLF North West, said: ‘This is excellent news for the Lake District and Cumbria – 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 – open its doors to the public for the first time thanks to National Lottery players.’

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