A Cradle for Mary Anne

Many, if not most, of the boats in the collection at Windermere Jetty are pleasure craft; playthings for people with the time and money to enjoy sailing, racing, and leisurely trips around the lake.

The ferry Mary Anne, is a rare example of one of the working vessels we care for, representing a lost part of a Windermere ferry service that has operated on the lake since at least the 1450s and continues to operate today. Mary Anne is the last surviving rowed ferry, having been built at some point before the introduction of the steam powered chain ferry in 1870.

Suggested construction dates range from 1799 to 1860 but we do know that it was in service as a ferry up to 1870. The boat is significant as the only surviving example of the series of large rowed Windermere ferry boats with huge sweeps (oars) and a moveable ramp that were designed to carry people, carriages, goods and animals across the lake. Mary Anne continued in operation after completing service as a ferry but sank off Belle Isle at some point after World War II and was recovered from there in 1978.

For many years Mary Anne was kept out of doors and has suffered from exposure to the elements and damage from floods.

Now the ferry is in a very fragile state and in desperate need of support if it is to be preserved for the future.

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Our conservation boatbuilding team have decided that the best course of action is to construct a bespoke cradle in which Mary Anne can sit, and be displayed when the museum opens next year, but this is not so easy to make when the structure of the boat itself is so fragile, and deteriorating.

So we called in Stuart Norton, a specialist in the use of photogrammetry for designing and building boats. Photogrammetry is the use of photography to survey and map an object. By taking photographs from fixed points all around an object it is possible to take accurate measurements from which you can make an exact 3D model of it on a computer, and from that the uses are almost endless.

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However, because the original hull is now so distorted by age, for Stuart to get an accurate picture of the ferry he also had to use historic photographs and a model from the museum’s collections to check the accuracy of his lines.

The result will be a snug cradle for one of the oldest and most unique parts of the collection.

You can follow our conservation team’s work and see how the cradle turns out by going to our Facebook page.

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In the Moment ‘on the Lake’

In the Moment summer projects get better and better! This year, an August day out on Windermere, inspired by the lovely old boat ‘Branksome’ being restored ahead of the new Windermere Jetty opening in 2017.

‘In the Moment’ is part of Lakeland Arts’ Enriched by Moments programme of creative activity for people living with dementia and their carers. The group meets weekly in Kendal, drawing inspiration from Lakeland Arts sites, collections, exhibitions and displays, as well as local festivals and events. The sessions are a joyful blend of art and poetry, and have been described as ‘respite without separation’ – pleasurable and stimulating for everyone involved, and proven to support people to live well with dementia. Somehow, the process of immersion in experiences, the flow that happens during creative engagement has a transformative and beneficial effect that seems to extend beyond the sessions, for everyone involved.

In the lead up to the summer project, costumes from the Handling Collection and a photograph of Edna Haworth who lived at Langdale Chase and commissioned the building of ‘Branksome’ in 1896 were our starting points. Together, they provided ideas for us to create a really special day out and bring ‘Branksome’ to life in a completely new way. We shaped the day to include a visit to the Jetty conservation shed, experience an hour on the lake, disembark at Langdale Chase where we would see the boathouse built specially for ‘Branksome’ and then have afternoon tea close to the terrace overlooking the lake where Edna is standing for her photograph.

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It has been wonderful subject matter to be immersed in, enabling a relaxed and playful connection with the late Victorian era. The group created their own accessories, including appliqued capes, cuffs, choker necklaces, boater hats and false moustaches!

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Everyone enjoyed role playing their way into their costumes!

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The group also spent time thinking about the boat, making drawings and maps and two members of the group partipated in stitching the outline of Branksome onto white fabric.

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The visit to look at Branksome being restored was illuminating. Stephen, the Senior Boat Conservator, explained the process of finding just the right shaped piece of oak, known as grown crook of oak, to replace the original stem. This way of growing oak gives the wood the curvature in the grain which will follow the line of the stem. A brand new figurehead, inspired by some of the intricate carvings at Langdale Chase, illustrated how the boat is being restored to its former glory. Stephen also told us that an oak tree felled to make room for the development of the new museum is being used to create the steam bent timbers lining the interior of the boat.

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We left the Jetty Conservation Shed, amazed by the craftmanship and care that the conservation team are employing, and made our way to Waterhead for our picnic as we waited for our boat to arrive. We made a happy gathering, wearing our hats which were very welcome in the bright sunshine.

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We boarded The Princess of the Lake, our very own wooden launch for an hour! It was glorious to be on the lake, everyone so thrilled, the beautiful weather, landscape, sense of friendship and shared experience.

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As the boat pulled into the Langdale Chase jetty, we got our first view of the boathouse which was the original home of ‘Branksome’ and Bernice and John waiting to welcome us.

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Safely off the boat, we unfolded the stitched drawing of the boat and floated it into the water by the boathouse – a symbolic returning of ‘Branksome’ to it’s original home.


Up on Edna’s terrace at what is now the Langdale Chase Hotel, we held up ‘Branksome’ to dry, creating another connection between the boat, the lake, its original owner and original home.


The afternoon ended with afternoon tea and poetry readings. We’ve had two more ‘In the Moments’ since our wonderful day out and each time we’ve projected images of the day directly onto the studio wall which has had the effect of bringing that moment on the lake directly into the room again. Members of the group have created personal dioramas that create a visual sense of their moments on the lake, as well as prints and a large inked landscape of the lake.

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Get involved: our next big project with ‘In the Moment’ is the Creative Age Challenge in late October during the weekend of the Kendal Wool Gathering when knitters and crafters are Yarn Bombing the museum. We are working in schools and with community groups in Kendal to create a Hand Made Herd – a flock of small scale sheep that will fill the oval in the front of Abbot Hall Art Gallery. During the weekend of the gathering, sheep will be on display and then auctioned at 3pm on Sunday 30 October to raise funds to support the Enriched by Moments programme. Invite us to run a sheep making workshop in your workplace, school, community centre. Come to MOLLI’s Woolly Workshops during half term. Volunteer!

For more information about the Enriched by Moments programme check out the website at http://www.lakelandarts.org.uk/learning







A Summer of Rag Rugging

***UPDATE: The rugging will continue this October 22 & 24-27. Come to the museum during half term to take part in finishing this great textile project. Full details here.*** 

We’re creating giant rag rugs inspired by the rugged Cumbrian landscape! Sally Fallows is running drop-in workshops across Abbot Hall Art Gallery and Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House all summer long. The finished rag rugs and wall hanging will animate the learning centre at Windermere Jetty, Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories when it opens in 2017. Over 250 people have contributed so far – and there’s plenty left to do! So drop in and try your hand at traditional textile techniques with a contemporary twist.


Morning workshops at Abbot Hall Art Gallery
Monday to Friday until 2 September / 10:30 – 12:30 

Included with admission – children FREE 

Create an aerial view of Windermere in wool using a mix of hooking, prodding, crochet and pom-poms! Inspired by Winifred Nicholson’s views of Cumbria, on display at Abbot Hall Art Gallery until 15 October 2016. Nicholson designed over 180 rag rugs and commissioned local artists to make them. We also drew inspiration from Alexandra Kehayoglou‘s spectacular wool rug artworks.


Afternoon workshops at Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House
Monday to Friday until 2 September / 2:00 – 4:00
Included with admission – children FREE 

Help make a gigantic wall hanging inspired by the view from Blackwell – complete with fleecy sheep and boats sailing on Windermere. Enjoy an afternoon of crafting in an idyllic setting. Materials are locally sourced from William’s Wools and Faye’s Sewing Box – including local alpaca yarn from Town End Yarns.


Let’s Play

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We want visitors to Windermere Jetty to have a great time when they’re with us; to explore, engage and play in their surroundings.

Playing is important, honestly it is! Play is our brain’s way of learning and making sense of the world in which we live. There are emotional, social, physical and intellectual benefits to play, which is why it’s so important that we are all encouraged to play more often.

There are misconceptions around play and it is often seen as ‘messy’. Play should be messy. There shouldn’t be any limits placed on how we play, and children shouldn’t be afraid to experiment, even if this means getting dirty and making a mess. It’s creative!

For children, play can bridge the gap between the different environments of school and home; it can connect children with their peers and help them to disconnect from everyday life. It is this disconnection that helps children to fully immerse themselves in the activities in which they are taking part. It allows children to focus and explore. Children’s  identities develop through engagement with others and the early years of a child’s life are important in developing a strong sense of self. Nurturing friendships helps children to develop this sense of self and this can happen through play.

How children play and what they learn from their play has been the subject of research for Psychologists for decades. Jean Piaget believed that a child’s cognitive development is about a child constructing a mental model of the world. Each child goes through four stages of cognitive development in the same order, and no stage can be missed out. Some people might never reach the later stages and there are individual differences in the rate at which children progress through each stage. Piaget did not claim that a particular stage was reached at a certain age, although descriptions of the stages often include an indication of the age at which the average child would reach each stage.

Lev Vygotsky researched the role of social interaction on cognitive development and argued that development first takes place socially. Children observe parental behaviour, listen to parents’ speech, and then try to imitate them.  As children practice through imitation, parents will guide children, correct them, and provide challenges.  Through child-centered play, children take on different roles and experiment with language, which helps them to become internally regulated in cognition. Children become more competent in their language use and begin to regulate their own thought processes and this can all be developed through play.

Jerome Bruner’s theoretical framework is based on the theme that learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon existing knowledge. Learning is an active process. Bruner introduced the idea of the Spiral Curriculum, which refers to the idea of revisiting basic ideas over and over, building upon them and elaborating to the level of full understanding. Bruner believed that any subject could be taught at any stage of development in a way that fitted the child’s cognitive abilities. Eventually Bruner was strongly influenced by Vygotsky’s writings and began to adopt a social and political view of learning.

Current theories of play, from Psychologists such as Pat Broadhead, suggest that children should be encouraged to play and learn from their peers, with little if any interruption from adults. Recent research suggests that if left to their own play themes and interests, children will choose to do more challenging and satisfying things than an adult would probably have led them to do. This is also known as Free Flow Play, which allows children to play freely, without interruption from adults.

By understanding how important play is for a child’s development, we can ensure that Windermere Jetty is a museum that welcomes families and provides children with  a range of opportunities to play and develop in a safe environment.

Sitting Pretty – conserving SL Branksome’s seat cushions

The Windermere Jetty curatorial team and volunteers have been hard at work behind the scenes making sure that the small object collection is ready for its new home in the displays of the Windermere Jetty Museum in 2017. Our focus at the moment is on getting the objects cleaned – but not too clean! One of the challenges with cleaning items in any museum collection is to find a balance between removing recent and potentially damaging dirt while keeping evidence of its historic use. To do this we have asked several professional conservators to give us advice on their field of expertise, and back in July 2015 we were visited by Yvette Fletcher from the Leather Conservation Centre. Yvette spent a great couple of days with our volunteers, teaching everyone about how leather was made and running a practical conservation cleaning workshop. Since then our team has been tackling leather with a lot of care and a lot more confidence.


The Windermere Jetty team learning about  leather damage with Yvette Fletcher

Every so often you find an object that needs to go for professional conservation and Yvette and her team at the Leather Conservation Centre have also been working hard to restore the original leather covered seat cushions from SL Branksome. Part of the Windermere Jetty collection, Branksome was built in 1896 by Brockbanks of Windermere and was the height of luxury. Unfortunately her cushions, seen in place in the photograph below, were showing the wear and tear of being over a hundred years old.


The leather on the cushions was in poor condition, and there were previous patched repairs, buttons and a pink textile lining which were causing further damage to the original leather. The cushion had also burst open, with broken stitching in some places and splits in other parts.

Inside the cushion was also showing signs of wear as the textile covering the original horsehair padding had deteriorated and was splitting in a number of places. A decision was made to make new covers and fit them over the original damaged ones. This method of conserving the inner cushions was chosen because it preserves all the existing original materials and techniques.

Yvette and her team used the same methods that would have been employed originally. They used a fine 100% unbleached cotton textile for the tops and bottoms, with a thicker more closely woven 100% unbleached cotton for the sides to give more definition.


All the pieces of the new cover were sewn together, leaving an opening at one end to insert the original cushion

The new cover needed to larger than you might think. The extra space is taken up when the cover is tufted and the mattress stitched. The stiches from tufting hold everything together and stop the stuffing inside from moving.

The conserved cushion is now ready to be placed back inside the leather covers once these have been conserved. Yvette will be giving us more updates on the conservation of the Branksome cushions, so do keep checking back for news.


Bags of Fun at Windermere Jetty

Behind the scenes at the building site, the Windermere Jetty team have been beavering away on interpretation for the Museum. The story that we will be telling at the Museum is an exciting one, capturing tales of the peaceful tranquillity of Windermere and daring adventures on the lake. These stories will captivate the imaginations of many of our visitors. What if you’re a family group visiting? How do you engage young children with a trip to the Museum? We asked ourselves these questions, and then set about developing activities that will help families to explore Windermere Jetty.

Interactive exhibits will explore different themes in the Museum, for example, how steam is created and what it’s like to travel at speed, something that our visitors will not be able to experience on Windermere today. Apart from the interactive exhibits, which will be dotted throughout the exhibition space, we are also providing activities that our visitors will be able to pick up and use during their visit. These activities will appeal to specific visitors, such as families.

To find out what families would like to see at Windermere Jetty, we researched family resources at other museums and galleries and we asked local families what they would use on a visit to the Museum. The list contained items such as:

  • Colouring sheets and crayons
  • Books
  • Trails geared towards families
  • Activity bags/Backpacks containing different activities
  • Low tech interactive exhibits
  • Objects that can be handled

We decided to have a closer look at how to develop activity bags to help families and children explore the Museum. We have similar bags at Abbot Hall and we know that they are well used by families in the Gallery.

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We’ve found out some interesting things about activity bags

  • The optimum number of activities is five, enough to keep children engaged without it becoming too arduous to complete everything that’s in the bag. This also allows room for activities to be swapped or added when needed
  • Make sure that activities are suitable for the youngest or least able in the group
  • Aim to have as little writing involved as possible, in terms of what’s expected in each activity and also the instructions. Activities should be as self-explanatory as possible. A simple guidance sheet for adults is a great idea to set out what’s in the bags, what’s expected of visitors and to reassure visitors that they will not need any materials not already provided in the bag to complete the activities
  • Make questions and activities open ended to encourage conversations to continue within family groups, leading to further exploration of the collection
  • There are several benefits to having such bags available for families to use. They provide a focus to the visit and allow us to highlight objects within the collection; they suit different learning styles and can be used at the visitor’s own pace; they are non-messy activities that allow families to work together to discover the collection; above all they’re fun to use!


Since we completed this research, we have come up with a name, Captain’s Duffel Bags, and decided that the bags will contain up to five different activities. We’re not telling you what’s going into them yet, we don’t want to spoil the surprise!

For more information about Windermere Jetty visit windermerejetty.org

Windermere Jetty – construction progress

Watching the site transform into the new Windermere Jetty museum over the next 18 months is going to be an amazing spectacle and the changes that have already happened over recent months have been fantastic to see.

The original museum buildings housed the collection of boats for nearly 30 years so demolishing them in 2014 was a major milestone. When the buildings came down it opened up the shoreline revealing the incredible views across Windermere to every passer by and is a good reminder of how special this location is.

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Thomas Armstrong Construction, who have been appointed as the main contractor, began work in November 2015 spending their first weeks preparing the site and setting up their team. The first job was then to start preparing the ground including a crucial part of the flood defence strategy – building up the levels of the new museum. Alongside this we’re also digging down to create the conservation workshop and boatyard area and can see this taking shape now. This will lead to the slipway, a key part of the new museum that will enable us to bring boats in and out of the water for regular maintenance.

We’ll be posting regular updates as the project continues so keep coming back to see progress over the coming weeks and find out more about what’s going on behind the scenes. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.