Unveiling Langdale Chase: A Tale of Timeless Elegance and Lakeside Legacy

In 1890 Mr. Howarth, a businessman from Manchester, discovered and bought the site with the intention of building a small retreat. Unfortunately, he died before building had begun, and his widow, Mrs. Edna Howarth decided to erect a larger house as her permanent residence and to call it Langdale Chase. The foundation stone was laid by her only child, Lily, on the 8th April 1890.  

The house was built of Brathay Blue stone by Mr. Grissenthwaites of Penrith, and took five years to complete, at a cost of £32,000. It had the proud distinction of being the first residence in Windermere to have electricity installed.  

From Victorian Origins to Modern Hospitality: The Story Behind Langdale Chase

Mrs Howarth was a Victorian lady whose mode of living was characteristic of the era. She lived in the house from 1894 to 1914 with a staff of sixteen – eight indoor servants and eight caring for the gardens, carriages and boats. During that time many garden parties were held, along with tennis and croquet tournaments. One memorable party was the annual Chrysanthemum Tea, where hundreds of large blooms were on display in the greenhouses, caterers came from Manchester and a marquee was erected in the grounds.

In the year that Mrs Howarth died, the property was bought by Mr and Mrs Willows from Scarborough. Mr Willows was a great collector and brought with him all his treasures including some fine old oak, paintings and China plates that were displayed in the hall. After her husband’s death, Mrs Willows continued to live in the house until her death in 1929. The property was put up for auction and sold to Miss Dorothy Dalzell, who decided to run Langdale Chase as a hotel, opening to guests in Easter 1930.

New kitchens were built and by 1937 the old kitchens and pantries had been converted into a dining room. This was extended in 1950 and the windows were, at the time of building, unique in the Lake District, providing panoramic views of the lake and the mountains. The large bay window in the reception office, to the left of the main entrance, was bought from Grizedale Hall, which was built in similar freestone in 1900 and was ultimately demolished in 1955 when alterations to the office at Langdale Chase were taking place.

In the main hall, the oak staircase together with the carving around the hall, was the work of Arthur Jackson Smith of Sale, Cheshire. He came to Windermere to carry out this work and later settled with his wife and family in Coniston. One of his grandsons also lived there and was a well-known maker of violins. Workmen came especially from Italy to lay the mosaic floors in the porch and ground floor corridors.

The drawing room now houses our bar and has fine views of the lake along with the refurbished original fireplace carved from Australian mahogany. A Steinway concert grand piano stood where you will now find the bar. The piano was offered to Miss Dalzell during the last war, when owners had to place it in store following the evacuation of their home and were anxious that such a fine piano should not deteriorate.

The original dining room, now the Oak Room, has an overmantle carved by the Grasmere Hermit bearing the date 1891 and the crest of the Howarth family. The Grasmere Hermit lived on the island in the middle of Grasmere and it is believed that he created his carving in Easedale. The fine oak panelling is early Tudor and was bought in London by Mr. Willows.

The sitting room which originally was used as the morning room had a carved Gothic fire place in dark oak, depicting the return of the Prodigal Son. It was made up from carvings bought by Mr. Willows from Beverley Minster. In describing his purchase he said, ‘l have been very lucky in that I have been able to ‘buy for a song’ some very fine oak which has been lying in the cellars of Beverley Minster, this has either been ripped out to be replaced by some alterations, or in fact, has never actually been put in the Minster.’ This fireplace has been removed and now stands a fireplace replicating original photographs from the 1890’s.

The grounds of four and a half acres slope to the lake. They were planned and laid out by Thomas Henry Mawson, a landscape architect of international distinction who was also responsible for the Palace of Peace Gardens in the Hague. The stone balustrade which incircles the upper terraces is particularly attractive, and the stone steps from the main lawn show very fine workmanship. The original trees and shrubs were planted by Mr Howell Harrison, who was head gardener to Mrs Howarth and came with two other gardeners from Thomas Mawson. In the course of the years many of the trees have perished, but shrubs and heaths have been planted to replace them. During the recent restoration, garden designer Annie Guilfoyle and Head Gardener Claire Farrington have worked together to reimagine Mawsons original designs. Find out more about our gardens here.

The boat house stands at the southern end of the garden along with a jetty. Built of Brathay Blue stone in 1896, it is still considered one of the finest boathouses on the shores of Lake Windermere. Mrs. Howarth commissioned Brockbank of Bowness to build in teak a 50ft. launch with a two cylinder engine driven by coal. It was named ‘The Lily’ after her daughter, but later renamed ‘Branksome’. In 1966, as one of a fleet of seven vessels on the lake classified as of national and historic interest, Branksome carried HRH Prince Philip on his tour of the lake during his official visit to Windermere. In 1977 HRH The Prince of Wales opened the original Steamboat Museum, and was taken on the Branksome to Bowness Bay. The boat now lies in the new museum, which houses some of the finest steamboats in the world, and is recognised especially for elegance with its original velvet and leather upholstery.

In February 1974 Miss Dalzell sold Langdale Chase to Mr. Norman Buckley, a Manchester solicitor, who already owned three Lakeland hotels and was the holder of nine world water speed records. He died in November 1974, leaving his widow, Mrs. Betty Buckley, to continue at Langdale Chase. Mrs. Buckley was a very well known and dynamic personality in Lakeland. She had played an active part in the running of all her late husband’s hotels, but after his death she devoted a major part of her life to the maintenance of Langdale Chase. In October 1981, her life came to a sudden and sad ending. In memory of Mr. & Mrs. Buckley a plaque was installed into the magnificent stained glass window in the hall.

The house has also featured in popular culture, with its outstanding location making it the natural choice for the classic English country house in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Paradine Case’ starring Gregory Peck, and more recently in the Poirot episode ‘The Dumb Witness’ and the BBC drama ‘Across the Lake’ starring Anthony Hopkins, depicting the last 60 days of Donald Campbell’s life.

Langdale Chase joined the Daniel Thwaites family in 2017 and is a jewel in our crown of hotels, inns and pubs across the country. The hotel was closed in 2022 and after a 12 month sensitive restoration, reopened in November 2023, ushering in a new era of laid back luxury. We look forward to welcoming you soon.