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  • Emma Lindblom

Exploring the Vernacular Charm of Lake District Architecture

A Detailed Study of Troutbeck's Unique Vernacular Features


In the heart of the Lake District lies the serene village of Troutbeck, a place steeped in history and architectural heritage. For the past few years, our practice has been dedicated to an ambitious project in this captivating locale, with a central goal of harmonising modern design with the rich tapestry of local tradition. Our journey of design and discovery has led us to closely examine the vernacular architecture that defines Troutbeck's character.


This blog post serves as both a tribute to the timeless elegance of Troutbeck's architectural details and a testament to how they have informed and influenced our ongoing work. Through a series of meticulously crafted sketches and insightful analysis, we delve into the essence of Troutbeck's architectural treasures, shedding light on their significance and the profound impact they have had on our architectural approach.

Hand drawn sketches by Natalie Dossor


Cylindrical Chimeys


When exploring the vernacular architecture of the Lake District, one captivating feature that immediately catches the eye is the cylindrical chimney stacks. Rising elegantly from the rooftops, these unique architectural elements not only serve a practical purpose but also contribute to the visual allure of the region’s traditional buildings.

Grade I listed Townend in Troutbeck is a prime example of a notable building dating back to the 17th-century which features these beautifully rounded chimneys.


Other notable examples of buildings in the wider Lake District area featuring these captivating cylindrical chimney stacks can be found throughout the region. One remarkable structure is Blackwell, an Arts & Crafts house situated on the shores of Lake Windermere. While Blackwell showcases the architectural elegance of the era, its chimneys feature a combination of cylindrical and square stacks, creating a unique visual composition.


Additionally, cylindrical chimney stacks can be seen on many traditional farmhouses and cottages in the area, both rendered or finished in cumbrian slate. These structures reflect the craftsmanship and attention to detail of the local builders, showcasing their ability to seamlessly integrate functional elements with architectural aesthetics.


Through Stones


Another defining feature of Troutbeck vernacular is the “through stone” detail, where certain stones that are intentionally extended through the full thickness of a wall, creating a visually striking and structurally resilient effect. This traditional construction technique not only adds strength and durability but also imparts a distinct character to the vernacular buildings of the region.

Functionally, through stones play a significant role in enhancing the strength and stability of the walls. By interlocking the stones between the inner and outer layers of the wall, this technique ensures greater structural integrity, particularly in buildings exposed to the region’s challenging weather conditions.


Aesthetically, the through stone detail offers a visually appealing texture and pattern to the walls. As light casts shadows and highlights the raised stones, it creates a beautiful interplay of light and shadow, adding depth and character to the façade. This decorative element showcases the attention to detail and craftsmanship of the builders who meticulously arranged each stone.


Spinning Galleries


The spinning gallery, a characteristic feature of many traditional farmhouses in Troutbeck, is an external wooden porch that adorns many of the front or side of these rural homes. This architectural element serves multiple purposes, reflecting the agricultural lifestyle and heritage of the region.

Originally, spinning galleries were utilised as spaces for farmwives to engage in various activities, including spinning wool or flax. The porch provided a covered and sheltered area where they could carry out domestic tasks while enjoying views of the surrounding landscape.


Constructed using locally sourced timber, the spinning gallery often features decorative wooden balustrades or latticework, adding an intricate and inviting aesthetic to the farmhouse’s façade. The wooden elements harmonise with the natural environment and further emphasise the connection between the building and its rural surroundings.


Beyond its functional and visual aspects, the spinning gallery holds cultural significance. It represents the traditions and way of life of rural communities in the Lake District, harkening back to a time when self-sufficiency and cottage industries were integral to rural living.


Slate Roofs


Slate roofs are an integral part of the architectural heritage in the whole of the Lake District. This enduring tradition showcases the region’s commitment to craftsmanship, durability, and natural beauty, with locally quarried slate laid in diminishing courses.


The picturesque landscapes of Troutbeck is no exception, where slate roofs have long been a hallmark of traditional architecture. The abundant supply of high-quality slate from local mines in the region has made it the material of choice for centuries. This durable and weather-resistant slate not only provides excellent protection against the elements but also imparts a distinct character to the buildings.

From traditional farmhouses to grand manor houses, slate roofs are a cherished architectural feature that seamlessly blends with the landscape. They serve as a reminder of the enduring tradition of craftsmanship, utilising locally quarried slate, and the timeless beauty of Lake District architecture.

Bank Barn


The “bank barn” is a prevalent feature of vernacular architecture in Troutbeck and other Lake District regions. Also known as a “sloping barn” or “raised barn,” this type of barn is designed to adapt to the natural topography of the land. It is characterised by its unique construction, with one or more levels built into the slope of a hillside or embankment.


Bank barns serve a practical purpose by maximising the use of space and providing convenient access to different levels. The design typically features a two-story or multi-level structure, with the upper level accessible from ground level at the higher side of the slope, and the lower level accessible from the lower side of the slope. This allows for easy loading and unloading of hay, grain, or livestock directly into the appropriate level.



Bank barns are often constructed using locally sourced materials such as stone, timber, and slate. The walls may be made of stone or brick, providing stability and insulation. The roofs are typically steeply pitched and covered with slate to withstand the region’s variable weather conditions.


These barns are an integral part of the Lake District’s agricultural landscape, embodying the region’s rural heritage and agricultural practices. They are not only functional structures but also contribute to the aesthetic charm of the area.


Crow Steps


“Crow steps” are a distinct architectural feature commonly found in the vernacular architecture of Troutbeck. Also known as corbie steps or crow-stepped gables, are stepped or staggered brick or stone elements on the gable ends of buildings.


The crow steps serve both functional and aesthetic purposes. Functionally, they provide a transition between the sloping roof and the vertical gable end. The steps create a series of flat platforms or treads, allowing for easy access to the roof for maintenance or repairs. In areas with heavy snowfall, crow steps can also help prevent snow accumulation on the gable end by interrupting the smooth slope and encouraging snow to slide off.


Aesthetically, crow steps add delightful visual interest and character to the building. They create a distinct rhythm and texture along the gable end, contributing to the overall charm and vernacular identity of the architecture. The number of steps or their height can vary, depending on the design and historical context of the building.


Crow steps can be found in various types of structures, including farmhouses, cottages, and other vernacular buildings in the Lake District. They are often constructed using local stone, blending seamlessly with the overall architectural style of the region.


Bridging Tradition and Innovation: Our Contemporary Vision for Troutbeck's Future


In our ongoing journey through the architectural tapestry of Troutbeck, we've explored the rich heritage and distinct features that define this historical village's charm. These timeless elements have not only inspired our appreciation for the past but have also guided our approach to the future.


Our commitment to preserving the village's character and history has been seamlessly woven into an exciting housing scheme project we have been working on lately. Here, we've thoughtfully incorporated contemporary interpretations of Troutbeck's iconic vernacular features, bridging the gap between tradition and innovation. We look forward to updating you on the exciting developments of this project soon as we continue our journey to shape the future, inspired by the essence of the past.


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