Belle Isle (Windermere)

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Map of Belle Isle, Windermere

Belle Isle is the largest of 18 islands on Windermere, a mere in the English Lake District,[1] and the only one ever to have been inhabited.[1] It is 1 km in length.

The Roman governor at Ambleside built a villa on the island. In 1250 it was the seat of the district's Lord of the Manor.[1] It was also a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War.[1]

Island House was built in 1774 to designs by John Plaw. It is unusual in that it is circular in plan, built of brick, three floors high with a four column portico; it draws closely on the Pantheon, Rome.[2][3] The house was sold along with the island to the wealthy Curwen family who renamed the island after their daughter, Isabella.[1] It was then sold on to Isabella Curwen by her family in 1781 for £1,720 and was permanently renamed after her.[4] The descendants of Isabella and her husband John Christian Curwen lived on the island until 1993.[1]

It is called 'Bell Island'[1][4] not 'Isabella Island' because of use of the shortened form of Isabella- Bella, which lost the 'a' to become 'Bell', spelt 'Belle' by the Ordnance Survey map of 1925 over the years. It was known locally as the Great Island or Long Holme[1][4] and formerly known as Longholm, before its renaming in 1774.[1]

In 1996 (some records suggest 23 December 1994), Belle Isle House suffered serious damage following a large fire. However, it was repaired and is once again a place of residence.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "History of Windermere and Bowness". Go Lakes. 8 April 2015.
  2. ^ "Windermere Islands". Lake District National Park. Archived from the original on 3 May 2008.
  3. ^ "Belle Isle Round House". The Cumbria Directory.
  4. ^ a b c "The islands of Windermere". BBC. 10 July 2006.
  5. ^ "Journeying Through Time on Lake Windermere".

Coordinates: 54°21′43″N 2°56′04″W / 54.36194°N 2.93444°W / 54.36194; -2.93444