Gatesbield Quaker Housing Association Ltd Supporting older people for more than 40 years

History of the Association

Stanley and Emily Davies gave the things they loved the most, their house and garden, on which they had lavished so many years of skill and care, to provide security and pleasure to those in need of a sheltered home. This gift was offered to the community from their Quaker belief in the stewardship of possessions, and in service to others. We have been entrusted to continue this spirit of service and loving concern for those in Gatesbield and beyond.

Stanley Webb Davies was born in Darwen, Lancashire and attended Quaker schools at Sidcot and Bootham where his talent for working with wood was encouraged and developed. After graduating from Oxford he went into the family mill but left in order to fulfil his talents for creating designs and working with wood. After training under the guidance of Romney Green, a distinguished craftsman in Christchurch, he set up his own business in 1923.

With the help of his father he bought a piece of scrubland in Windermere on which he built his workshop, now called Craft Cottage. In the same year he married Emily Alice Thomas, the daughter of a well-known Sheffield surgeon, and together they planned their new home.

Emily’s gentleness and love for creatures was reflected in the name that they chose ‘Gatesbield’ – a shelter for small animals. Both the workshop and the house were built entirely from the rock on the site, as the different levels in the garden indicate. The house was designed and built to their highest standards. Both the staircase, hall and rooms show their creative flair for working with wood. Emily’s sense of humour can be seen in the carving near the hatch in the common room where two workmen are portrayed climbing ladders with buckets and hods of stone.

Above the front door Stanley carved a panel bearing the words ‘Goodwill subdues violence as water quenches fire’, words taken from a stained glass window at the family home in Darwen. Carvings above the outside lower windows showing sea horses, fish, owls, pheasants and rabbits are Emily’s work.

With the house finished in 1926 they then turned their attention to the garden. Apart from the large oaks and firs, every tree and shrub in the garden was planted by them, bearing in mind the species which attracted red squirrels and the greatest variety of birds and butterflies. The garden also contains around one hundred rhododendrons including the Rothschild collection, azaleas, rare trees, shrubs and ferns. Originally a glimpse of the Lake and the Langdale Pikes was visible from the upstairs bay window.

Emily tamed squirrels and owls to come to her window to be fed by hand and they kept hens, budgerigars and two geese. A diary was kept of the dates when birds returned to the garden in spring and when flowers came into bloom.

So they lived in a house built with loving care, a haven of peace and tranquillity not only for wildlife but also their friends and relations during their forty nine years of happy marriage.

It was their dearest wish that this house and its grounds should be left to their Quaker friends to give them the opportunity to live in and enjoy the peace of the surroundings, which they had so lovingly created.

They would be delighted to see that their dreams have come true.