Manchester and the English Lake District

Coniston in the Lake District of Northern England

John Ruskin & Coniston

Aerial Photograph of Coniston in the English Lake District
Aerial Photograph of Coniston, and Steam
Yacht “Gondola” setting out. Courtesy of ©

The village of Coniston has been known since the
earliest times as a mining centre, whose chief product was copper,
mined from the mountain which dominates the village, the “Old Man”.
Cheaper imported copper brought about the decline of the industry
in the late 19th century. Until 1882 it had been operated by the prestigious
Company of Mines Royal, but these could not compete with the huge
foreign Rio Tinto mines which sounded its death knell.

Coniston Old manConiston main street

Here and along the banks of Red Dell Beck lie some
of Cumbria’s earliest mine workings, dating from Tudor times. Indelibly
linked with the village of Coniston is the name of John Ruskin, who
lived at Brantwood across Coniston Water, and who is buried in Coniston
Parish churchyard. Ruskin was one of the foremost thinkers and writers
of Victorian times, a Professor of Art at Oxford University, and noted
art critic. He retired to Brantwood in Coniston in 1872, and lived
there for the next 27 years.

John RuskinJohn Ruskin's gravestone in Coniston  cemeteryConiston churchyard - Ruskin's grave
John Ruskin, his tombstone and Coniston

His grave is marked by a tall and a beautifully
and intricately carved Celtic cross, carved by his friend, the artist
W.G. Collinwood. Coniston Water stretches for about 5 miles, and hosts
a ferry service from Coniston Pier to Brantwood.
The Steam Yacht “Gondola”, first launched in 1859, and now completely
renovated and owned by the National Trust provides a full steam-powered
passenger service, carrying up to 86 passengers in opulent Victorian
luxury, with its plush upholstery and heated saloons. It is also available
for group hire and private charter. It has a daily schedule from the
end of March to the end of October, from 11.00am, except Saturdays
when it starts from 12.00noon. For bookings, contact : Pier Cottage,
Coniston, Cumbria LA21 8AJ. Telephone : 015394-41288 between 9.00am
and 10.30am (ansaphone at all other times)

Brantwood at Coniston Water

John Ruskin’s house, Brantwood, is popularly acclaimed
as having one of the most beautiful views in the whole Lake District.
Overlooking Coniston Water, it was his home from 1872 to his death
in 1900. In 1878, he wrote of the view of Coniston:

“I raise my eyes to these
Coniston Fells (hills), and see them, at this moment imaged in their
lake, in quietly reversed and perfect similitude, the sky cloudless
above them, cloudless beneath, and two level lines of blue vapour
drawn across their sunlighted and russet moorlands, like an azure
fesse across a golden shield”.

John Ruskin was a notable poet, painter and author
who by his mid-20s had become a prodigious art critic of international
reputation and influence, having written, amongst other learned works,
the series “Modern Painters” in defence of English painters, to whom
he was a friend, patron and champion. Brantwood had been host to intellectuals
and great literary figures – Mahatma Ghandi, Proust, Tolstoy and Frank
Lloyd Wright among them.
The house is still filled with Ruskin’s drawings, paintings and watercolours,
and now form part of the Ruskin Museum collection, all on view to
the public. The house’s extensive gardens offer pleasant walks to
the visitor with its profusion of springtime bluebells and daffodils,
as well as its summertime rhododendrons and azaleas.

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© John Moss, Papillon Graphics AD 2013 Manchester, United Kingdom – all rights reserved.
This page last updated 16 Nov 12.