Friday, 17 March 2017

Day 18: Coniston in the Rain.

The rain has set in. Today we set off in the rain, about 10 am, heading for Coniston to visit the Ruskin Museum and Ruskin's grave.I did not take any photos of the journey. I had not recharged my portable phone charger last night and was concerned that I wouldn't have enough battery to take al the photos I wanted to in Coniston. In addition, when you've seen one photo of a wet car window you've seen them all.
In Coniston we parked in the street behind the Museum beside a stream.

The Ruskin Museum began it's life in 1901 when WG Collingwood gathered together much of Ruskin's work for an exhibition. 
Some of his cabinets of curiosities survive and are displayed as are many of his drawings, writings and philosophy. 

To these have been added some models of slate houses, a local  'rock band" (a xylophone-like instrument made of slate) a major display of Donald Campbell's Bluebird,and a range of collections and displays relating to the local area.

Of major interest to me was the collection of Ruskin Lace.When Ruskin moved to Brentwood he sought ways to use the local tradition of flax growing to set up a cottage industry. He returned from a visit to Venice with drawings of reticella lace he had seen and appreciated. He gave these to a friend whose housekeeper, Marion Twelves, was an embroiderer.She managed to work out the stitches from the drawings , got others interested and introduced classes in Coniston and Langdale Schools. One local woman ran a medium-sized business weaving linen, outsourcing the embridery and selling finished product to Heals and Liberty.

Lace-making has continued to be taught and maintained in the local area, first by Mrs W.L. Raby and, since the 1970s by Elizabeth Prickett who conducts courses and has published the definitive book on Ruskin Lace.

The Museum has the largest collection of Ruskin Lace.

Photo of Marion Twelves wearing the apron and collar above.

There is a purpose-built compactus  for displaying the lace.

Also on display is the pall that local women made for Ruskin's funeral. It is local linen embroidered all over and bearing Ruskin's initials. It is a lovely thing - but hard to photograph.

The museum has triggered an interest in Ruskin that I will follow up. The other native son of Coniston is Arthur Ransome. I bought a map that shows the relationship of Ransome's fictional places and the significant places in his life.

From the Ruskin Museum we moved around the corner to the Black Bull Hotel. There were a few people and two well-behaved dogs in the bar when we arrived. It took a while to get served as the single barman was slowly filling a silverfoil bladder with the local Coniston Bitter for a couple to take home to Cornwall. He filled it very carefully and slowly.

It was a pleasant place on a cold and wet day. I enjoyed my Scampi and Pino Grigio.

The meal gave us enough energy to venture across the road to St Andrew's Churchyard to visit Ruskin's grave, over which has been erected a remarkable cross, designed by W. G. Collingwood, who was an expert in Anglo-Saxon crosses.

The grave is at the back of the church, against the back fence, with a chair to sit - if the weather is good enough.

The cross is of green slate from Tilberthwaite, carved all over with symbols relevant to Ruskin's life.

I have included a lot of photos, some large, because it is such a beautiful and intriguing work.

The photos do not show the rain, but it was worth getting wet. to see. We walked away gently, visited the church and drove back to Keswick through the unrelenting rain.

It's good to be inside out of the cold and wet, with a sense of a remarkable man and a very memorable place.


  1. A lot of great photos today! What a treasure trove that museum was, I never would have thought of it. Were you able to buy the Ruskin lace book?

  2. I hesitated over the book. I was very tempted to buy and read then give it to the Guild library. It was a little weightier than I wanted to add to my luggage so I decided to wait and see if the Guild had it, then order by mail. As it happens, a friend emailed me that she has just borrowed it from the Guild library, so I made the right decision!