The Ruskin Museum
Tel:- 015394 41164
A small museum in Coniston, named " Ruskin" and set up a year after the death of John Ruskin in 1901, might be supposed to be purely about the life and times of John Ruskin. However, a pleasant surprise is in store, as the scope of this delightful little museum is much more extensive. Whilst it was established in 1901 as a memorial to Ruskin, it was also intended as a celebration of the Coniston area's heritage and culture.
The museum is divided into 2 main galleries, the "Ruskin", and the "Coniston". In addition there are a small number of displays outdoors, including a unique model village. There is also a small gift shop, however, there are no catering facilities, although there are a number of cafes and inns serving food close by.
Ruskin lived at Brantwood, on the East shore of Coniston Water, and the museum was set up as a memorial to him upon his death. Items on display include his first bible, letters written by him, and a gallery of artwork, both original paintings and prints, which reflect the range of his work.
In addition to traditional displays of static objects use is made of modern technology, with interactive touch screen and automatic displays helping to breathe new life into Ruskin and his world.
The museum was initially set up by WG Collingwood, secretary to John Ruskin, as a memorial to him. Ironically, the Ruskin gallery now contains a section devoted to Collingwood. A third connection with Collingwood exists in the displays relating to Arthur Ransome, and his children's book "Swallows and Amazons". It was after a summer of teaching Collingwood's grandchildren to sail on Coniston Water in 1928 that Ransome wrote Swallows and Amazons, using the names of some of Collingwood's grandchildren for his characters.
From the heavy toil of Coniston's copper miners, to the delicate skills of the local Lace makers, the displays in the Coniston Gallery tell the story of the area, it's geology and people, through a series of interesting and often thought provoking displays. Again, use is made of modern technology to bring the displays to life.
Campbell will forever be linked with Coniston Water, where he made several attempts to break the world water speed record. This exhibition charts both his life, and the accident in which he was tragically killed. Amongst the items on display are the remains of the suit he wore during that last failed attempt on 4th January 1967, video footage, many photographs and lots of information about his boat, Bluebird K7.
Donald Campbell's boat, Bluebird, was recovered from the bed of Coniston Water in 2001, and is undergoing restoration. Once complete it will be housed in a special wing of the Museum.
A number of local personalities, mostly unknown outside of Coniston, are also featured. They include John Usher, a local builder whose hobby was creating miniature replicas of local buildings, and whose unique model village is on display outside the museum.
Lance Corporal James Hewitson was a local man who, in April 1918, won the Victoria Cross for bravery. His story is outlined in a thought provoking display, as is that of R.B. Hargreaves, a pioneer of mountain climbing in the days when a rope and tweed suit were all the equipment required.