Brantwood and John Ruskin

(See also Coniston and The Ruskin Museum)

Brantwood on Coniston Lake by Barbara BallardThe 250-acre estate, Brantwood, on Coniston Water's eastern shore, belonged to John Ruskin, a well-known Victorian painter, poet, and social commentator, who lived here from 1872 until his death in 1900. He bought the home from William Linton, a wood engraver and magazine editor. The memorable views across the lake and fells figured prominently in his desire to own the land. The house itself was a large cottage when he bought it, but he further enlarged it, adding a turreted bedroom, dining room, studio, stables, coach house and servants' quarters. Brantwood contains Ruskin's furniture, a collection of paintings, books, and other personal possessions including his own artwork. A film about his life is part of a visit to the home.

Coniston Lake by Barbara BallardRuskin was born (1819) into a wealthy household, had a private tutor, a privileged education at Oxford, and travelled throughout Europe. He became an art critic and commentator for social reform. His many original (for the time) opinions helped him make a name for himself. He espoused the evils of industry and a return to the simple agricultural way of life, but he lived in a grand style, using the money his father had amassed through hard work. Drawn by Ruskin's talents and forward thinking, persons involved in literary and artistic fields came to Brantwood to visit. Rossetti was a close friend, as was William Holmer Hunt, one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

Ruskin published a large number of books including Modern Painters (five volumes), The Seven Lamps of Architecture, Stones of Venice, and the Art of England. He married, but several years later, his marriage was annulled. He became the Slade Professor of Art at Oxford. Towards the end of his life he wrote his autobiography (unfinished), Praeterita. Ruskin suffered from mental illness in his later years. He died from the flu and was buried in the Coniston churchyard.

Coniston Lake courtesy Coniston LaunchThe 30 acres of gardens on the estate were fashioned by Ruskin in the ‘natural’ manner. 270 British ferns are planted beneath the oak trees in the ‘Linton Fern Garden’. A sculpture of the ‘Green Man’ is hidden among the trees. Visitors can meander through a medieval style garden with native herbs. Near the house is the ‘Professor's Garden’, an experimental cottage flower and fruit collection with a bee house. The estate abounds with a network of walks through woodland, pasture, and moorland leading to Crag Head. Down on the lake sits a boat dock where the National Trust Steamboat Gondola lands passengers.

Ruskin made this observation one morning, in 1878, while seated at his desk and looking over Coniston Lake, “Morning breaks as I write, along those Coniston Fells, and the level mists, motionless, and grey beneath the rose of the moorlands, veil the lower woods, and the sleeping village, and the long lawns by the lake shore.” The view was, and still is, one of peace and beauty.

To reach Brantwood by road, by the National Trust Steam Gondola, or by hiking from the village of Coniston.
Open daily 11-5:30, except Christmas and New Year's.
House, Gardens, Craft Gallery, Exhibitions, Restaurant.
Tel. 015394 41396

Note: Please check opening times and dates before visiting in case of changes.

The Ruskin Museum
Yewdale Road.
Tel. 015394 41164
Fax. 015394 41132
Open daily, 10-5:30 Easter to early Nov.

Steamboat Gondola
National Trust
Coniston Pier
Daily sailings April-end Oct.
Schedule at Coniston TIC
Stops at Brantwood

Photos by Barbara Ballard and courtesy of Coniston Launch

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