Brantwood – The Home of John Ruskin
John Ruskin was one of the greatest figures of the Victorian age, poet, artist, critic, social revolutionary and conservationist. After many visits to the Lake District from the age of five onwards, his affection for the Lakes was such that in 1871, when he was 52 he bought Brantwood on the shore of Coniston Water.
He then set about expanding and renovating the house. He first added the famous turret, on the south west corner. From here he could gaze out over spectacular views north, south and west. The house was filled with a collection of art treasures that Ruskin had aquired on his travels at home and abroad. There were Medieval manuscripts, Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Turner watercolours and his fabulous mineral collection.
He was visited at Brantwood by many eminent Victorians, including Charles Darwin, Holman Hunt, Kate Greenaway and Henry Holiday.
Brantwood has been owned since 1951 by the Brantwood Trust, which is now part of the Ruskin Foundation, created by Lancaster University. Their policy is to keep alive the memory of John Ruskin, and to actively promote the relevance of his work to the modern world. The house contains a large collection of drawings and watercolours by Ruskin, and much of his furniture
now returned to the house, is on display in the public rooms.
Possibly the best way to get to Brantwood is to take the National Trust’s Steam Yacht Gondola from Coniston Pier.
You may walk around the extensive gardens, in which John Ruskin took a part in the design. Originally laid out by Ruskin from 1871 onwards, the restored garden comprises areas of sloping ground below and above the house which extend to about 20 acres, and includes dramatic features in areas of natural woodland with cascading streams among rocky outcrops. A collection of ferns is being established, and azaleas and Rhododendrons are a particular feature. A millennium lottery fund grant has been used to establish some new gardens.
In one of the outbuildings are a restaurant and craft shop. A comprehensive guide booklet is available, describing the life and work of John Ruskin, and the history of the house.
The Ruskin Museum is in the village of Coniston, and his grave is in the churchyard of St Andrew’s Church, Coniston.
There is a bookshop selling a variety of Lake District books as well as many of Ruskin’s works. There is a collection of second hand publications for sale.