Arthur Ransome in Cumbria
Arthur Ransome, author of the “Swallows & Amazons” series, was born in Leeds on 18th Jan 1884. As a small boy he had holidays around Coniston and attended prep school in Windermere, which gave Ransome an early taste for Lakeland. After completing his education he worked in London, coming North whenever he could.
He became a friend of W.G. Collingwood, writer artist and secretary to John Ruskin. Collingwood lived at Lanehead, beside Coniston Water, and it was here that Ransome learned to sail. Ransome’s favourite childhood book was W.G. Collingwood’s Thorstein of the Mere which was set around Coniston.
After an unsuccessful marriage he went to Russia where he met his future wife Evgenia Petrovna Shelepina, who had been Trotsky’s secretary. In 1924 he gained a divorce and was able to marry Evgenia and come back to The Lake District, living first in the Winster Valley. Apart from two periods when he went South he lived in Cumbria for the rest of his life, finding inspiration and settings for Swallows and Amazons. His last house was Hill Top at Haverthwaite.
Arthur Ransome based his book ‘Swallows and Amazons’ on Coniston Water, and much fun may be had trying to discover the locations of the stories. There are special interest cruises on the Coniston Launch which explore the locations used by Arthur Ransome in his books. The Steam Yacht Gondola, which sails around Coniston, gave the idea for Captain Flint’s houseboat, although this was eventually modelled on Esperance (now at Windermere Steamboat Musem).
Arthur Ransome died on 3rd June 1967, and his grave is in St Paul’s Church, Rusland. His wife Evgenia (1894-1975) is also buried here.
The Arthur Ransome Society was started in June 1990 to celebrate both Ransome’s life and his work and, through these, to encourage people of all ages to take part in outdoor activities such as sailing, walking and fishing. The Society is based at The Museum of Lakeland Life in Kendal. There you will find the Arthur Ransome Room, where his desk, typewriter, pipes, books and general memorabilia are kept. The Society also has strong links with the Windermere Steamboat Museum where you can see Esperance (one of the boats on which Arthur Ransome based Captain Flint’s houseboat), and the newly restored Amazon. Contact the Museum for more information about the Society.
Claire Kendall-Price, a member of the Society, has written ‘In the Footsteps of the Swallows and Amazons’, which describes 19 walks that lead you to some of the places where Arthur Ransome lived, and various locations in Ransome’s books, and is illustrated with many of Ransome’s own photographs and drawings.
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