John Ruskin, the Pre-Raphaelites and the Arts and Crafts Movement One-day tour
Our partner: English Lakes Tours
Our partner: English Lakes Tours
The English Lake District weather can change quickly, even in the summer months. Please bring a waterproof coat with a hood in case of rain or windy weather.
As there is some walking involved in the tour, some uphill and on uneven or wet terrain, please wear suitable, comfortable shoes.
Your morning starts with a scenic drive through typical Lakeland countryside to Coniston Water before climbing up to beautiful Brantwood, the former home of John Ruskin, the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. Your entrance to Brantwood is included in the tour price.
Here your guide will introduce you to the many different facets of Ruskin, particularly his philosophy on industrialism and its impact upon the welfare of society. As you explore this beautiful house, his life story and the massive influence that he has had upon art, literature, architecture, ecology, social conditions for the poor and education will come alive. His influence is still present on our lives today and even closer to his own time he had a huge following which included Mahatma Ghandi, Leo Tolstoy and Marcel Proust, Nietzsche, Ibsen, Clement Atlee, Martin Luther King and even, probably, Mao Tse-Tung. In international architectural circles, he was greatly admired by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Gropius and even Le Corbusier.
He was a supporter of J.M.W. Turner, defending his techniques against the savage critics of the day. His writing on art and architecture was a source of inspiration for the creation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood whom he championed and the subsequent development of the Arts and Crafts Movement, whose unique development started, under his direct influence and close proximity, in the Lake District.
We will also linger at Brantwood long enough for you to take in the panoramic vista of Coniston Water, overshadowed by Coniston Old Man on the opposite shore from the house. Brantwood is the perfect spot for photos across the lake and it won't take long for you to understand why Ruskin was so influential in preventing the industrialisation and development of the Lake District, a most beautiful place in all of England.
From Brantwood, we meander down to the shores of Coniston and into the village where Ruskin is buried. Here, your guide will take you into the Ruskin Museum to see unique and iconic examples of local textile, ceramics and metalwork created by the Lakeland Arts Revival workshops which were centred in the local Lake District areas of the Langdales, Ambleside and Keswick.
Ruskin saw that the industrialisation and savage capitalism of his day was destroying local rural communities, creating real hardship and poverty and this led him to encourage his followers to return to the tradition of hand spinning, also championed by William Wordsworth before him. From here the local lace and linen industries were established. Night classes and the Keswick School of Industrial Arts, founded by Cannon Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley, a former pupil of Ruskin at Oxford and a founder of the conservation charity, The National Trust, led to the creation of iconic and distinctive copper and brass ware, some of which has Ruskin Pottery cabochons embedded in them like jewels.
All of these beautiful Lakeland Arts and Crafts objects will be pointed out to you by your guide and there will be ample opportunities for you to discuss these themes and objects with each other and your guide as we head off to lunch in the south Lakeland village of Staveley.
Staveley is our lunch stop where there are several small cafés in the village as well as the Hawkshead Brewery. After lunch, we drive to St James's church to view two Pre-Raphaelite stained glass windows.
Of the two windows, the most spectacular is undoubtedly the East window. Designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones and made by William Morris & Co in 1881, 16 years after the church was built, the window shows the Crucifixion and the Ascension, surrounded by spectacular images of six angels, each playing a different medieval musical instrument. It is regarded as one of the most magnificent Morris windows imaginable and has been described as a 'window of exceptional beauty'.
From Staveley, we drive through the rolling south Lakeland countryside, past farms and traditional slate cottages to the beautiful village of Troutbeck. Jesus church is where you will see the exceptional stained-glass window by the Pre-Raphaelite artists Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Ford Maddox Brown and William Morris. The composition and colours of the window in this church are breathtaking, and even the traditional needlework kneelers on the pews here are a feast for the eyes.
We now move on to your final destination. On a hillside overlooking Windermere is a spectacular house. That in itself is not surprising, as in the 19th and early 20th Centuries wealthy business owners from the North West of England flocked to the Lake District and built comfortable homes for their families - retreats from the noise, soot and pollution of the industrial cities. But Blackwell, the house you are exploring today, is quite remarkable - within its Grade I listed walls is an exceptionally-preserved Arts and Crafts interior.
Perched overlooking lake Windermere, deliberately placed up among the trees, this unique and hauntingly beautiful building is a masterpiece of artistic design. Architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott designed Blackwell as a holiday home for Manchester brewer Sir Edward Holt, Lady Holt and their five children in 1901.
During your visit you can sit and soak up the atmosphere in Blackwell's fireplace inglenooks and inviting window seats while enjoying stunning Lake District views. Your guide will help you explore the house, introduce you to the Holt family and help you find out about life in the late Victorian period.
You will discover original decorative features by leading Arts & Crafts designers, including a rare hessian wall-hanging in the Dining Room, leaf-shaped door handles, ornate window catches, spectacular plasterwork, stained glass and carved wooden panelling. There is beauty, exquisite design, delightful details and spectacular views everywhere you look at Blackwells.
The original gardens were laid out by Arts & Crafts garden designer, Thomas Mawson, in a series of terraces to achieve the very best views from the house, looking over the lake towards the Coniston fells. Today, Blackwell is bordered by beautiful flower beds set against a terrace of York stone paving, providing shelter for garden chairs and tables surrounded by fragrant flowers and herbs. On the lower terrace there is a long sweep of lawn where you can stroll and take in the intoxicating beauty of the Lake District, whatever the season.
Before we go, you will have the opportunity to browse the shop which has an enviable reputation for presenting work for sale by the best contemporary British craft makers; upholding the ethos of the Arts & Crafts Movement. You will have the opportunity to buy unique pieces selected for their quality and beauty including fine jewellery, textiles, ceramics, silver, glass, metalwork and wood which represent both established and up and coming talent.