Uncover: The Story of Coniston at The Ruskin Museum

Outside The Ruskin Museum (photo VAJ Slowe) The Ruskin Museum (photo credit Dave Willis, Cumbria Tourism) Bluebird K7 (photo credit Anthony Stuchbury) Prototype Bluebird JetStar ski-boat, in The Ruskin Museum (photo Anthony Stuchbury)

The Ruskin Museum is a veritable cabinet of curiosities telling The Story of Coniston – a voyage of discovery from the first Stone Age fell-walkers to the enlightened John Ruskin and from the literary classic of Swallows and Amazons to speed ace Donald Campbell and the iconic Bluebird K7.

Coniston Gallery

The Ruskin Museum’s Coniston Gallery introduces you to 500 million year old rocks, and one of the first Rock Bands, who played musical stones! The gallery examines the mines that helped to copper-bottom Naval and merchant wooden ships, and the slate quarries that have roofed the world.

You can also find out more about the traditional vernacular buildings in the Lake District, the distinctive dry-stone and cobble walls that stride the fells, alongside fascinating facts about the celebrated local Herdwick. The adorable black lambs and grey sheep with smiling white faces and their intriguing mix of Celtic and Norse heritage – a hardy native breed much-loved by Beatrix Potter, who owned Herdwick farms in the parish.

Discover ‘Mavis’ the sailing dinghy, which provided inspiration for the fictional ‘Amazon’, in Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons. A cherished children’s classic which fictionalised Coniston Water and The Old Man of Coniston, as The Matterhorn/Kanchenjunga, borrowed Peel Island’s secret harbour for Wild Cat Island, and SY Gondola for Captain Flint’s houseboat – fabulous living literature that can be enjoyed as part of our Grizedale & Coniston itinerary.

Ruskin Gallery

The Ruskin Museum’s Ruskin Gallery holds the most comprehensive display in the Lake District about the life and work of John Ruskin [1819 – 1900], who had one of the most profound and influential minds of the Victorian age. Considered one of the greatest pundits on aesthetics and ethics in the English-speaking world, he was also a superb watercolourist and draughtsman, with a penetrating eye and a sure sense of colour.

‘There Is No Wealth But Life’.

John Ruskin

Ruskin worked out most of his ideas visually, through drawing in almost forensic detail – seeing clearly the links between the structure of crystals and the mountains they formed; art and buildings in relation to the society that bred them; the environmental, ecological and moral pollution of the Industrial Revolution and the greed under-pinning Capitalism. Ruskin advocated a fairer and more sustainable future for society and proposed most of the fundamental ideas of the British ‘Welfare State’.

'Sunset Through the Smoke of London, from Herne Hill' - watercolour by John Ruskin
‘Sunset Through the Smoke of London, from Herne Hill’ – watercolour by John Ruskin

Ruskin believed in the power of art to transform the lives of people oppressed more by visual illiteracy and unsatisfying work than by poor material conditions. His passionate desire was to open people’s eyes to the free beauties surrounding them unseen – sunsets and dawns, iridescent feathers, spectacular crystal formations, clouds, fresh green leaves against a blue sky, the vitality and fitness for purpose of Gothic architecture and ornament. An inspiration to Tolstoy, Proust and Gandhi, the Fabians and George Bernard Shaw, John Ruskin remains today an intellectual tour de force and artistic inspiration.

Bluebird Wing

The Bluebird Wing in The Ruskin Museum has been built to house Donald Campbell’s iconic hydroplane Bluebird K7. The wreckage from the fatal crash in 1967 has been conserved and is now being rebuilt by the Bluebird Project team to operative condition – a resurrected Bluebird K7.

The gallery also contains extensive displays of memorabilia, remembering legendary Speed Ace Donald Campbell and his iconic hydroplane Bluebird K7. Marking the fateful day, 4 January 1967, when Campbell was killed, whilst attempting to raise his own World Water Speed Record in excess on 300mph on Coniston Water.

The Ruskin Museum is open:

  • Saturday 7 March until Sunday 15 November 2015 – daily: 10.00am until 5.30pm
  • Reduced Winter Hours: Wednesday 18 November 2015 until Friday 11 March 2016 – Wednesday to Sunday inclusive: 10.30am until 3.30pm
  • Saturday 12 March until Sunday 13 November 2016 – daily: 10.00am until 5.30pm
  • Closed: 24, 25, 26 December and 1 January

To enjoy this Lakes cultural event and much more, book your break in the Lake District here