Brantwood was another place which I had passed by hundreds of times but never ventured inside. Brantwood was the home of John Ruskin, he was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropis. Brantwood looks down to Coniston water and over towards the Coniston fells.
He was a very well-travelled man as he used to accompany his father on trips around the UK and into Europe. One of his visits bought him to the Lake District where he fell in love with the place. He wrote several poems about the Lakes here, after a trip from Windermere to Hawkshead and Coniston, he wrote Iteriad a poem of 2310 lines, quite an achievement for a boy of 11.
In August 1871, Ruskin bought Brantwood paying £1500. It was Ruskin’s main home from 1872 until his death. His estate provided a site for more of his practical schemes and experiments: an ice house (early fridge) was built, the gardens were redesigned, he oversaw the construction of a larger harbour (from where he rowed his boat, the Jumping Jenny), and altered the house (adding a dining room, turret to his bedroom to give a panoramic view of the lake.
He built a reservoir, and redirected the waterfall down the hills, adding a slate seat that faced the tumbling stream rather than the lake, so that he could closely observe the fauna and flora of the hillside.
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.
As you enter before you explore the house, there is a short video outlining his life. He was ahead of his time in some ways. The house is wonderful and could imagine dinner parties around the huge dining room table with the literary people of the time.
They have created a 21st century version of Ruskin’s slate lithophone, using rocks found across Cumbria. The instrument is on permanent display in the Linton Room at Brantwood and is available for visitors to play.
The team used four different types of ‘ringing rocks’ to create a 49-key, four octave lithophone that can be played by visitors to Brantwood. The rocks have been selected by geologists led by Professor Bruce Yardley of the University of Leeds to illustrate the rich geological heritage of the Lake District. The project also features a smaller one-octave iRock instrument which uses multimedia music technology to create interactive explanations of the geological properties of the rocks as they are played. Obviously couldn’t resist having a go.
The rug exhibition by local rug maker Jane Exley was amazing. Pieces of art made from wool.