Famous residents of the Lake District – John Ruskin

John Ruskin, who lived at Brantwood in the Lake District in 1871 was born in London in 1819 and was the son of a wealthy sherry importer.

Ruskin was encouraged to take up painting and poetry from a young age. Ruskin was educated at home and at Oxford, where he was influenced by the sciences, and where he first became interested in architecture.

Ruskin married Effie Gray when he was 29, but the marriage ended after 6 years, and was never consummated. To get over the heartbreak of his loveless marriage, the artist buried himself in work, and embarked on a lengthy study of Venice, with particular attention paid to the art and architecture of the famous city. He produced a 3-volume study about Venice.

Ruskin became interested in social justice, and began to influence the shape of society through his writing.

He fell in love with Rose la Touche, who sadly died aged 29, and he carried his feelings for her for the rest of his life. After Ruskin´s father died, the social reformer became a wealthy man. He became Professor or Art at Oxford and was an increasingly radical voice in Victorian Britain.

Aged 59, Ruskin suffered his first of several breakdowns. He died in 1900 at the age of 81, leaving behind him 39 volumes of writings, thousands of drawings and watercolours and a legacy of influence which is still felt today.

Stretching from Frank Lloyd Wright to Mahatma Gandhi, Ruskin spoke up for the welfare state and was a huge influence on the founders of the National Health Service, the opening of public libraries and the National Trust. His influence also reached abroad, and he encouraged women´s education in many under-developed countries, the abolition of child labour and environmental protection. Ruskin was also an artist who never exhibited his work professionally, but used his talent as a form of escapism and to communicate his discoveries.

Collections are permanently on display in his former home, Brantwood, and Lancaster University is home to the world´s largest archive of Ruskin material.


The former home of John Ruskin, Brantwood enjoys one of the most stunning locations in the Lake District – overlooking Coniston Water. The house has great historical importance, and is a lively centre of the arts – with over 30,000 visitors a year.

If you decide to base yourself in Windermere, which offers a wealth of attractions, plus spa hotels, boutique hotels and hot tub hotels, Coniston is just 8 miles away and is easily accessible by public transport or car.

Activities at Brantwood reflect the wealth of cultural associations associated with the Ruskin legacy. The house is filled with paintings, furniture and personal memorabilia from the artist´s life in the Lake District.

Visitors to Brantwood are introduced to Ruskin´s world by an introductory video and can walk around seven historical rooms. Younger visitors are also well catered for with a range of activity sheets and quizzes to keep them entertained.

The Blue Gallery hosts several changing exhibitions.

The beautiful mountainside gardens at Brantwood are set in a 250 acre wood estate with stunning views over the Lake and the local countryside.

The Professor´s Garden was Ruskin´s favourite part of Brantwood, and it represents the low mountain crofter´s plot, and was formerly dedicated to plants which were good for the mind and soul. The Fern Garden is a maze of over 250 different ferns which thrive in the woodland setting of the house.

The Moorland Garden was the site of an experiment to build terraces fashioned from the natural forms of the land and two reservoirs. It is now a garden of questions and is presented as a blank canvas.