Brantwood, which is a country house in the Lake District that overlooks Coniston Water towards Coniston village and the Old Man of Coniston, was the home of the well known John Ruskin. The house and grounds are on a steep wooded area, which would explain why in old Norse the word Brant means steep.
The original house, which had between six and eight rooms, was built in the 18th century by Thomas Woodville. John Ruskin bought Brantwood in 1871 and arranged for repairs to the house, as well as the addition of a turret, the building of a lodge for his valet and his family, and for improvements to the garden. He laid out an unusual woodland garden with networks of paths and hundreds of rhododendrons and azaleas.
Ruskin filled his house with art, which included paintings by Gainsborough, Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites, together with minerals, potter and seashells that he acquired on his travels abroad and at home. W G Collingwood, painter, archaeologist and translator of Nordic sagas was a frequent visitor as he lived nearby. However, Ruskin was frequently visited by well known Victorian such as Charles Darwin, Henry Holiday and Kate Greenaway to name just a few. John Ruskin is commemorated at Friars Crag on Derwentwater as it was his ideas that greatly influenced those who were to establish the National Trust.
The house and estate was inherited by the Severn family following the death of Ruskin in 1900. The Severns, however, did not honour Ruskin’s wish in his will for the house to be open 30 days a year for visitors to see his house and collection. Sadly, they sold off many of his better pictures in his collection. John Howard Whitehouse, who was the founder of Bembridge School and of the Birmingham Ruskin Society, bought the house for the nation following the death of Arthur Severn in 1931. However, most of the contents of the house were sold by auction. In 1951 Whitehouse set up the Brantwood Trust to care for the property. This is now part of the Ruskin Foundation which was created by Lancaster University.
At Brantwood you will find much of the original furnishings and paintings that were returned to the house together with Ruskin’s coach and boat. In the village of Coniston there is the Ruskin Museum as well as the grave of Ruskin in the churchyard of St Andrew’s church. To appreciate the full beauty of this house, gardens and surrounding area it is best to arrive by either Gondola, which is a Victorian steam yacht that was renovated by the National Trust, or one of the ferry services offered by the Coniston Launch company.