The Early Years & their Legacy
AN EDUCATIONAL MUSEUM
Ruskin's admiration for the Sheffield iron workers led to the establishment in 1875 of the Guild's first museum. which was situated in the Walkley area of the city (the museum has been re-created online, click image left). Ruskin's hope was to better the lot of the workmen who visited it by providing education, stimulation and inspiration. The small house in Walkley (seen today from Bole Hill Road and marked with a Guild-commissioned plaque) was filled with commissioned copies of Old Master paintings, studies of architecture, beautiful geological specimens, casts of sculpture, medieval manuscripts, rare printed books and a library of standard works. These exemplary artefacts, precious objects and works of art were later housed in Meersbrook Hall, briefly went to Reading University, then returned to Sheffield to premises in Norfolk Street. Known today as the Ruskin Collection, it remains in the city centre, free and open to the public in a dedicated gallery in Museums Sheffield's Millennium Gallery.
The proposal to build a museum at Bewdley never materialised but plans were drawn up (see right). Today, the Guild supports the town's museum with occasional loans. The Anthony Page Collection of Ruskin books is also available for consultation there.
Early Guild members—called 'Companions'—supported Ruskin's endeavours with gifts of land and money. A farm was purchased in Totley, Sheffield (subsequently sold); woodland was given by George Baker in the Wyre Forest near Bewdley, Worcestershire; and a number of houses in Barmouth, Wales were donated by Fanny Talbot (subsequently sold). Later, Margaret Knight entrusted a wildflower meadow in Sheepscombe, Gloucestershire to the Guild, and Mary Greg—who also donated generously to the Ruskin Collection, notably her own amateur nature diaries—bequeathed houses in Westmill, Hertfordshire.