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The Early Years & their Legacy

May e-Newsletter

E-Newsletter (May 2017)

Dear Companions and Friends,

A bumper month of news from the Guild.

Sharing, Celebrating and Enhancing John Ruskin's Legacy in the Wyre Forest

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An exciting new project is about to explore Ruskin Land, the area of the Wyre Forest in Worcestershire cared for by Ruskin’s Guild of St George and managed by the Wyre Community Land Trust. The two-year programme begins this summer and concludes in 2019 when the bicentenary of John Ruskin’s birth will be celebrated.

Ruskin Land was given to the Victorian polymath John Ruskin in the 1870s. It was the mission of Ruskin’s Guild ‘to take some small piece of English ground, beautiful, peaceful and fruitful’ in order to provide opportunities for working people to cultivate land and reconnect with nature. The project aims to explore the story of what happened at Ruskin Land, how Ruskin’s ideas have been incorporated into the modern forest, and what can be done to reinterpret his vision today in meaningful, creative and productive ways.

The project seeks to deepen the links between the local community and the forest through a wide range of events and activities. Making – of all kinds and varieties – will be central to the project. There will be opportunities for local people, and for those from further afield, to engage with the project and each other by sharing their memories, going on guided walks and working with an artisan in residence who will aim to turn our oak into beautiful things.

The £80,000 project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Ruskin’s Guild of St George, which owns the 150 acres of farm and woodland, and will be delivered in partnership with the Wyre Community Land Trust at St George’s Farm.

Watch out for details of the launch event at Bewdley Museum taking place on Monday 24th July.

View as a poster.

Peter Wardle RIP

We are sad to report the death last week of Peter Wardle, the Guild’s longest-standing Companion. The Wardle family’s history is intimately bound up with Ruskin’s legacy and the history of the Guild. Companions will remember that Peter co-authored the important book, Ruskin and Bewdley, with Companion and former Guild Director and Secretary, Dr Cedric Quayle. We send our deepest sympathies to Peter’s family at this sad time.

Ruskin in Sheffield 2017

This year’s Ruskin in Sheffield programme has now been published and promises an exciting range of events and activities, delivered in partnership with The Big Draw. Click on the image (right) to download the PDF brochure.

Two particular things to highlight:

Rivelin Valley Artists

This new display at Weston Park Museum, Sheffield, shines a spotlight on a remarkable, yet little-known, community of amateur and professional painters established in Sheffield’s Rivelin Valley in the 1920s.

In the years immediately after the First World War, a group of gifted artists founded a creative colony in the Rivelin Valley, situated in the west of the city. The paintings and watercolours they produced provide a unique portrait of the valley at the time, and reflect both its natural beauty and longstanding industrial heritage.

This display in the museum's Picturing Sheffield gallery brings together 14 works by artists including Ben Baines, W. R. E. Goodrich, Robert Scott-Temple and Vernon Edmonds. The collection has been amassed by Baines’ grandson, the award-winning writer, broadcaster and environmentalist, Prof Chris Baines.

The works in this display have been generously loaned by Chris Baines, Andrew Baines and Winifred Baines.

The Rivelin Valley Artists exhibition of paintings collected by Chris Baines runs until 5th November.

Thirteen Acres

Companion Sally Goldsmith’s new book, Thirteen Acres: John Ruskin and the Totley Communists, is now available for £12 from the Guild’s shop. This fascinating account of the history of St George’s Farm, Totley, deftly mixes meticulous historical research, local knowledge, and personal memory to reveal the story of one of the Guild’s earliest and most controversial experiments, and also traces what happened after the Guild sold the land to the Pearson family. Not only has Sally unearthed long-forgotten details about the farm and the people who worked the land there, but the book also publishes for the first time some wonderful photographs.

Master of All Trades: John Ruskin Prize Exhibition Private View (Tuesday, 20th June)

We are pleased to invite you to the Private Launch on the evening of Tuesday, 20th June of Master of All Trades at Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery. This is the exhibition of works shortlisted for the 2017 John Ruskin Prize and runs from 21st June to 8th October. This year saw a record number of submissions from fine artists, makers and craftspeople from across the UK. A detailed invitation will follow, but please put the date in your diaries.

Celebrating Fanny Talbot of Barmouth (Wednesday, 21st June)

Companions will recall that Mrs Fanny Talbot was one of the Guild’s earliest and most generous Companions. We are thrilled to report that the centenary of Mrs Talbot’s death is to be marked with a special event at Barmouth on Wednesday, 21st June. View a recent article on Barmouth in The Companion, and read Ruskin's Social Experiment at Barmouth by Blanche Atkinson online.

Lowri Rogers writes:

We’re writing to invite you to a special event, at 1pm on Wednesday 21st June, to commemorate the life of Mrs Fanny Talbot and her vision for the protection of our outdoor places.

As a Barmouth resident and philanthropist, Fanny Talbot was the very first person to donate land, in the form of a small gorse-clad hill known as Dinas Oleu, to the then newly formed National Trust in 1895.

From those humble beginnings the National Trust has grown into Europe’s largest conservation charity, caring for 45,000 hectares of countryside, 157 miles of coastline and some of the finest castles and gardens in Wales.

This June marks the centenary of Mrs Talbot’s death and the event will begin at 1pm with a special ceremony and rededication of her newly-restored gravestone at St Mary’s church, Llanaber.

Following the service there will be an opportunity for you to join our rangers on a guided walk around Dinas Oleu. Alternatively you can head straight to the Dragon Theatre to view a special archive display over light refreshments.

We’ll be ending the day at the theatre with talks at 4pm by Fanny Talbot’s biographer, Dr Astrid Swenson, from Brunel University London and National Trust’s Director General, Dame Helen Gosh.

Please RSVP to Lowri Rogers ( or 01766 510120) by 26th May 2017 should you wish to attend, stating whether or not you’d like to join the guided walk.

Spaces are limited so we recommend booking early to avoid disappointment.

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Companions’ Day at Westmill (Saturday, 24th June)

As you will be aware, we are holding our Companions’ Day in the village of Westmill, Hertfordshire this year. Full details are online. Please note that spaces are limited so please book early by emailing Martin Green on to avoid disappointment.

1100 Arrival. Parking has been made available on the field adjacent to the Church.
1130 Introductions by Guild of St George and T & M Greg Trust.
1200 A talk by Liz Mitchell (see below).
1300 Lunch (for a discretionary donation) served at the Children's Playground marquee.
1400 A short talk on architect and Companion Charles Spooner (1862-1938) by his biographer Alec Hamilton, followed by a village tour, including a visit to the Greg memorials at Westmill Church.

GETTING THERE: Westmill is near Buntingford and is most easily reached by car from the A10. The nearest mainline railways stations are Hertford North, Hertford East and Stevenage. Taxis are available outside all three stations.

Liz Mitchell’s talk, ‘Treasuring things of the least’: Mary Hope Greg, John Ruskin and Westmill, Hertforshire, will be published by the Guild next month and will be available for purchase at the Companions’ Day.

Westmill Village Hall (Photo: Alec Hamilton).

Whitelands College

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It was good to see some of you at Whitelands College at the weekend. Companion Revd Canon Dr David Peacock delivered a superb Whitelands Ruskin Lecture on Ruskin and Whitelands’ longest-serving Principal, the Revd J. P. Faunthorpe. The lecture is now available as a booklet (image above, centre) for £6 + P&P from the Shop. At the May Day ceremony, the Guild’s former Master, Dr Jim Dearden, was honoured with the well-deserved award of a Whitelands Anniversary Fellowship which he accepted in person. This year’s May Day ceremony also marked the sixtieth anniversary of the crowning of Companion Queen Beate (Beate Howitt, image above, left, pictured with Whitelands' Principal, Companion Revd Dr Mark Garner). Beate made a moving speech about the value of education and the role of Whitelands College. Dr Rachel Dickinson once again presented the gift of Guild books to the May Monarch (Queen Navita) and her attendants, in a session held at Whitelands College Chapel (image above, right).

With thanks and best wishes,

Guild of St George.

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