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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.

E-Newsletter (February 2017)

Dear Companions and Friends,

We have been working hard to arrange a series of events in the year ahead about which you will receive more details in the coming weeks, but for now we would like you to note the following


12 MAY Whitelands Ruskin Lecture (Roehampton)
13 MAY Whitelands College May Monarch Festival (Roehampton)
03 JUN Craftsmanship Symposium (Toronto, Canada)
17 JUN Companions' Day (Westmill, Herts)
23 SEP Symposium: How we might live (San Francisco, CA)
30 SEP Drawing Symposium (London)
04 NOV Guild AGM & Ruskin Lecture (Sheffield)

The John Ruskin Prize exhibition, Hand & Eye, will run at the Millennium Gallery, Sheffield from 21 JUN to 08 OCT. There is a special tie-in between RUSKIN in SHEFFIELD 2017 and The Big Draw. You'll be hearing shortly about a range of collaborative events across Sheffield in the months ahead. You are reminded that Ruth Nutter is running a consultation event with Companions on Thursday 02 MAR to explore opportunities and plans for future RUSKIN in SHEFFIELD activity. Please email Ruth on if you wish to take part.

You'll also be hearing from us soon about exciting new plans to explore RUSKIN in the WYRE.


As most of you know, we posted on social media a treasure from The Ruskin Collection every day last year, and you can download the whole series of monthly calendars here. We'd really like to hear what your favourite item in the Collection is, and we encourage you to write a few sentences about why it means so much to you. We will feature these on the website in the coming months.


Please note that at 1845 GMT this evening (26 FEB), BBC Radio 3 is broadcasting a programme, 'John Ruskin's Eurythmic Girls'. Read more.

Dr David Russell, a Fellow of Corpus Christi, Oxford, will speak on 'Ruskin's Vision' as part of the Oxford Literary Festival on 30 MAR. Read more here.

* * *

As always, we welcome your feedback on every aspect of our work and plans, and encourage you to get involved.

With thanks and best wishes,

Guild of St George.


E-Newsletter (December 16th 2016)

Dear Companions and Friends,

Just over a year ago, I chuckled to hear Ruskin being gently mocked on the Channel 4 sit-com, Peep Show (amusingly, the description of Ruskin given in that episode, called 'The William Morris Years,' was lifted straight from Ruskin's wikipedia entry, most of which I wrote). On Boxing Day, I heard Rev Dr Rob Marshall imploring listeners of Radio 4's 'Thought for the Day' on the Today programme to venture out of doors and explore the landscape as (he said) Ruskin had begged us to do. In the meantime, Michael Portillo has visited Brantwood on one of his BBC television train journeys, and Michael Gove MP (recently described as having, in the course of recent months, suffered a tragic conflict of disloyalties) rubbished the winning entry in this year's Turner Prize, asking what it had to do with Turner, or Ruskin. All quite different iterations of the founder of the Guild, some arguably more valid than others, yet evidence, I like to think, of Ruskin's growing presence in the daily cultural discourse.

The Guild has enjoyed another hugely active and successful year, thanks to the work of so many Companions and Friends. We have notably grown in number to 241 Companions worldwide, and in the past three years the Companionship has grown by nearly 70%. We are a community united by the purpose of promoting Ruskin's values and ideas in the modern world, and it has been gratifying to see the results.

We are always keen to hear from you, to facilitate collaborations, and to respond constructively to your much-valued feedback. We are grateful for everyone's contribution. Some of us have given the Guild money, and if you want to be amiong us then the donation form and gift aid declaration can be downloaded directly. Many more of you have shared your ideas, helped as volunteers at events, written for The Companion, given talks, and supported us in numerous ways. Thank you: you make the Guild what it is.

We are also reaching out to new communities and audiences, in particular by means of Guild-directed projects in Sheffield, and in the Wyre Forest. We have a growing presence in the United States, where Companions hold events in New York, California, Arkanasas and elsewhere. And we have a burgeoining following online, where we have nearly doubled the number of our Twitter followers this year and have established a loyal following of more than 2000 people on Facebook. Nearly 500 treasures from the Ruskin Collection have been shared on social media this year, accumulating more than a million views! Traffic to the Guild's website has grown by 1/3. We have held two public symposia, one in London and the other in Manchester. We welcomed Companions and their guests to the Companions' Weekend at Sheepscombe and the Wyre Forest. We supported two exhibitions, the third Triennial at the Millennium Gallery. Sheffield, and the shortlisted entries in the 3rd John Ruskin Prize (at Walsall and in London). We have hosted two major lectures, the Whitelands Ruskin Lecture and the annual Ruskin Lecture at our AGM. Such lectures, and other titles, are published by the Guild and sold in our online shop.

Even this attempt to summarise our growing charitable activity has probably left something out, and as I apologise for that, I invite you to join me in thanking the Master and Directors of the Guild, its staff, and most of all the whole Guild Companionship for making these things happen so successfully.

This is the time of year to reflect and particularly to remember those who have passed from us, and as such I want to share this new page from our website with you:

VAN AKIN BURD (1914-2015)

Click or tap on the image below to listen to Companion Prof Jim Spates paying his warm tribute to his friend and fellow Ruskin scholar, Companion Van Akin Burd, who sadly died in 2015. You will even be able to hear a clip of Van himself.

With thanks to Mike Salts and the Friends of Ruskin's Brantwood for permission to make this lecture available online.

(NB. In order to listen to the lecture, your browser will take you to a third-party site called Clyp.)

Click or tap below to download the Guild's 100th birthday tribute to Van (image, left) and Jim Spates' obituary of Van (image, right) published in The Companion (no. 16).

* * *

I realise that you do not all celebrate Christmas, and I hope that nobody will take offence at being wished a merry time by someone who does. Wherever you are, and whatever festive celebrations you observe, I trust that you will have an enjoyable time. In the new year, I will send news of exciting plans, and dates for you to note in your diary.

Best wishes,

Guild of St George.



E-Newsletter (November 29th 2016)

Dear Companions and Friends,

Welcome to our new-look e-Newsletter, now incorproating graphics. Let us know what you think (remember that you can adjust the size of images and text on most browsers to suit your needs by zooming in and out).


Please click or tap on the image below to watch a short video about October's Big Draw and Apple Day Celebration at Ruskin Land.

The latest Ruskin Lecture was hosted by the Birmingham and Midland Institute on 5th November 2016. Companion Dr Bernard Richards, Emeritus Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, spoke on 'The Sombre Robe': Ruskin and Birmingham. Click or tap on the image below to watch the video. Click or tap here for the lecture poster.

Click or tap on the images below to watch other presentations from the Guild's AGM.

The Friends of Meersbrook Hall, in partnership with Heeley Development Trust, has recently undertaken the occupancy of Meersbrook Hall, following the departure from the site of Sheffield City Council. The Hall was home to the Ruskin Collection from 1890 to 1953. From 1953, the Hall served as the Council's Parks and Countryside offices. The Friends group formed in response to fears that the Council planned to sell the Hall to private developers. The Friends are now preparing a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to protect the fabric of the building, create community facilities and work spaces, and most importantly, celebrate the rich heritage of the Hall.

If you would like to be informed of their progress, you can join the Friends of Meersbrook Hall here (it's free, and they promise not to inundate you with emails). Becoming a Friend also helps them to demonstrate to potential funders the breadth of support there is for the project.

You can find out more on their website (, or Facebook page (

Please click here for a guide to Ruskinian Birmingham, prepared by Joe Holyoak.


2016 Ruskin Lecture by Bernard Richards.

An account and analysis by Prof David Ingram of botanical books formerly owned by Ruskin and purchased by the Guild in 2015.

RUSKIN AND TOLSTOY (2nd Edition) - £10.00
A revised and expanded version of the 2010 Ruskin Lecture by Stuart Eagles.


On Monday, 5th December, at 1.30pm, Companion Prof David Ingram will give a talk on 'All Silk and Flame': John Ruskin and Wild Flora to The Florilegium Society, Sheffield Botanical Gardens.

Visit our Shop to order.

Best wishes,

Guild of St George.


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