Inside the Ruskin Museum
Visitors enter the Museum's first gallery, THE CONISTON GALLERY, through the shop/reception area. On the right wall is the history of the Ruskin Museum laid out in text and pictures. Nearby are two computers which have pictures showing Coniston in the past. This is a very popular and interesting display. Since it was Ruskin's philosophy that everything connects, the displays from here on are not lined up in any order. You can choose your own starting-point to explore the great variety of exhibits on offer.
The Pre-History Case
THE PRE-HISTORY CASE on the left contains rough-outs and polished weapons from the Stone Age axe factory sites, and rare items from the Bronze Age. The Lake District is known as an area of outstanding natural beauty, but has been managed by man for over 5,000 years. Additional information is presented in folders and on laminated boards, and there is a selection of rough-outs set out for handling purposes.
The Geology Display
THE GEOLOGY DISPLAY is placed centrally. The graphic panels have information on geological time, worlds in collision, fire and mud, and the age of ice. There is a geological map of the Coniston fells and a selection of local volcanic and sedimentary rock samples from the Coniston area for 'hands-on' study. A folder nearby has general geological information plus articles about some of the largest and most famous volcanic eruptions from the past. The display was produced by the British Geological Survey. The geology of the Yewdale Fells may be seen in spectacular array through the large window. You can sit and admire this view on the old railway seat. You may then wish to read the extra folders of information there, relating to dry-stone walls, old Coniston and Ruskin in Coniston.
To either side of the Geology information and specimens, there are cases displaying the history and artefacts of both Coniston Copper and Coniston Slate. The coppermines were exploited from the Bronze Age until the early 20th century, and slate quarries have changed the face of the Old Man. Coniston has copper-bottomed the fleet and roofed the world!
One of our most popular computer displays is about the Coniston Coppermines. Over 300 high quality images can be accessed showing not only the surface features in the past and as it is today but also stunning images of the exploration of the mines themselves. It is ideal for anyone who has wondered what it is like in this dangerous but colourful world.
The Campbells & Bluebird K7
Placed up high on the wall by the big window we have the tailfin of Bluebird K7 on loan to the Museum, as well as colour and black and white photos and other memorabilia telling the story of the CAMPBELLS. See Donald Campbell page for more details. Further along is a dramatic sculpture of a charr (by the artist-blacksmith Chris Brammall ), graphic panels and a map of the lake which all celebrate the uniqueness of CONISTON WATER. Industrial sites (bloomeries and transport of copper-ore and slate), along with places linked to.
Swallows & Amazons
Arthur Ransome's 'Swallows & Amazons' stories, are also featured on the map. A model of the magnificent steam-yacht gondola (the real-life version of which still provides a passenger service on the lake) is displayed in a case of its own.
The Slate Floor
The SLATE FLOOR throughout the museum is a contemporary version of a Roman hypocaust, heated from below. The beautifully-polished slate is from the local quarry at Elterwater; it is a volcanic slate formed from ash and silt that shows all the structures found in a water-lain sediment.
Violin-Maker Bert Smith
There is a case displaying some of the work of local violin-maker Bert Smith. In his lifetime he made violins for such great musicians as Yehudi Menuhin.
Ruskin gave his name to pottery-making ventures in his time, and there is a small case showing fine examples of this particular craft.
The FARMING displays concentrate on the fascinating Herdwick sheep, with artefacts and implements relating to the history of farming in the area. Adjacent to the Farming is a display which offers a few insights into writer Arthur Ransome's connections with Coniston.
Ruskin Linen & Lace
Wonderful examples of RUSKIN Linen and Lace have been set out in special cabinets which show them to great advantage. It was John Ruskin who instigated this local cottage industry for womenfolk, along with WOOD-CARVING for the men. The Museum offers Lace Courses several times a year (see Linen & Lace page).
Museum TV Screens
There are three TV screens in the Coniston Gallery, one showing Mrs Elizabeth Prickett, the leading expert on Ruskin lace; one showing Donald Campbell in colour at Coniston Water; and the other showing dry-stone walling, riving slate, sheep-shearing and 'bratting and clouting.'
Comments from the Visitor’s Book
"A wonderful experience-return visit assured "
"Very impressed with display of Ruskin Lace"
"Excellent, could have spent much longer"
"A must for any visitor to the Lakes"