The Ruskin Museum, Coniston, Cumbria

The Ruskin Museum

Telling the Story of Coniston Since 1901

Tel: 01539 441164

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The John Usher Minature Village

John Usher [1940-1993]

The miniature village displayed by the museum is to honour the memory and unique skills of the late John Usher. John was a member of the Usher family of Coniston who have been in the building business locally for over 100 years. One project he was involved with was the construction of Coniston's memorial to Donald Campbell on the green adjacent to the T.I.C.

In his spare time he constructed (in stone) planters, bird tables, nest boxes and sundials. Also, from his late teens John enjoyed building houses in miniature. These were done for his own pleasure and he had no intention of them being on general display. His earlier model houses were given a whole slate roof but later ones had individual slates just like roof tiles.

Most of his buildings were "inspired by" rather than "copies of" however he did do a few copies of buildings, these included the famous "Bridge House" in Ambleside, the "Round House" which stands on Belle Isle, Windermere (and is on display at the museum) plus a detailed model of St. Andrew's Church Coniston. This model is on display inside the church.

The houses were built in his workshop on a sturdy table on which was placed a board that could be turned. Each winter 2 or 3 houses would be taken in to the workshop for repair. He built his own house, Brow Close in Coniston and laid out the model houses in the garden. The village which he called Riverdale altered from year to year as he added further constructions. One of his bigger projects was a castle which still stands in his former home. 

When John died, tragically, in 1993 he left the bulk of his estate to five Village organisations:

  • Coniston Village Institute
  • The P.C.C. of Coniston St. Andrew 's Church
  • Coniston Cameo Club
  • Coniston Football Club
  • Coniston Cricket Club

The model houses were put in storage where they stayed until the summer of 2000 when space became available here at the Museum. Special thanks must go to the dedicated volunteers who look after the village and to the general public who kindly give donations.