The Ruskin Museum, Coniston, Cumbria

The Ruskin Museum

Telling the Story of Coniston Since 1901

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Celebrating Women Of Cumbria Exhibition

Spinning The Colours Of Lakeland: Annie Garnett’s Spinnery, Gardens And Textiles

February 24th to June 3rd 2018

Spinning The Colours Of Lakeland:

2018 marks the Centenary of the Representation of the People Act that granted the Vote to all Men, and Women, aged over thirty and owning property.  As part of the Celebrating Women of Cumbria 2018 Festival, an exciting year of events hosted by Cumbrian Museums, The Ruskin Museum, Coniston is telling the story of Annie Garnett (1864–1942) a local businesswoman, inspired by John Ruskin’s innovative Arts & Crafts initiative to design and produce sumptuous, sophisticated and technically brilliant fabrics in silk, linen and wool, dyed in key with the colours of the Lakeland landscape or the petals of her favourite flowers.

This exhibition, on loan from the Lakeland Arts Trust, Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry, complements the Ruskin Museum’s permanent and extensive collection of Langdale Linen and the Ruskin Lace Industry, developed by Elizabeth Pepper and the ladies involved in running Ruskin's Arts & Crafts initiative In Great Langdale, and later, Tilberthwaite.

Annie Garnett visited St Martin’s Cottage, Elterwater, the home of the Langdale Linen Industry, in the late 1880s where she was inspired by the revival of hand spinning, weaving, embroidery and lacemaking. She wrote ‘I was literally set down in the old world never to be again free from it and I found myself longing to be surrounded by ancient industry, were it spinning, or weaving, or carving, or any other art that went to make up the home-life of long ago. All its beauty I would draw from it’.

Elizabeth Pepper taught her to spin flax, and work the reticella lace, known hereabouts as ‘Ruskin Lace’.

A vision was born. In 1891 Annie Garnett founded The Spinnery in Bowness on Windermere, dedicated to producing beautiful textiles using traditional methods. She created the inspired designs and provided the strong, hands on management crucial to its success. She wrote ‘…gradually a great industry has gathered around me; the old-world life has grown into my life; we spin, we weave, we embroider, we design and colour our designs:-we make linen, silks, and woollens; honest homespun, the “record of intents and thoughts; trials and heart-breakings – of recoveries and joyfulness of success”’.

Spinning The Colours Of Lakeland:

Annie Garnett’s textiles and designs gained both national and international recognition with clients ranging from local Lakeland people to Queen Alexandra, and Liberty’s. Her inspiration came from the nature around her, the Lakeland landscape and her much loved Lakeland Garden, ‘Fairfield’.

Annie Garnett is certainly a Woman of Cumbria who should be celebrated. Not only for her talents as a designer and producer of beautiful textiles and embroidery, but also as a pioneering entrepreneur and employer, quite unique in the patriarchal, socially structured world of the late nineteenth century. The Spinnery, the Langdale Linen Industry and other Arts & Crafts small textile businesses employed over 2,000 women a year, in fulfilling creative work, for some 30 years, until the First World War changed society forever. These businesses validated Ruskin’s ideas about the value of paid work for women, and paved the way for their conscription into war work in WW1.

With special thanks to Dr Rachel Roberts from the Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry, Kendal for the loan of the exhibits to The Ruskin Museum.

Quotations from the book: Spinning the Colours of Lakeland: Annie Garnett’s Spinnery, Textiles and Garden. Based on the archives of Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry, Kendal, by Rachel Roberts and David Ingram.


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Cultural Guides Added to Education Page

Four brand new Cumbrian cultural guides have just been added to our Education Page:


Thank You For Your Positive Feedback

The Ruskin Museum has been awarded the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence for attractions that consistently achieve outstanding visitor feedback with an average of 4.5 out of 5. So thank you everyone who has left us positive feedback, it is very much appreciated.

The Ruskin Museum is also proud to have recieved the Britain's Finest Quality Stamp for top visitor attractions.