William Gershom Collingwood
, (6 August 1854 – 1
October 1932) was an author, artist, antiquary and was also
Professor of Fine Arts at the Reading
. He was born in Liverpool. In 1872, he went to University
College, Oxford, where he met John
Ruskin. During the summer of 1873 Collingwood visited
Ruskin at Brantwood, Coniston.
Two years later Collingwood was
working at Brantwood with Ruskin and his associates. Ruskin admired his
draughtsmanship, and so Collingwood studied at the Slade School of
Art between 1876 and 1878. He exhibited at the
Academy in 1880.
years Collingwood dedicated himself to helping Ruskin, staying at
Brantwood as Ruskin's assistant and travelling with him to Switzerland. In 1883 he married Edith Mary Isaac
(1857–1928) and settled near to Ruskin in the Lake District.
Collingwood edited a number of Ruskin's
texts and published a biography of Ruskin in 1893.
In 1896, Arthur Ransome
Collingwoods and their children, Dora (later Mrs Ernest Altounyan),
Barbara (later Mrs Oscar
), Ursula, and Robin
(the later historian and
philosopher). Ransome learned to sail in Collingwood's boat,
Swallow, and became a firm friend of the family, even proposing
marriage to both Dora and Barbara (on separate occasions). After a
summer of teaching Collingwood's grandchildren to sail in Swallow
II in 1928, Ransome wrote the first book in his Swallows and Amazons
He used the names of some of Collingwood's grandchildren for his
characters, the Swallows (see Roger
1890s Collingwood had become a skilled painter and also joined the
Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society.
wrote a large number of papers for its Transactions; becoming
editor in 1900. Collingwood was particularly interested in Norse
lore and the Norsemen, and he wrote a novel,
Thorstein of the Mere
which was a major influence on
Collingwood was a member of the Viking Club and served as its
president. His study of Norse and Anglican archaeology made him
widely recognized as a leading authority. Following Ruskin's death
Collingwood continued to help for a while with secretarial work at
Brantwood, but in 1905 went to University College, Reading and
served as professor of fine art from 1907 until 1911.
Collingwood joined the Admiralty intelligence division at the
outbreak of the First World War
he returned to Coniston and continued his writing with a history of
District and perhaps
his most important work, Northumbrian Crosses of the pre-Norman
Following the Armistice of 1918, and the peace treaty of 1919,
Collingwood's services were much in demand as a designer of War
Memorials. His knowledge of and enthusiasm for
Scandinavian crosses is displayed at Grasmere where the memorial on Broadgate Meadows is a
pastiche of an Anglian cross.
The short verse at its base
was penned by his close friend Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley
who was chair of the
memorial committee. Other examples of his celtic type memorial
crosses may be seen at Otley, Coniston and the K Shoes factory in Kendal.
Hawkshead was sculpted by his daughter, Barbara.
memorials designed by Collingwood may be seen at Ulverston, St
Bees and Lastingham. His diary for 1919–20, held in the Abbott
Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, contains
brief allusions to other possible memorials; at Rockcliffe,
Carlisle and an unknown bridge, probably in north Cumberland.
He was a great climber and swimmer, and a tireless walker into
advanced age. In 1927 he experienced the first of a series of
strokes. His wife died in 1928, followed by Collingwood himself in
Probably his most lasting legacy was his influence on his son
R. G. Collingwood
, the famous philosopher and
historian. He also founded the Ruskin Museum in 1901.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
- W. G. Collingwood, The Lake Counties, J.M.
Dent, 1930; rpt. F. Warne & Co., 1932. [rpt. paperback ISBN
- W. G. Collingwood, The Life of John Ruskin,