[From Mannin #7, 1916]

Ruskin — Rydings Letters

In this number we give some Letters relating chiefly to the Woollen Mill, Laxey, which was started by Ruskin and the Companions of St. George. With these our collection concludes.

December 12, 1877
Dear Master,

...On the 12th November I took a room that I think will answer our purpose for the time being — the rental is £6 a year, — and I am getting two tables, one or two forms and other little fixtures for it, and shall have it completed for Christmas. There is another serious drawback to our pushing forward with our work here — namely, that the smallpox is very prevalent in our neighbourhood; all the schools are closed on account of it. I do not think it would be wise or safe, at present, to bring the children together for our work, and in giving the work out to be spun at home, I am only giving it out in such places that I know there is infection nowhere near them.

Yours ever truly,

Brantwood, Coniston, Lancashire Dear Mr Rydings,

The business is not less important to me than to you, but I cannot at this moment attend to anything but what I have in hand or I should break down. I am sorry — but you must sometimes think that I'm dead or I shall soon be so.

Ever gratefully yours,


October 15, 1879 My Dear Master,

I presume that you have before now received from the printer the statement of the guild accounts; I returned the corrected proofs to the printer early in August with instructions to send copies to you. But it is more especially about our woollen manufacture that I wish to say a few words to you. Since I saw you at Brantwood, and had the talk with you about our woollen business, I have been looking for a place convenient to carry forward our work, and I think I have come across one that will just answer our purpose. The building in question is an old corn-mill with an abundant supply of water-power. A quarter-share of it has been offered for sale and knowing that it would just suit our purpose after considerable alterations in the buildings have been made, I purchased this quarter-share for myself and it is now owned by myself and two other persons here. What we purpose doing with the place is to make it into a small compact woollen mill; but the building will have to be re-arranged and rebuilt and a new water-wheel put up. Now this is what I wish especially to lay before you. When the building is completed and ready for tenancy, about next May, will we take it for our St. George's manufactory? The rent will be about £20 a year, and it will be so constructed that ourweaving, carding, spinning, and dyeing can be done on the premises. Then for the fittings and machinery inside the building — namely, looms, small mule, engine, and so on, these will cost about {500, so what I wish to know is, will you for the St. George's Company allow me to take these premises at about £20 a year rent, and also to guarantee, for fitting the same with all necessary fittings, a sum not more than £500 ? I have full confidence, from what I have seen of the business in connection with the guild — and the amount of business that can be done in carding and weaving for the farms for ten miles round, that the woollen manufacture here would be a success; and to show that I have that confidence in the undertaking, I will on my part advance one-third of the necessary capital for starting the mill, if need be. I will not trouble you with more particulars until I hear from you. Yours ever truly,


HerneHill, S.E.

Tuesday, 15th November, '80 Dear Rydings,

I am very sorry for your neglected letter. I have been doing work in France more than I was able for.

Ever affectionately yours,


July, 1881 My Dear Master,

I have carefully gone over the musical illustrations in 'Elements of Prosody' and put them in what I consider musical form. It would be much better to have the words printed under the music and not on the top. This is the rule in all music writing. I find, after carefully studying the book, you mean that by giving the musical notation to represent the time and rhythmic feet both, then the notes could stand in their present state of bar and line. But this you will see cannot be done. The only way to use the two together would be to mark the rhythmic feet over the words, and then the music as I have corrected it would mark the time and accent properly. I have not attempted to correct the harmony in the three pieces. It is more than I dare venture to do. I know just so much about it as to believe that nothing would so much delight the musical critics as to get hold of these pieces of harmony in your writing.

Yours very truly,


Brantwood, Coniston, Lancashire,

Saturday evening Dear Rydings,

I forgot to say in my this morning's note that I have received no accounts lately from Mr Baker, and I have not written to, nor heard from him,for six weeks at least. Ever affectionately yours,


I kept your notes on music carefully — but could not use them because I saw that as I did not understand musicians, — so also musicians did not understand me, and if I am spared, I will work out my notation from the older books. I hold the habit of marking accent by placing the bar to be utterly inadequate and absurd in expression of fine poetical accent, which must be varied every instant. — J.R.


December 9th, 1882. Dear Master,

About three months ago I was on the way to Coniston to have a chat with you, — and had got as far as Furness station and was waiting for a train to go on to Coniston, — when I accidentally came upon a friend who had just come from there, who told me you were not at Brantwood, and that everything was upset there in making alterations in the house. So I went no further than Barrow. My object in wishing to see you was to talk over our affairs here.. I am happy to tell you that our business is going on very satisfactorily, — although like, I believe, a good many of our plans, our success has not been in the way both you and I anticipated at the time our woollen business was begun. I fully expected, and I believe that was your hope, that the business would be supported by the members of the guild, — and the friends generally of St. George. However, that has not been the case. I have as yet done very little business with our friends, — but this may have arisen from their not knowing that we are in a position to do a good honest trade with them; but after Christmas, when the parcel post is in working order, I intend to let our friends know that we are still alive here and can serve them with good honest wearing material, if they need some. The business I have done mostly has been with the farmers, here and there, who keep a few sheep on the mountain. They bring their wool to me, and, either I manufacture it into cloth flannel or blankets — or any other material they want, or they give the wool to me and I give them manufactured goods in exchange for it. This class of people have been my best customers so far.

I am happy to tell you that all our building offices are complete, — the dye-house, drying, and blending stores are all in good working order. I have also at work a practical dyer who turns out good substantial work. I may just say that after this year I shall not take any salary as secretary of St. George's Guild and manager of its woollen manufacture. Let me beg to remind you that my salary of £70, as secretary of the guild and manager here, tvas due for the year ending last midsummer, but at the same time I give you notice that I shall not take any more money from the guild except it gives me much more work to do than it has this last six months.

Ever truly yours,


Brantwood, Coniston,
Dear Rydings,

The enclosed cheque will be more simple than post order, but I am greatly puzzled by advice from Union Bank of a sum of £701 just sent in there by you to my balance, — no account from manager, why, — besides £48 of collection in Manx, I suppose the £70 is English ? But the coincident sum is odd.

Ever gratefully yours,

June 2nd, 1886.
Dear Master,

I send you by book post, — thinking it may interest you somewhat, a specimen of our books manufacturing here2; Nicholson you will remember, no doubt.

I am pleased to say that we are still kept busy at the mill — and doing well. The Pall Mall article brought us quite an inundation of letters and orders which almost swamped us for the time being, but I am glad to say we have got the current now nicely under control with a good steady flow.

I shall perhaps be over in England during Whitweek and should be very pleased to run over to Coniston for a day to explain our goings on here since we last met; if I might be allowed that pleasure. And in the meantime, always believe me.

Your obedient and devoted servant,


1 Obviously Mr. Rydings returned salary.
2 The MANX Note BOOK.


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