LOOKING BACK

The History

A rural utopia?

THE GUILD’S AIM

The Early Days

“We will try to take some small piece of English ground, beautiful, peaceful and fruitful. We will have no steam-engines upon it, and no railroads; we will have no untended or unthought-of creatures on it; none wretched, but the sick; none idle, but the dead.”

Ruskin’s initial hopes for the land he was given in the Wyre Forest provide a sense of his utopian vision which remains inspirational to this day. It arose from his reaction to the ravages of the industrial revolution on the environment and humankind. But the forest at that time was itself an industrial landscape, supporting a wide range of economic activity including coppicing and making charcoal for iron smelting, bark stripping for the nearby tanneries, basket, besom and hurdle making.

THE GUILD’S AIM

The Early Days

“We will try to take some small piece of English ground, beautiful, peaceful and fruitful. We will have no steam-engines upon it, and no railroads; we will have no untended or unthought-of creatures on it; none wretched, but the sick; none idle, but the dead.”

Ruskin’s initial hopes for the land he was given in the Wyre Forest provide a sense of his utopian vision which remains inspirational to this day. It arose from his reaction to the ravages of the industrial revolution on the environment and humankind. But the forest at that time was itself an industrial landscape, supporting a wide range of economic activity including coppicing and making charcoal for iron smelting, bark stripping for the nearby tanneries, basket, besom and hurdle making.

THE GUILD’S AIM

The Early Days

“We will try to take some small piece of English ground, beautiful, peaceful and fruitful. We will have no steam-engines upon it, and no railroads; we will have no untended or unthought-of creatures on it; none wretched, but the sick; none idle, but the dead.”

Ruskin’s initial hopes for the land he was given in the Wyre Forest provide a sense of his utopian vision which remains inspirational to this day. It arose from his reaction to the ravages of the industrial revolution on the environment and humankind.

But the forest at that time was itself an industrial landscape, supporting a wide range of economic activity including coppicing and making charcoal for iron smelting, bark stripping for the nearby tanneries, basket, besom and hurdle making.

THE BENEFACTOR


It was George Baker, a Quaker businessman and local politician, who offered Ruskin some land in the Wyre Forest to make a practical reality of his ideas. Baker lived at Beaucastle, the imposing neo-gothic mansion on the edge of the forest just off the Bewdley to Cleobury road.

He originally gave 7 acres in 1871, later increasing his gift to 20 acres in 1877, the year that Ruskin paid his only visit to the area when he described the bequest as “in midst of a sweet space of English hill, dale and orchard, yet unhurt by the hand of man.” He had plans drawn up for a museum at Ruskin Land which were never realised

 

WILLIAM GRAHAM


After the land was cleared of trees, William Graham, one of Ruskin’s early followers set about establishing a smallholding at what was then known as the St George’s Guild Bewdley Estate. In 1880 he drew a plan for an orchard of 180 or so fruit trees, a mixture of varieties of plum, damson, apple, pear and cherry.

Graham worked there for 8 years, planting and tending the young orchard, raising pigs and growing various crops. Sadly, he left after falling out with Ruskin who he felt had failed to provide adequate support for his efforts. William Graham is buried, with his wife Eliza in St Leonard’s Churchyard in Ribbesford.

A UTOPIAN COMMUNITY


Shortly after Ruskin’s death in 1900, the Guild resolved to build a cottage at Ruskin Land. St George’s Farmhouse was completed in 1908 and a few years later Frederick and Ada Watson moved in with their daughter Eva and sons Harry and Willy. The Watsons were members of the Liverpool Ruskin Society where they previously lived.

They followed in the footsteps of fellow members of the Society, Margaret and Thomas Harley, and Edith Hope Scott who had moved to the Wyre Forest a few years before. Together they formed the nucleus of a small Ruskinian community. The Watsons remained at St George’s Farm for almost thirty years working the land and selling their produce at local markets.

THE BISHOP FAMILY


After Frederick suffered a stroke, the Watsons returned to Liverpool in 1938. It wasn’t until after the war that the Guild found new tenants for St George’s Farm. In 1956 Jack and Nancy Bishop took over the farm and raised a family there until Jack moved into a local hospice in 2014 shortly before passing away.

They combined running the smallholding, rearing turkeys and cattle (having grubbed up the original orchard), with Jack working as a ‘loom tuner’ at Brintons, a carpet factory in Kidderminster. While they are fondly remembered by members of the local community, the Bishops had no particular attachment to Ruskin or the Guild of St George, who were content to ensure that Ruskin Land was being farmed.

THE BENEFACTOR


It was George Baker, a Quaker businessman and local politician, who offered Ruskin some land in the Wyre Forest to make a practical reality of his ideas. Baker lived at Beaucastle, the imposing neo-gothic mansion on the edge of the forest just off the Bewdley to Cleobury road.

He originally gave 7 acres in 1871, later increasing his gift to 20 acres in 1877, the year that Ruskin paid his only visit to the area when he described the bequest as “in midst of a sweet space of English hill, dale and orchard, yet unhurt by the hand of man.” He had plans drawn up for a museum at Ruskin Land which were never realised

 

WILLIAM GRAHAM


After the land was cleared of trees, William Graham, one of Ruskin’s early followers set about establishing a smallholding at what was then known as the St George’s Guild Bewdley Estate. In 1880 he drew a plan for an orchard of 180 or so fruit trees, a mixture of varieties of plum, damson, apple, pear and cherry.

Graham worked there for 8 years, planting and tending the young orchard, raising pigs and growing various crops. Sadly, he left after falling out with Ruskin who he felt had failed to provide adequate support for his efforts. William Graham is buried, with his wife Eliza in St Leonard’s Churchyard in Ribbesford.

A UTOPIAN COMMUNITY


Shortly after Ruskin’s death in 1900, the Guild resolved to build a cottage at Ruskin Land. St George’s Farmhouse was completed in 1908 and a few years later Frederick and Ada Watson moved in with their daughter Eva and sons Harry and Willy. The Watsons were members of the Liverpool Ruskin Society where they previously lived.

They followed in the footsteps of fellow members of the Society, Margaret and Thomas Harley, and Edith Hope Scott who had moved to the Wyre Forest a few years before. Together they formed the nucleus of a small Ruskinian community. The Watsons remained at St George’s Farm for almost thirty years working the land and selling their produce at local markets.

THE BISHOP FAMILY


After Frederick suffered a stroke, the Watsons returned to Liverpool in 1938. It wasn’t until after the war that the Guild found new tenants for St George’s Farm. In 1956 Jack and Nancy Bishop took over the farm and raised a family there until Jack moved into a local hospice in 2014 shortly before passing away.

They combined running the smallholding, rearing turkeys and cattle (having grubbed up the original orchard), with Jack working as a ‘loom tuner’ at Brintons, a carpet factory in Kidderminster. While they are fondly remembered by members of the local community, the Bishops had no particular attachment to Ruskin or the Guild of St George, who were content to ensure that Ruskin Land was being farmed.

THE BENEFACTOR


It was George Baker, a Quaker businessman and local politician, who offered Ruskin some land in the Wyre Forest to make a practical reality of his ideas. Baker lived at Beaucastle, the imposing neo-gothic mansion on the edge of the forest just off the Bewdley to Cleobury road.

He originally gave 7 acres in 1871, later increasing his gift to 20 acres in 1877, the year that Ruskin paid his only visit to the area when he described the bequest as “in midst of a sweet space of English hill, dale and orchard, yet unhurt by the hand of man.” He had plans drawn up for a museum at Ruskin Land which were never realised.

WILLIAM GRAHAM


After the land was cleared of trees, William Graham, one of Ruskin’s early followers set about establishing a smallholding at what was then known as the St George’s Guild Bewdley Estate. In 1880 he drew a plan for an orchard of 180 or so fruit trees, a mixture of varieties of plum, damson, apple, pear and cherry.

Graham worked there for 8 years, planting and tending the young orchard, raising pigs and growing various crops. Sadly, he left after falling out with Ruskin who he felt had failed to provide adequate support for his efforts. William Graham is buried, with his wife Eliza in St Leonard’s Churchyard in Ribbesford.

A UTOPIAN COMMUNITY


Shortly after Ruskin’s death in 1900, the Guild resolved to build a cottage at Ruskin Land. St George’s Farmhouse was completed in 1908 and a few years later Frederick and Ada Watson moved in with their daughter Eva and sons Harry and Willy. The Watsons were members of the Liverpool Ruskin Society where they previously lived.

THE BISHOP FAMILY


After Frederick suffered a stroke, the Watsons returned to Liverpool in 1938. It wasn’t until after the war that the Guild found new tenants for St George’s Farm. In 1956 Jack and Nancy Bishop took over the farm and raised a family there until Jack moved into a local hospice in 2014 shortly before passing away.

They combined running the smallholding, rearing turkeys and cattle (having grubbed up the original orchard), with Jack working as a ‘loom tuner’ at Brintons, a carpet factory in Kidderminster. While they are fondly remembered by members of the local community, the Bishops had no particular attachment to Ruskin or the Guild of St George, who were content to ensure that Ruskin Land was being farmed.

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St Georges Farm
Tanners Hill
Bewdley
DY12 2LS