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The Collingwood Family


The Collingwoods were probably the most intellectually and artistically gifted family in the Lake District in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The first member of the family to become involved in the Lakes wasWilliam Collingwood (1819-1903), a well-known water-colour artist. He often visited the region to work, bringing his young son William Gershom Collingwood with him.

William Gershom Collingwood (1854-1932) was educated at Liverpool College and University College, Oxford, where he met Ruskin in 1872. He was later to serve as Ruskin‘s secretary and literary assistant. W.G., as he was always known, studied painting at the Slade and set up a studio in London. Painting was his principal source of income, supplemented by university extension lecturing and later by the Chair of Fine Art at University College, ReadingCollingswood’s wife Edith was also an artist, a noted miniaturist.

W.G., a very able scholar, arranged and edited W. S. Calverley‘s notes on the early sculptures of the Diocese of Carlisle, and thus developed a passionate interest in the subject, culminating in his great workNorthumbrian Crosses of the Pre-Norman Age. He also became a considerable expert on the Viking Age in general, travelling frequently in Iceland. From W.G.’s scholarly work sprang his historical novels. After work in Intelligence during the Great War, W.G. returned to the Lake District and an active life, editing the Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Archaeological Society and compiling inventories of the ancient remains of the Lake District. He died in 1932, four years after his wife. The Armitt has a small collection of watercolour paintings by W G Collingwood.

Robin George Collingwood (1889-1943). Robin, W.G.’s only son, was arguably the most intellectually able member of the family, achieving eminence both as a philosopher and as a scholar of Roman Britain. Having graduated at Pembroke College, Oxford, Robin was immediately elected a Fellow and worked with Professor Haverfield on a number of Romano-British sites, including that of the Ambleside Roman Fort. During the Great War Robin worked in naval intelligence, before returning to academic life. His increasingly poor health hampered his work, but he completed his philosophical masterpiece “An Essay on Philosophical Method” in 1933. His influential The Idea of History was published posthumously.

Barbara Collingwood (1887-1961). Barbara was a gifted artist like so many of her family, but her talent lay in sculpture rather than painting, perhaps stimulated by her father‘s interest in early sculpture. Her bust of Ruskin is in the Armitt Collection and she also carved the War Memorial at Hawkshead, a work designed by W.G. Barbara married the well-known geologist Oscar Gnosspelius, who was also an early pioneer of what were then called water planes.

Dorothy Collingwood (1886-1964). Like her father W.G., Dorothy was a fine artist in water-colour. She married Ernest Altounayan, a distinguished doctor of Armenian descent, and lived for a number of years in Aleppo, Syria.

Ursula Collingwood was married to Reggie Luard-Selby, at times Vicar of Ambleside and Troutbeck. Ursula was also an artist concentrating on flowers and miniatures as her mother had. Trained as a mid-wife she worked in the Lakes and London before returning to teach art atBlackwell.