TitleGuild of St George
AdminHistoryJohn Ruskin (1819 - 1900):
John Ruskin was born in London in 1819. He was one of the greatest figures of the Victorian age; he was an art critic and art patron, a skilled draughtsman and talented watercolourist and a social reformer. During the 1860s Ruskin turned his attention to social theory and politics, influencing the development of the emerging Labour Party and socialism. Driven by his deep faith in social justice, he established the Guild of St George in 1871. The aims of the Guild were outlined in a series of papers published as 'Fors Clavigera', subtitled 'Letters to the Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain'. Ruskin died at Coniston in 1900.

Guild of St George:
The Guild of St George is a charity for arts, craft and the rural economy, founded by John Ruskin in 1871. Ruskin announced the formation of St George's Company, as it was first called, in 1871, but it was not until 1878 that it was properly constituted and given the name 'Guild of St George'.

The original aim was to acquire land and, through labour, wind and water power, to bring it into useful production. Guild members (known as 'Companions'), supported Ruskin's aims with gifts of real estate and money. The Guild represented Ruskin's practical response to a society in which profit and mass-production seemed to be everything; beauty, goodness and ordinary happiness - nothing. Ruskin made it clear in a monthly series of 'Letters to the Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain' called Fors Clavigera that the aim of the Guild was an ambitious one of making Britain a happier place to live in. 'I have listened to many ingenious persons,' he wrote, 'who say we are better off now than ever we were before' but 'we cannot be called, as a nation, well off, while so many of us are living... in... beggary.' In short, Ruskin was trying to 'establish a National Store instead of a National Debt' - an alternative to industrial capitalism. A co-operative farm was established near Sheffield; woodland was given in Bewdley, Worcestershire; and a number of houses in Wales. After Ruskin’s death, several properties in Hertfordshire were donated to the Guild, and a wildflower meadow in Gloucestershire. A linen industry was established at Keswick under the guidance of Marion Twelves which encouraged handicrafts such as hand-weaving of linen.

Ruskin's admiration for Sheffield's metalworkers led to the establishment of the Guild's first museum in the city. The St George's Museum opened in Walkley in 1875. The aim was to better the lot of the workmen who visited it. The small house was filled with commissioned copies of Old Master paintings, studies of architecture, geological specimens, casts of sculpture, medieval manuscripts, rare printed books and a library of standard authors and was intended to be an educational and creative resource for the metalworkers of Sheffield. The St George's Museum at Walkley was very small and, from 1890, the collection was redisplayed at larger premises at Meersbrook Park, Sheffield before closing in 1953. After years in storage, the collection was brought back into public view at the Ruskin Gallery at Norfolk Street in Sheffield city centre in 1985. It is now displayed as the Ruskin Collection at Museum Sheffield's Millennium Galleries.

Today the Guild is a charitable Education Trust, which tries to put Ruskin's ideas into practice in a contemporary way. It has an educational art collection, built up by Ruskin and supplemented since, displayed in the Millennium Galleries, Sheffield. It owns 100 acres of ancient oak woodland and two smallholdings in the Wyre Forest, near Bewdley, Worcestershire which it manages in an environmentally friendly manner. It owns a number of houses in the Arts and Crafts style in the Hertfordshire village of Westmill. It also owns a wild-flower meadow, managed by Natural England, in the village of Sheepscombe, Gloucestershire.

The Guild is run by the Master, a Board of Directors and a Secretary. The Master and Secretary handle the day-to-day business of the Guild. The Board meets for business meetings at least three times a year. Every autumn the Companions gather for their Annual General Meeting (AGM), which is usually followed by a lecture on a Ruskin-related topic.

Masters of the Guild:
John Ruskin, 1871 - 1900
George Baker, 1900 - 1910
George Thomson, 1910 - 1920
H[enry] E[lford] Luxmoore, 1920 - 1925
Hugh Charles Fairfax-Cholmeley, 1925 - 1934
T[homas] Edmund Harvey, 1934 - 1951
Alexander Farquharson, 1951 - 1954
D. Bernard Wardle (acting), Feb - Oct 1954
H[erbert] A[rthrur] Hodges, 1954 - 1973
Cyril Tyler, 1973 - 1977
Jon B. Thompson, 1977 - 1982
Anthony Harris, 1982 - 1996
Julian Spalding, 1996 - 2005
James S. Dearden, 2005 - 2009
Clive Wilmer, 2009 -

Source: Guild introductory leaflet, Guild of St George (, accessed 2016).

The Branford Trust:
Victor Branford (1863 - 1930) was a British sociologist. He was the first Honorary Secretary of the Sociological Society (later the Institute of Sociology). While studying at Edinburgh University, Branford came under the influence of Patrick Geddes, a pioneer of the town planning movement of the 1900s and was a founder member of the Sociological Society. Branford devoted his life to publicising Geddes and the LePlay School of Sociology. In 1920, the Branfords bought the remainder of a lease of a house in Westminster, London, which became the headquarters of the Sociological Society. The Branfords died between 1927 and 1932 leaving a bequest to the Institute in the form of a Trust. The Institute of Sociology was dissolved in 1955. Their interests in the Victor Branford Trust were transferred to the Guild of St George in discharge of an earlier Guild loan to the Institute for £1,500.

References: Dorothea Farquharson, 'Dissolution of the Institute of Sociology', Sociological Review (New Series, Vol 3, 1955); typescript summary sent to Companions marked 'private' on the winding up of the Institute of Sociology and the proposal for the Branford Trust to transfer to the Guild in discharge of an outstanding loan, 23 Jun 1954 (Sheffield Archives: GSG 6/7).
DescriptionConstitution, 1878 - 1973 (GSG/1)
Minutes, 1879 - 1989 (GSG/2)
Annual reports of the Master of the Guild, 1884 - 1983 (GSG/3)
Correspondence, 1878 - 2009 (GSG/4)
Finance, 1853 - 1978 (GSG/5)
Property, 1857 - 1978 (GSG/6)
Victor Branford Trust Fund, c.1906 - 1981 (GSG/7)
Ruskin Linen Industry, Keswick, Cumbria, 1876 - 1936 (GSG/8)
Ruskin Collection in Sheffield, 1909 - 1979 (GSG/9)
Miscellaneous items, 1818 - 2006 (GSG/10)
Printed publications, 1890 - 1991 (GSG/11)
Date1818 - 2009
Extentc.600 items
AccessConditionsItems less than 30 years old are restricted access. Please contact a member of staff for advice on accessing restricted items.
RelatedMaterialSheffield City Archives and Local Studies Library:
Guide to sources relating to John Ruskin and the Guild of St George, 2016 (available online).

Special Collections and Archives, Keele University:
Foundations of Sociology Archive (LePlay): Branford papers, 1864 - 1953 (GB 172 LPVB).
CustodialHistoryThese items were deposited by the Guild of St George in 8 lots (accession numbers: 1982/74, 1991/55, 1991/55Add, 1993/77, 1996/130, 1997/26, 2000/97 and 2010/33) between 1982 and 2010. Further accruals are expected.
AcquisitionSourceRecords deposited by the Guild of St George between 1982 - 2010.
ArchNoteTypescript lists typed up by Joanne Gawthorpe; catalogue prepared by Cheryl Bailey, Nov 2016.
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