Why Ruskin?

John Ruskin‘s prodigious talents and interest in art, architecture and the physical and social fabric of society make him an ideal companion to urban walking. As critic, art patron and philanthropist, as well as draughtsman and watercolourist, he was hugely influential on Victorian tastes – and thereby on the appearance of our city – through his writing and his support for social reformers like Octavia Hill. His most famous works include Modern Painters, The Stones of Venice and The Seven Lamps of Architecture.


John Ruskin visited Venice over fifty times during the course of his life time, measuring and obsessing over the nature of Gothic architecture and the craft of shaping building stones in the acquisition of a fulfilling way of living. Like Venice, London’s earliest history is an archive of invasions from the sea and by the sea itself. In the city streets there is ample evidence of stones brought by ship, clay left by river and by sea, as well as the rock used to create the fabric of our city streets.

In the early 1820’s Ruskin started a collection of fossils and rocks that accompanied his later interest in the transformation of land into mountains that inspired both Ruskin and Turner, the artist, with a passion for the sublime Alpine scenery on their way to and fro from Venice.

The geology Ruskin Walks collect evidence of building stone and its history and usefulness from kerbs in Camberwell to cobbles in Clerkenwell. There are igneous granites in Denmark Hill and rich fossil formations in Saffron Hill. But the overriding interest of the stones of London is in how they have sustained the comfort and livelihood of the people who have used them, in their hands and under their feet.

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