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Conference and Exhibition to Reveal Secrets of the Collingwood Archive

A two-day conference to celebrate the Collingwood Archive and the year-long project to catalogue it will take place at Cardiff University at the end of April. The archive includes correspondence between Arthur Ransome and the Collingwoods.

The Collingwood Archive

W G Collingwood / Collingwood Archive.

William Gershom Collingwood (1854-1932), a professional artist and professor of fine arts at the University of Reading, was perhaps best known for his friendship with John Ruskin (1819-1900).

The archive contains over 200 letters from Ruskin, as well as sketchbooks and artworks belonging to both men, including Collingwood’s correspondence, notebooks, drafts, diaries, and hand-drawn maps.

Arthur Ransome (1884-1967) was also a close family friend, who based his book “Swallows and Amazons” on his experiences of sailing with the Collingwood’s grandchildren. He proposed marriage (unsuccessfully) to both of William’s daughters, Dora and Barbara, and the eventual children of Dora served as models for the Walkers in “Swallows and Amazons”.

Dora Collingwood - Collingwood Archive

Dora Collingwood / Collingwood Archive.

The archive also contains the letters and diaries of William’s son, Robin George Collingwood (1889-1943), as well as the sketchbooks and letters of his daughter, Dora Collingwood (1886-1964).

Like her parents, Dora was also a gifted painter and studied art in Paris. She married Ernest Altounyan and lived in a number of locations, including Aleppo during the First World War.

Her sister Barbara Collingwood (1887-1961) was a respected sculptor, and her sketchbooks, 50 diaries and approximately 200 letters are held in the archive.

Barbara Collingwood - Collingwood Archive

Barbara Collingwood / Collingwood Archive.

Barbara married Major Oscar Theodor Gnosspelius (1878-1953), a civil-engineer who built monoplanes and conducted early aeronautic experiments, many of which are documented in his notebooks and photo albums. The character of “Timothy ‘Squashy Hat’ Stedding” in Arthur Ransome’s book “Pigeon Post” was based on Oscar.

They had a daughter, Janet Gnosspelius (1927-2010), an architect and historian, who was responsible for care and collection of her family’s archive.

Prior to cataloguing, the archive comprised more than 60 boxes of unique materials that have been largely inaccessible to the public. The collection includes rare signed books dating from the sixteenth century, thousands of postcards, legal documents, photographs, sketches, paintings, letters dating from the eighteenth century, and diaries spanning three centuries.

Conference and Exhibition

Cardiff University Special Collections and Archives, with support and funding from the Collingwood and British Idealism Centre, is hosting the conference on Monday 30th April and Tuesday 1st May in Cardiff University’s Main Building (Park Place) and Special Collections and Archives (Arts and Social Studies Library, Colum Drive).

Speakers will include Teresa Smith (President of the British Idealism and Collingwood Centre and R. G. Collingwood’s daughter), Vicky Slowe (Curator of the Ruskin Museum, Coniston, on “Coniston Connections: Collingwood, Ruskin and Ransome”), and Judith Dray (Collingwood Project Archivist, on “Uncovering the Collingwood Archive”).

Further details and free conference tickets may be found here, while any visitors who need overnight accommodation should go to Visit Cardiff.

The conference will coincide with the launch of a celebratory exhibition of treasures from the Collingwood Archive. This will be the first time that many of the magnificent items from the Collingwood Archive will be available for public viewing. An online version of the exhibition will also be available for those unable to visit Cardiff University.