W. G. Collingwood (1854-1932) family archive

Scope and Content

The Collingwoods were a well-connected family of artists, based in the Lake District. Their archive contains the correspondence and personal papers of four generations of the family, starting with artist and teacher William Collingwood (1819-1903). His son William Gershom Collingwood (1854-1932) was also a professional artist, and a Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Reading. He was perhaps best known for his friendship with John Ruskin (1819-1900). The archive contains correspondence from Ruskin, as well as sketchbooks and artworks belonging to both men. W. G. Collingwood published a number of books, and was actively involved with the Lake District Artists' Society. The archive contains W. G. Collingwood's correspondence, notebooks, drafts, diaries, and hand-drawn maps.

W. G. Collingwood's wife, Edith Mary Isaac (1857-1928), known as 'Dorrie', was a respected and commercially successful artist, specialising in miniaturist paintings. Her sketchbooks, and 30 diaries are held in the archive, including those kept during the First World War. The archive also contains over 700 letters to her vast network of friends and acquaintances, as well as extensive correspondence sent from her family, the Isaacs. Arthur Ransome (1884-1967) was a close family friend, who based his book Swallows and Amazons on his experiences of sailing with the Collingwoods' grandchildren, and around 200 of his letters to the family can be found in the archive.

William and Edith home-schooled their children, and all three daughters followed in their parents' artistic footsteps to some degree. Dora Collingwood (1886-1964) was a gifted painter and studied art in Paris. She married a doctor, Ernest Altounyan, and lived in a number of locations, including Aleppo during the First World War. Her husband and father-in-law ran a pioneering training hospital, and she assisted them in providing aid for refugees fleeing the Armenian Genocide (1915-23). Barbara Collingwood (1887-1961) was a respected sculptor, and her sketchbooks, 50 diaries and c. 700 letters are held in the archive. The Collingwoods' youngest daughter, Ursula Collingwood (1891-1962), trained and worked as a midwife in London and the Lake District from around 1912-1925, but in the 1940s began teaching art at Blackwell School. From the 1950s until her death, she worked as a farmer at Underbarrow in the Lake District. William and Edith's only son Robin George Collingwood (1889-1943) is a celebrated historian and philosopher, and is also known for his work in the field of archaeology. Cardiff University is home to the British Idealism and Collingwood Centre, a centre dedicated in part to R. G. Collingwood's research contributions and writings. The archive contains his letters and diaries.

Barbara Collingwood married Major Oscar Theodor Gnosspelius (1878-1953), a civil-engineer who built monoplanes and conducted early aeronautic experiments on Lake Windermere, many of which are documented in his notebooks and photo albums. They had one child, Janet Gnosspelius (1927-2010), who forged a career as an architect and historian. We have her to thank for the care and collection of her family's archive. Janet's architecture files, diaries, correspondence, and extensive family history research are held within the collection.

Access Information

Access is available by prior appointment.


Shelved in Salisbury stack.

Conditions Governing Use

The correspondence section of this archive covers a wide date range (1825-2004). Letters from the mid-20th century onwards are likely to contain personal data regarding living individuals. This data is subject to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018. Access to original documents is permitted upon completion of a Data Protection Declaration. Photography of original documents is not permitted. Other material is in copyright until 2039 under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Photography is permitted only upon completion of a Copyright Declaration, confirming your intention to use the images under an exemption for private research and study. It is your responsibility to seek and obtain the copyright holder's permission to reproduce images for purposes other than private research.