Local Famous People: Arthur Ransome

Arthur Ransome and The Lake District

Arthur Ransome portrait

Arthur Ransome (1884 – 1967) was born in Leeds on 18th January 1884 and as a child, he holidayed around Coniston and attended a preparatory school in Windermere.

After finishing his education, he worked in London but visited the Lake District whenever he could. He became a friend of W.G.Collingwood who was the writer, artist and secretary to John Ruskin. Collingwood lived at Lanehead beside Coniston Water and it was here that Ransome learned to sail. Ransome’s favourite book was by Collingwood and it was called 'Thorstein of the Mere' and it was set around Coniston.

After a failed marriage he travelled to Russia, where he met his future wife who had been Trotsky’s secretary, her name was Evgenia Petrorna Shelepina. In 1924 he obtained a divorce and was able to marry Evgenia and come back to the lake district living initially in Winster Valley. Apart from two periods when he went south he lived the rest of his life in Cumbria, where he found the inspiration and settings for Swallows and Amazons which was based on Coniston Water. There is a special interest cruise which explores the locations used by him for his books. The steam yacht Gondola, which sails Coniston, gave him the idea for Captain Flints Houseboat. Arthur Ransome died on 3rd June 1067 and his wife Evgenia in 1975 and they are buried at St Pauls Church Rusland.

The Arthur Ransome society was set up in June 1990 to celebrate his life and work and to encourage people to take up outdoor activities. You will find a room dedicated to him at the Museum of Lakeland Life in Kendal. The society have strong links with the Windermere Steamboat Museum, where you can see Esperance (one of the boats he based the story of Captain Flints Houseboat on). Also at the Steamboat Museum is the restored Amazon.

Contact www.arthur-ransome.org which discribes 19 walks that inspired his books and showed where he lived. For a more detailed biography, see BBC Education Bookcase.