Vital Beauty:


“When we build, let us think that we build forever”

– John Ruskin


As part of the celebration of John Ruskin’s life and his contribution, particularly with regard to architecture, Ruskin Mill Trust has reflected on the re-imagining of five buildings across the Trust, their architectural, economic and social significance, and their transformation. We looked at the history of these buildings, referencing John Ruskin’s views on architecture and in particular his book The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849).

The vision and drive for the restoration and development of these buildings was led by Aonghus Gordon, founder and director of Ruskin Mill Trust, guided by the principles of John Ruskin (1819–1900), Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) and William Morris (1834–1896), and informed by the observational methods of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832).

The work has redefined the buildings, transforming the scorpion’s sting of the industrial revolution into the dove of vital beauty.

Ruskin Mill from across the lake in Autumn


Explore the history of Ruskin Mill, from its founding as the Ruskin Mill Centre for Arts and Cultural Regeneration in 1981 by Aonghus Gordon, to the specialist education trust it is today.

Horsley Mill from across the lake during the summer


The Trust acquires the long-neglected Horsley Mill in Nailsworth with its accompanying trout farm and woodlands. The Mill becomes the centre for Ruskin Mill College

The courtyard at Glasshouse College


Ruskin Mill Trust applies its successful method to its second specialist college in the heartland of the Industrial Revolution in Stourbridge at the dilapidated Royal Doulton glassworks.

The exterior of Freeman College


The Trust expands north and Freeman College in Sheffield is opened, with a part gift of the Merlin Tintagel Theatre. Freeman is the Trust’s first city-centre college, transforming a derelict silver cutlery factory.

The rooftop garden at Argent College


Rooted in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter in a previously neglected jewellery factory, Argent College includes a café, a heritage centre, community arts spaces and a biodynamic urban rooftop microfarm.

Atrium in the Field Centre


A centre for research in the Trust’s method of Practical Skills Therapeutic Education. Built for academic and practical research with gifts and grants received from the UK, USA and Germany.

John Ruskin on Architecture

“Every human action gains in honour, in grace, in all true magnificence, by its regard to things that are to come . . . Therefore, when we build, let us think we build forever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone.”

John Ruskin saw the ornamentation of a building as that which distinguished architecture from mere building. Ornamentation was the means by which a building conveyed its emotion. There is reciprocity in Ruskin’s thinking; buildings project emotions out into the world and individuals are affected by the buildings around them. This is the reason he was so interested in ornamentation and the craftspeople and labourers who created it.

This interest is evident in Ruskin’s book, The Seven Lamps of Architecture, where, in the Lamp of Life, Ruskin talks about the importance of creating things by hand; in the Lamp of Memory, of recognising and celebrating the labour that went into a building. Each of the Seven Lamps held a quality that could either hinder or enhance the architecture’s emotional impact.



John Ruskin