Every fool in Bakewell: Ruskin’s rant refuted

Ruskin (and food critic Matthew Fort) on the beauties of Derbyshire

John Ruskin - a self-portraitJohn’s Ruskin’s complaint at the desecration of the Derbyshire Dales featured in The Guardian on Saturday. ‘Every fool in Buxton can be at Bakewell in half-an-hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton,’ Ruskin thundered. ‘Call me a fool,’ Matthew Fort wrote, ‘but I can see any number of good reasons to be in Bakewell…. How many towns the size of Bakewell, I wondered, could boast a Tiroler Stüberl, Austrian Coffee Shop & Sausage Importer?’ The answer, I suspect, lies in the large number of tourists who flock there – those same ‘Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain’ whom Ruskin addressed, perhaps, and their womenfolk?

By an irony that Hardy, for one, would have appreciated, the railway whose opening in 1863 Ruskin so deplored has long gone and the disused viaduct is now itself part of the scenery. Roy Hattersley went so far as to say: ‘It always seems to me that the viaduct, built where the rocks once were, adds to its enchantment.’ A further irony is that although Ruskin invoked the gods of classical antiquity, the Romans themselves had not hesitated to despoil Derbyshire for lead (see the Great Hucklow Lead Legacy project, for example).

I’ve put more of the extract, along with further information on Ruskin and Monsal Dale, on the Literary Connections John Ruskin page.