John Ruskin was a leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as being an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. He wrote on subjects as varied as geology, architecture, myth, ornithology, literature, education, botany and political economy. He also penned travel guides and, on Sunday 23rd April 1876, he wrote a piece about the city of Peterborough:
‘In comfortable room with horriblest outlook on waste garden and vile buildings; Italian architraves in brick of coldest mud colour – cretinous imitation. A Bridewell or Clerkenwell with Genovese cornices travestied! The Cathedral here for a wonder, spared. Bitter black day yesterday so cold I could neither stand to look at it an instance, nor at the beautiful old inn at Stilton. Road here from Cambridge very flat and dull and in the black days, nothing but gloom over distance towards the Wash.’
Not very pleasant but – in 1858 he had opened the Cambridge School of Art. The art school grew to become Anglia Ruskin University, and it’s still at the heart of the modern-day campus in Cambridge. But that was just the beginning – over the years, a number of colleges and institutes have become part of Anglia Ruskin. This now includes the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology and the Essex Institute of Higher Education. At first these colleges combined to become Anglia Polytechnic, and then Anglia Polytechnic University in 1992. It has been known as Anglia Ruskin University since 2005. As well as Cambridge, they have campuses in Chelmsford, London and Peterborough. The campus at Guild House, Peterborough opened in 2011 and is a dedicated healthcare site where they train many of the region’s nurses and healthcare professionals.
It took time but maybe the City is forgiven it’s looks in 1876!