This drawing depicts what is now the Guildhall Museum, on the corner of Fisher Street and the Greenmarket. Dating from the late fourteenth or early fifteeenth century, this was originally a private house, but was given to the city by Richard de Redeness and became a meeting place for the town’s eight Trade Guilds from the sixteenth century onwards: four of these survive today and continue to meet annually in the building on Ascension Day.
The shape of the half-timbered building is still discernible, but drastic later changes have obliterated all traces of the detail that attracted Ruskin’s interest. Letters clearly suggest that this drawing (and probably others) must have been lent to his friend Edward Clayton, who followed in Ruskin’s footsteps on a tour of the Lake District in 1840. ‘I think you deserve great credit for finding the places at all,’ Ruskin wrote on 11 September 1840, ‘especially Carlisle; it shows you a use of spouts, which I suppose is new to you’ – a reference to the picturesquely ugly pipe. However, Ruskin still had to tell his friend ‘to blow up your spectacle-maker, and not me, for the deficiency of Gothic work on the Carlisle house … but it is so black and smoky, that I do not wonder at your not making it out.’ This drawing is a ‘fine’ copy of a pencil drawing made on the spot and dated ‘Aug 7 38’, which is in the Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard University previously attributed to Samuel Prout.