Margaret Cox (formerly Cock) Ruskin (1781-1871), the wife of John James Ruskin and mother of John Ruskin, was the daughter of William Cock (1754-1787) and Margaret Ruskin Cock (1756? -1817). Margaret Cox and John James Ruskin were first cousins. His father John Thomas Ruskin and Margaret Cox's mother, were brother and sister.
Ruskin 's mother was born on 2 September 1781 at The King's Head Public House Croydon where her father, a 'Victualler' was landlord or tenant-landlord. She was baptised at the Church of St. John the Baptist in Croydon. William Cock died at the age of 33 following a riding accident and Ruskin's maternal grandmother continued the tenancy of The King's Head. Mrs. Cock also had income from rents for a number of cottages built by her husband. She was therefore able to send her daughter Margaret to be educated at Mrs. S. Rice's Academy for Ladies where according to Ruskin his mother acquired her Evangelicalism ( Works, 35.18).
Some time between 1800 and 1804 Margaret moved to Edinburgh to stay with her uncle and aunt, John Thomas Ruskin and his wife Catherine Tweddale, the parents of John James Ruskin (see Viljoen, Ruskin's Scottish Heritage, p. 81 and Burd, The Ruskin Family Letters, Vol I, p.4). The reasons for her move to Scotland are unclear although Ruskin himself suggests it was to' take care of [his] paternal grandfather's house ( Works, 35.18). She lived with her aunt and uncle, in Edinburgh, later moving with them to Dysart and finally to Perth, where they died in 1817.
In 1808 John James Ruskin and Margaret Cox had become engaged, an engagement which lasted eight years. During the period of her stay in Scotland, John James had been working in London in order to begin the long process of paying off his father's debts. He rose to become head clerk of the firm of wine importers, 'Gordon, Murphy and Co', and eventually made a large fortune through the setting-up of his own firm of 'Ruskin, Telford and Domecq'. In 1817 after a long period of financial difficulty and poor mental health, John Thomas Ruskin committed suicide. John James and Margaret were married in Perth three months later. They moved into their own house at 54 Hunter Street, Brunswick Square where their son John Ruskin was born on 8 February 1819.
Throughout the rest of her long life, Margaret Ruskin spent her time, bringing up their son and supporting her husband by writing daily letters during his many travels on business. During Ruskin 's period as a student at Oxford University, she moved with him and lodged nearby on the High Street. Following the family move from Herne Hill she lived at Denmark Hill, which was the family home until her death aged 90 in 1871. Apart from visits abroad, Ruskin returned to live with his parents following the breakdown of his marriage in 1853. Margaret Ruskin was buried with her husband in Shirley Churchyard; Ruskin adding an inscription to the tomb he designed originally for his father:
Beside my father's body
I have laid
Ever returned to earth,
Nor purer life
Recorded in heaven.
Between Croydon and Epson, Ruskin had a spring of water restored to commemorate his mother's memory in 1876. The inscribed tablet read:
In obedience to the Giver of Life, of the brooks and fruits that feed it, of the peace that ends it, may this well be kept sacred for the service of men, flocks, and flowers, and be by kindness called MARGARET'S WELL. This pool was beautified and endowed by John Ruskin., M.A., LL.D.( Works, 22.Xxiv)