Cumbria is the perfect place to Discover more About Beatrix Potter
July 28th 1866 - 22 Dec 1943
There is so much to discover about Beatrix Potter's life, here in Cumbria. And the more you Discover about Beatrix Potter the more you realise what an incredible lady she was.
Publilshing, her now famous 'Tales of Beatrix Potter', and being acknowledged as an author and illustrator, at a time when this profession was very much male dominated, is just one indicator of Beatrix Potter's strength of character. Furthermore, she used the money she earned from her books selflessly, to secure farms and parcels of land, that she wanted to protect from development, for you and I to enjoy today.
Life of Young Miss Potter & Beatrix Potter's Fungi Watercolours
Young Miss Potter love of hedgerow animals and nature started early and she was known to have kept all sorts of creatures such as lizards and mice even hedgehogs which she loved to sketch. In keeping with Victorian England her Middle Class family sent her brother, Bertram away to boarding school, whilst she was home educated at home by a Governess.
Despite her lack of formal education Beatrix Potter became a high achiever.
She had a keen eye for detail and sketched not only her pet hedgerow animals but also watercolours of lichens and fungi with a keen eye for detail. Her observations later led her to find that lichens were composed of two organisms in a 'symbiotic' relationship - a fungus and an alga, although these finds were unaccepted by scientists at the time, who believed that Ladies should be holding tea parties and not scientific kitchen experiments.
Some of Beatrix Potter's earlier works are exhibited at the Victoria and Albert museum in London, however please check with the museum Curator before you make a special trip, as exhibits do change.
Beatrix Potter's Lake District
Beatrix Potter's love of the Lake District began with family decided to holiday here. You can just imagine how exciting Cumbria would be to an intelligent girl with a fascination of wildlife and nature and with a love of art. What a contrast to her life in London, with her Governess. She would never have been short of something to sketch, be it red squirrels, fungi the beautiful landscapes or of course mischievous rabbits.
Whilst staying at Wray Castle in Cumbria, Beatrix Potter's family became friendly with the local vicar, Herdwicke Rawnsley, who was a published author and campaigned tirelessly for the formation of the National Trust. Beatrix Potter's father, Rupert, later became the first lifetime member of the National Trust.
Rawnsley was hugely influential on Beatrix and possibly the first published author she had met. He took a keen interest in her work and influenced her to get her work published she resisted his ideas that they should join forces of his words accompanied by her illustrations, although one early joint edition of Peter Rabbit was published and can now be seen at The Armitt in Ambleside. His love of the surrounding area and works to protect it, also influenced Miss Potter and she in turn dedicated a large proportion of her time to The National Trust.
Beatrix Potter's bequeathed a generous legacy to the National Trust, estimated to be around 14 farms (approx 4000 acres) to help preserve the Lake District as an area of outstanding natural beauty for ourselves and future generations to enjoy.
The Legacy included Hill Top, Tarn Hows, the Monk Hill Estate and Yew Tree Farm at Coniston.
As well as financial support to the National Trust for the purchase of Yew Tree Farm, Beatrix Potter also loaned furniture to the tenants and assisted them in setting up a Tea Room.
Unfortunately the tea-room is no longer open, however it continues to be a working farm and is also a Guest House containing many of Miss Potter's belongings.
In addition to purchasing parcels of land and properties, Beatrix Potter was deeply involved in the management of these farms, reviving flocks of sheep, in particular, her favourite Herdwick.
She was known locally as Mrs Heelis rather than as Beatrix Potter and during her life as a married woman, she was known for her outstanding work as a sheep farmer and conservationist rather than as an author and illustrator. She won huge respect as a knowledgeable resource of Herdwick sheep, often being asked to judge competitions.
Beatrix Potter Gallery
A collection of Beatrix Potter's original illustrations from the Tales of Beatrix Potter are displayed in the former offices of her husband, William Heelis, who was a Solicitor in Hawkshead and whom she married at the age of 47. The Gallery as it is now known is easily found in the centre of the pretty village of Hawkshead.
Please note that the Beatrix Potter illustrations displayed at The Gallery do change periodically, so if you are travelling to see a specific illustration, do please check first as to what is currently on display and also the seasonal opening times of The Gallery.
Definitely a contender for England's prettiest village, it is easy to see how the higgeldy piggeldy lanes and alleys, of Hawkshead, inspired Miss Potter's illustrations in the books 'The Tale of Johnny Town Mouse' and 'The Tale of the Pie and The Patty-Pan'.
Beatrix Potter's Paintings
The Beatrix Potter fungi watercolours on display at the Armitt Collection in Ambleside are part of the collection that she bequeathed to the Armitt library in 1943. This collection of watercolours show microscopic fungi and natural history studies botanical watercolours
(as with all exhibitions, please check that the exhibition is still running before making a special trip - contact the Armitt collection directly here.
Only a selection of Miss Potter's original paintings are on view in Hawkshead and Ambleside. Her work is also exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London - you can check with the Curator which works are currently being exhibited.
Beatrix Potter World
Younger children are likely to be most impressed with Beatrix Potter World which can easily be found signposted off the main street through Bowness-on-Windermere.
Here the characters of Beatrix Potter's books have been beautifully brought to life, and I know that my own children loved this attraction when they were younger.
There's also a tea-room there and on several occasions during the year you can book to have tea with Peter Rabbit or one of his friends.
Beatrix Potter House
Beatrix Potter's house Hill Top just outside Hawkshead is the famous farm that she bought with the proceeds, when her work first went into print.
Now managed by the National Trust, Hill Top is as Beatrix Potter requested, unaltered, almost as if she could pop back in at any moment.
Why not stay in this beautiful area that Beatrix Potter loved so much?