Hawkshead to celebrate 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth
PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 February 2016
The Lakes village will play a big role in this year’s 150th anniversary celebrations of Beatrix Potter’s birth
Few names are as synonymous with the Lake District as Beatrix Potter. The village of Hawkshead played a big part in her life and it will have a major role in this year’s celebrations of the 150th anniversary of her birth.
Events will be staged across the Lake District, remembering not only the books which made her famous, but also her contributions to farming and the landscapes she loved.
She was born in London on July 28 1866 – although both her parents’ families were from around Manchester – and her first visits to the Lake District were on childhood holidays where she enjoyed learning about, and painting, the landscape, plants and animals.
The characters she is now associated with started life in letters to her young niece and nephew and when they were published she used the money she made to buy Hill Top Farm at Near Sawrey and, later, other farms and estates in the area. She was a key figure in the preservation of the Herdwick Sheep and was the first female president of the Herdwick Sheepbreeders’ Association.
In 1913, at the age of 47, she married William Heelis, a solicitor from Hawkshead whose office in the village is now a National Trust shop and gallery which displays a selection of her work and items from her life.
When she died in December 1943, aged 77, she left 14 farms, sheep and 4000 acres of land to the National Trust and is credited with preserving much of the land that now comprises the Lake District National Park. Her married name lives on in the name of the National Trust’s headquarters, Heelis, in Swindon.
Among the events to mark her 150th anniversary this year, the 17th century townhouse which was used as her husband’s office in Hawkshead will host Romance and Realism, an exhibition of her original watercolours and illustrations, from March 12 to October 30.
Visitors to the gallery on the second Saturday of the month (from March to October, but not July or August) will also be able to hear one of Potter’s stories read aloud.
Clare Perry is the National Trust’s project manager for the year of celebrations and she said: ‘Beatrix Potter’s legacy was one of the largest the Trust has received and we are still looking after that 4,000 acres, along with lots of other places, today.
‘She remains a very important person, not just because of her books and illustrations, but because she cared for the landscape she loved and which we are still looking after.’
Clare, who was born at Barrow and spent much of her childhood in Ulverston, now lives near Kendal and has worked at Hill Top and the gallery in Hawkshead during almost 13 years with the National Trust. She added: ‘This is a very exciting and significant year and I’m looking forward to the range of events and exhibitions we have planned.
Three more Potter parties
Two Bad Mice: Mischief in Beatrix Potter’s Tales. Wordsworth House, Cockermouth, March 12-June 30, daily except Friday, 11am-4pm.
Revisit the magic of childhood with an of original artwork by Beatrix Potter, to celebrate her 150th anniversary. Free with entry to house and garden.
Beyond Peter Rabbit. Allan Bank, Grasmere from February half-term until Christmas.
An exploration of the inspiration Beatrix Potter took from her friendship with Canon Rawnsley who inspired and encouraged her in her creative pursuits and her efforts to conserve the region’s countryside and farming heritage.
Beatrix Potter ‘Love of a Lifetime’ guided walk. Sunday February 14, 1.30pm.
Walk in Beatrix Potter’s footsteps through the parts of the Lakes she loved so much. The walk will be easy to moderate on paths and tracks.
Advance bookings only, via Hill Top office. £11 adult, £5.50 child. Includes guided walk, entry to Hill Top house and a Valentines gift. No NT member discount available.