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A day in Beatrix's Lake District.

Today we took a trip up to the Lakes and visited a few spots I had been wanting to visit for a while. Wanting to delve deeper in to the life of the Potter's and pick up on any clues about their lives I was keen to get a peek into Beatrix's life in the Lakes.


Our first stop was the Beatrix Potter Gallery in Hawkshead. A 17th Century house, also the former office of Beatrix's solicitor husband, features a selection of Beatrix's tiny and delicate illustrations.

National Trust - Beatrix Potter Gallery, Hawkshead.

The current exhibition - The Language of Flowers , displays the drawings and paintings beyond the lovable childhood characters we are all familiar with.

Some of my most favourite pieces were the simple ink illustrations.

On display were a variety of artworks from botanicals , insects and her more well known watercolours of animal characters.


 

The Armitt Museum gallery & Library , was our next stop, as recommended by the lovely National Trust Staff at the Hawkshead Gallery.


The Armitt, was bequeathed over 350 mycological and other natural history drawings and watercolours by Beatrix Potter. A collection of these can be seen on display in The Armitt's gallery space.


Quite like myself, Beatrix had a keen fascination with fungi. I loved seeing these highly detailed illustrations and paintings and happy that I managed to squeeze this into our day in the lakes.


"Beatrix discovered the beauty of fungi at Dalguise, learning much about them from the local postman, Charles Mclntosh. She became knowledgeable about obscure species and studied their propagation. Eventually she had over 250 drawings of fungi, over 40 of different mosses and many microscope studies of the process of germination. Her theory on this process was presented in the form of a paper ‘On the Germination of the Spores of Agaricineae’ to the leading scientists of the day at a meeting of the Linnean Society. It was not considered worthwhile at the time, but proved to be right in later years." - The Armitt
 

Next, we moved onto Wray Castle, a gothic revival castle that sits on the shores of Lake Windermere.



Wray Castle is actually a private home, not a real castle. It was built in 1840's by a retired surgeon for his wife. However, once built she took one look at it and refused to live there!

The National Trust has owned the castle since 1929 and are making some big renovations to the property. The views and grounds of Wray are stunning though and definitely worth a visit.


In 1882, when Beatrix was 16 years old her parents rented out Wray Castle as a Holiday home when their usual Scottish rental home was unavailable, beginning her love with the lakes.


Looking back at the fungi drawings at The Armitt, there were illustrations labelled with "Wray Castle" It's easy to see how the natural environments and landscapes around Wray Castle would have inspired young Beatrix and given her ample subjects to study.


Looking closer at the date on this illustration she possibly visited again in 1895.


She later went on to buy most of the land that surrounded the castle.


Currently on display in Wray Castle is Brought to Light: the photographs of Rupert Potter.


This is an exhibition featuring a selection of Beatrix's father's photographs from their time at Wray Castle and the family's holidays.


Rupert, was the second son of Edmund Potter, and was allowed to live comfortably off his fathers wealth. Enabling him the time and leisure to explore his creative path, love of art and photography, creating the foundation for Beatrix's later life as an artist too.


Rupert Potter, Albumen print on paper - National Trust
The Potter Family at Wray, August 1882. Rupert Potter

 

The final stop was Hill Top, Beatrix's paradise. At the age of 39, with the money she had earned from her 'little books' she acquired Hill Top, a working farm in the Village of Near Sawry.


Hill Top Farmhouse - National Trust

The house was a fascinating little farmhouse full of eclectic mementoes and furniture that Beatrix had curated into her own little museum. I found myself peering out of every window in the property - It's no wonder she loved this place. Surrounded by everything she loved in the middle of this beautiful landscape, it's quite something.


The garden is quintessentially the backdrop for Peter Rabbit and friends with the flower pots, watering cans and growing chard!

Some photographs from inside the home, looking at the details inside Hill Top. In every room you could see a little bit of inspiration for her books. The home was left as she intended and every detail was as she left it to the National Trust.


I loved the wallpapers , some of these reminded me of the patterns and artwork found within the Dinting Vale Printworks pattern books. I believe the green and rose Bedroom wallpaper is a William Morris Co - "Daisies".



I'd highly recommend this as a day out, most of the places are small and can take less than an hour to get around. Had we had more time, a longer visit to Wray castle would have been ideal to explore the grounds and the surroundings, we only just had enough time to pop inside before our time slot at Hill Top but would visit again. I picked up some great resources from the Armitt as well as the guide books from each of the NT properties. There are a few archive pieces in these properties I'm keen to seek out such as the sample book at the Beatrix Potter Gallery, which is supposed to be one of the sample books sent from the Dinting Vale Printworks to Beatrix. I had a lovely chat about my research with the folks at the Beatrix Potter Gallery and hope I can get a bit further with it!

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