Beatrix Potter: More than just storytelling

To think about the role and true legacy of Beatrix Potter, who was known as Mrs Heelis after she married in 1912, we must consider her achievements beyond storytelling. We must understand her other passions, as a talented artist, environmentalist, and award-winning Herdwick sheep farmer.

In this exhibition, we explore Beatrix Potter as an individual from beginning to end. After being given a paintbox by one of her father’s friends, the artist John Everett Millais, a young Miss Potter had spent hours drawing in the Natural History Museum in London. Millais said of her:

“Plenty of people can draw, but you have observation . . .”

Her rare talent and keen eye can be seen in her paintings of fungi that are on display. In 1943 she bequeathed her mycological, natural history, and archaeological drawings to The Armitt. They have toured nationally and internationally, as people still take inspiration from her studies.

We look into her experiences as a sheep farmer, with her collection of properties and land later forming the core landholding of the National Trust at a critical time in its development. Beatrix, like many others at this time, was keen for increasing industrialisation to not reach or impact the Lake District. She memorably explains her views when seeing the first flying boats taking off and landing in Windermere:

“There is a beastly fly-swimming spluttering aeroplane careering up down over Windermere; it makes a noise like ten million bluebottles”.

When you explore this exhibition, we ask you to consider:

Most of Beatrix Potter’s characters – Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Jemima Puddle-Duck and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle – live in the Lake District. She owned a lot of land in Lakeland, bequeathing the majority of her 4,000 acres and farms to the National Trust when died. Are her stories her final legacy, or is it the county she set her stories in? Could it be both?

NEW FOR 2022

See artist Effie Burns’ glass fungi on display alongside Beatrix Potter’s artworks.

Based in Whitby, Effie Burns is an artist who primarily works with glass. During the pandemic, her practice has been fuelled by curiosity and chance encounters. As she watched the seasons unfold, she tried to capture the transient beauty of nature through the casting process. Through a technique called ‘burnout’ she preserves each organic object at a precise moment in time. Effie discovered that foraging is a meditative practice that feeds her creative process. Like Beatrix Potter she likes to record what she finds.

Discover Effie’s work, including some pieces she cast from items found near The Armitt, on display throughout 2022.


“Loved our visit – very welcoming and interesting venue. We particularly enjoyed Beatrix Potter’s watercolours. Well worth a trip”


Rydal Road • Ambleside • LA22 9BL

Tel: 015394 31212


Charity number: 1054762

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