Beatrix Potter, the Lake District and the National Trust

Yew Tree Farm, house and Herdwick sheep, Coniston, Cumbria
Yew Tree farm is part of Beatrix Potter's legacy to the National Trust National Trust Images / Val Corbett

Beatrix loved life in the Lake District and as a prominent member of the farming community she won prizes for breeding sheep, especially the Herdwick breed. She also became a fierce campaigner on local conservation issues.

Beatrix and Herdwick

Beatrix Potter did much to promote the Herdwick breed and was the first woman to be elected president of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association (although she died before she took up the chair). 

While she was a fierce campaigner on local conservation issues and passionate about preserving a way of life, she was an astute and forward-thinking business woman, not afraid of making changes where necessary.

A Lakes landowner

During the next few years Beatrix purchased a considerable amount of land in the Lake District and was advised by local solicitor William Heelis who she later married. 

She and William lived in Castle Cottage, Near Sawrey, from 1913 until her death. Only a few books were produced for Frederick Warne after their marriage.

Beatrix and the National Trust

She worked closely with the National Trust, helping it to acquire land and manage farms with a view to long-term preservation. In one of her letters to Eleanor Rawnsley in 1934, she wrote 'I wish there may be a sufficient representative number of the old farms in the hands of the Trust.'

Beatrix was a friend of Canon Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley – one of the three founder members of the National Trust. When she died in 1943, she left 4,000 acres of land and countryside to the National Trust, as well as 14 farms. 

All of these farms are still working farms managed by tenant farmers, in accordance with her wishes, and we continue her conservation work in the Lake District to this day.