New exhibition and a fresh look at the Beatrix Potter Gallery for 2020

The new exhibition of Beatrix Potter’s original artwork, illustrations and letters – 'Friendship by Post – people who shaped Beatrix Potter’s world' – explores how important correspondence was to Beatrix.

The National Trust is celebrating 125 years in 2020 and a visit to the Beatrix Potter Gallery, Hawkshead, this year will give you a unique insight into the relationship between Beatrix Potter and one of the Trust's pioneering founders, Canon Rawnsley.

A personal insight

The new 'Friendship by Post' exhibition highlights how at times Beatrix’s letters are unbearably sad, but often show the humour, determination and energy of this many-sided genius

The characterful rooms of the Gallery have been freshly fitted with new display cases and complementary colour schemes on the walls. Wandering through the building you’ll get up close to original letter’s Beatrix sent, line sketches, original colour illustrations and photographs.

A picture paints a thousand words

Her letters aren’t quite like the postcards and notes we might send; imagine the delight in receiving correspondence from Beatrix which included small detailed sketches and drawings to illustrate her points alongside the wordsmith work of the best-selling author.

Letter with detailed sketches of the dresser at Hill Top, from Beatrix Potter to Bertha Mahoney Miller, 1940
Beatrix describes a favourite piece of oak furniture, which still stands in Hill Top today.
Letter with detailed sketches of the dresser at Hill Top, from Beatrix Potter to Bertha Mahoney Miller, 1940

Some tender extracts show us what a good friend she was and a passionate farmer, commenting in a letter to a her shepherd at Troutbeck Park, that she's looking forward to lambing time and how much she values their friendship.

A shared solidarity with National Trust founder

The new exhibition takes a look at some of the key relationships that influenced Beatrix Potter’s view of the world and those with whom her correspondence offered a sense of solidarity and shared purpose.

None could be more significant than her friendship with Canon Rawnsley, founder of the National Trust. 

The Peter Rabbit nobody got to see 

The exhibition opens with a focus on how her first encounter with the passionate and charismatic Hardwick Rawnsley led to a lasting friendship. He encouraged her to publish her stories for children and inspired her determination to help conserve the Lake District countryside with which she had fallen in love.

Alongside letters from Beatrix to Rawnsley, there is a rare chance to see his writing desk, on loan from Rufford Old Hall as well as unique version of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Learn how Rawnsley had a go at bettering Beatrix’s Peter Rabbit and see his original manuscript of that version of the famous tale. 

The quirky Gallery building is tucked away in the heart of Hawkshead village and it’s the only place you can continually see Beatrix's illustrations on display.

The exhibition runs every day until 1 November and we are open 10.30am – 4pm.