Stories to charm and inspire at Wordsworth House

Beatrix Potter sketching on Derwent Water in 1903

William’s childhood at Wordsworth House and Garden sparked his fascination with the natural world and helped turn him into one of the world’s favourite poets, but he isn’t the only important literary figure we’re celebrating in 2016.

Our new exhibition, Beatrix Potter and a Love of the Northern Lakes, focuses on the time she spent not far from here and how it inspired some of her best-loved stories.

Beatrix, who was born 150 years ago in July, is more usually associated with the area around Hill Top Farm, Near Sawrey, close to Windermere, where she wrote several of her children’s books and devoted her later life farming and breeding Herdwick sheep.

But, without her early family holidays in the north Lakes, near Keswick and Derwentwater, she might never have written the tales of Squirrel Nutkin, Benjamin Bunny and Mrs Tiggy-winkle, the hedgehog.

Beatrix and her brother Bertram photographed by their father on the terrace at Lingholm, near Keswick, in 1898
Beatrix Potter and her brother sitting on the terrace at Lingholm in 1898

Beatrix Potter and a Love of the Northern Lakes tells the stories behind the creation of these globally-loved characters, and includes several of Beatrix’s original illustrations together with a selection of photographs taken in the area by her father, Rupert.

Zoe Gilbert, Wordsworth House’s Visitor Experience Manager, said: “Although Beatrix was born almost 100 years after William and wrote children’s stories rather than poetry, they had more in common, as writers and early conservationists, than many people realise.

“Like William, Beatrix was profoundly influenced by the time she spent in this beautiful part of the Lake District. The local places she visited, the views she admired and the wildlife she observed inspired some of her most popular books.”

Squirrel Nutkin and friends fishing on Derwent Water
An illustration of fishing squirrels from The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter

The exhibition is open from Saturday to Thursday, 11am to 4pm, until 30 October, and entry is free with admission to the house and garden.

We also have Beatrix-themed talks, art sessions, storytelling and family events throughout the year.

On Wednesday and Saturday, at 11.30am, the costumed servants give a ten-minute talk entitled Two Wild Children, which reveals how the natural world shaped both Beatrix and William.

There's a daily trail for younger children featuring many of her characters, and on selected Tuesdays, you can join our artist-in-residence, Sarah Kate Smith, to draw the kind of kitchen and garden objects Beatrix delighted in.

Wordsworth House's artist-in-residence, Sarah Kate Smith, loves to draw animals and everyday objects
Wordsworth House's artist-in-residence, Sarah Kate Smith

This year we've also unveiled a new visitor welcome centre and Discovery Room, with a family area, including a giant magnetic storytelling game, and a permanent exhibition about William’s Lakeland legacy and his key role in the founding of the National Trust.

There’s a new 10-minute film playing in the cellar about how William and his sister Dorothy changed the world, and – following last December’s devastating flooding – even the toilets have had a dramatic makeover.

Why not find out more about our programme of Beatrix Potter events and activities for adults and children?

We look forward to seeing you soon!