A new National Trust exhibition ‘Friendship by post – people who shaped Beatrix Potter’s world’, opens on Saturday 15 February, at the Beatrix Potter Gallery in Hawkshead. ‘Friendship by post’ explores how important correspondence was to Beatrix.

Beatrix Potter’s original personal letters, photographs, illustrations from some of her famous tales and artwork are displayed alongside rarely seen items from the collection, which Beatrix left to the National Trust on her death. All set amongst the crooked old corridors and wooden stairs of the quirky Beatrix Potter Gallery.

The National Trust are celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2020 and a visit to the Beatrix Potter Gallery this year will give you a unique insight into the relationship between Beatrix Potter and one of the Trust’s pioneering founders, Canon Rawnsley.

The exhibition opens with a focus on how her first encounter with the passionate and charismatic Hardwicke Rawnsley led to a lasting friendship. This is brought to life by his writing desk, on loan for this year from Rufford Old Hall in Lancashire, as well as a unique version of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which Rawnsley attempted to ‘improve’ on behalf of Beatrix in a bid to help her get it published.

The remainder of the exhibition explores Beatrix’s relationships near and far. Correspondence from places as far-flung as New Zealand and the USA with eminent literary specialists or fans of her work, give us a glimpse into her professional life, while letters that were destined to stay closer to home, such as for her shepherd and friend, Joseph Moscrop, along with her writing desk from Troutbeck Park farm (one of fourteen farms she left to the Trust) , reflect what a big part farming played in her life.

Liz MacFarlane, National Trust House & Collections Manager said “The letters in this year’s exhibition are Beatrix Potter’s original words, sometimes so touching and sad but often showing the humour, determination and energy of this many-sided genius. It is also heartwarming to be reminded of the simple beauty of getting and sending a handwritten letter, something we do so rarely today.”

The characterful rooms in the Gallery itself have also been refreshed for the anniversary year; recently fitted with new display arrangements and lime-washed with complementary colourschemes on the wall.

Nearby Wray Castle are also feeling inspired by Beatrix Potter; asking visitors to get creative this half term with the Great Wray Castle Sketch. The week of fun drawing challenges is aimed at all ages and family members. Complete the artistic tasks around the Castle and grounds, then collect your certificate to take home or add to the Castle’s own pop-up Gallery.

The ‘Friendship by post’ exhibition opens at the Beatrix Potter Gallery in Hawkshead on 15 February and runs every day until 1 November 2020. Hill Top and Wray Castle also reopen on 15 February at 10am.

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