18 April 2017

National Trust: Spring At Hill Top

Liz Hunter MacFarlane, house and collections Manager for the National Trust in the Lake District, is the person in charge of the National Trust’s Beatrix Potter collection. She gives us an update of what’s new for this year.

We’ve opened the door for a new season at Hill Top, come on in…

Beatrix Potter enjoyed re-arranging the rooms at Hill Top – she was always tinkering, moving her favourite objects around and changing features right up until she died. And although it’s been over 70 years since she made her last changes, we make sure the house always reflects the many sides of her personality.

We continue to make changes, where we feel necessary, to reflect this spirt and help look after the house as best we can, such as rearranging furniture to improve the visitor flow in busy years, like 1997, after the release of the Miss Potter film.

This year, in the Hall, for example, we have re-created the scene from a photograph which was taken around 1912 by Beatrix’s father. We’ve also started a phase of work to introduce some sensitive, low voltage, LED lighting into a few locations around the house, where appropriate. These small lights are amplifying the natural light already there and you probably won’t even notice them – that’s the beauty of it!

The Entrance Hall at Hill Top, Cumbria, home of Beatrix Potter.

What’s important of course is that the spirit of the place never changes, so it continues to surprise and delight. Despite inevitable changes over time, the unique atmosphere Beatrix loved still enchants those who visit today.

Down the road at the Beatrix Potter Gallery in Hawkshead this year’s exhibition ‘That Corner of the Lake District’ looks at our Beatrix Potter collection from a different view point.

As we’re celebrating our conservation work across the Lake District this year, at the Gallery we’re exploring how Beatrix Potter’s vision and legacy has enabled us to continue to look after the places that originally inspired her.

The original artwork included in this year’s exhibition features scenes which have changed little since Beatrix Potter arrived here on her first Lake District holiday in 1882.

Using photos taken by her and her family we are able to compare and contrast the views we see today and how they looked when Beatrix was sketching them for the first time. It gives us a unique picture of how Hill Top, Sawrey and Hawkshead inspired her and have altered over the last 100 years.

After becoming Mrs Heelis, Beatrix spent the last thirty years of her life amassing one of the largest estates in the Lake District. Influenced by her friend and National Trust founder, Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, she not only assumed the role of land agent, managing farms and overseeing a variety of business ventures, she also acted as an advocate and fundraiser, believing the National Trust to be; “The only salvation for the Lake District.”

Beatrix had the opportunity and the means to bring her ideas about the preservation of the Lake District landscape and its unique culture to a “splendid reality”. To her great satisfaction she was able, through the success of her books, to protect many of the local scenes which had inspired the illustrations for her tales.

Today we think like Beatrix and continue her conservation work in the places she loved and fought to protect.

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