Hawkshead is a charming village in the English Lake District. It has literary connections with William Wordsworth – it’s where he went to school, and with Beatrix Potter – she married a local solicitor.
Cars are largely kept to the periphery of the twisting twining narrow lanes. In fact, a local author once described the streets and architecture as “a world of imaginative geometry”*. While much of the town’s architecture today might be 17th century, the town apparently has Norse origins. A Norse settler known as Haukr gives the place its name it seems.
That’s all on the outside.
But I went to go inside the National Trust’s Beatrix Potter Gallery.
Like the town in which it is located, the Gallery is petite in scale and delightful in ambiance.
The Beatrix Potter Gallery is made up of three rooms downstairs and, from a narrow wooden staircase, four more upstairs. The focus is on Beatrix Potter’s illustrations which are renowned and easily recognisable to those familiar with her stories for children. Also on display are her precisely intricate sketches of the natural world. The literary artwork is revealed after some introductory tales of Potter family holidays to the Lake District. Holidays that provoked such vital inspiration for her characters, drawings and stories.
The building housing the Gallery was, even until relatively recent times, part of her husband’s family firm of solicitors. It is a solid and sturdy place and stands in some contrast to the delicateness of the Potter illustrations it contains.
That means one must look intentionally in at the art – and notice the lines, the shading, the characterisation, and the colours from up close. Perhaps thoughtfully recollecting the stories familiar from childhood, or taking a few minutes to have a read of the array of available stories.
It is a friendly and charming place, with welcoming volunteers on hand to answer any Potter-related questions. And, on a weekday in early autumn, there was plenty of space together with a respectable stream of visitors.
© Laura Claire H 2014
*Greater Lakeland, Norman Nicholson (Hale, ed 1996)