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Beatrix Potter at Broad Leys

“I must make the best of it”

Beatrix Potter and her family stayed at Broad Leys for the summers of 1909 and 1912.  Not only did she continue writing her books here, she also wrote numerous letters which chronicled her stays.  There are also many wonderful images of the house and gardens taken by Beatrix’s father Rupert Potter, a renowned amateur photographer.
Whilst in the Lakes Beatrix became an advocate for hill farming and felt “emotionally rooted” in this part of the Lakes.  Following the death of her fiancé and publisher Norman Warne in 1905 Beatrix bought Hill Top Farm in Sawrey. Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of the founder members of The National Trust, was a lifelong friend and they shared a love of the countryside and concern with local issues.

Beatrix Potter with Hardwicke Rawnsley outside Broad Leys
Joan and Norah Moore with Beatrix at Broad Leys by Rupert Potter, August 1912

In the summer of 1909 the Potter family rented Broad Leys; Beatrix described it as “a large comfortable estate with charming gardens but a long walk to and from Hill Top via the ferry”.  She was to finish her book “Ginger and Pickles” at Broad Leys.

During the following year she was becoming more interested in local politics and in 1911 took part in a local campaign against the construction of an airplane factory at Cockshott Point, Windermere, and the use of hydroplanes on the lake… “the beastly fly-swimming spluttering aeroplane careering up and down over Windermere”.

She rented Broad Leys again the following summer of 1912, despite its inconvenience for the ferry and farm, writing “I must make the best of it” with resigned acceptance.  She visited the farm 3 or 4 days each week.  She was to accept a proposal of marriage from local Land Agent William Heelis soon afterwards and they then moved into Castle Cottage at Sawrey where she continued her farming life.

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