A Living Legacy


Beatrix Potter (1866–1943)
Monk Coniston Moor, drawn “7.00 morn,” November 16, 1909
Watercolor and graphite
V&A: Linder Bequest BP.1057
Image courtesy of Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd.


One of Beatrix Potter’s greatest legacies is the land she bequeathed to the UK’s National Trust upon her death in 1943. The Trust described it as “The Greatest Ever Lakeland Gift,” comprising over four thousand acres, fourteen working farms, and sixty separate properties. Beatrix stipulated that Herdwick sheep flocks be preserved on much of this land, and her transformative gift encouraged other benefactors to donate funds to the National Trust, leading, in 1951, to the formation of the Lake District National Park. Today the National Trust, as Europe’s largest conservation charity, continues this work and follows a mission, in their words, “to look after nature, beauty and history for everyone to enjoy.”

The vestiges of Beatrix Potter’s life and work—her drawings, letters, and personal effects—are preserved in the holdings of several cultural institutions: her drawings of fungi at the Armitt Museum and Library in the Lake District, her picture letters at research libraries including the Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton University and the Morgan, and vast collections of watercolors, drawings, and correspondence at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, formed by collectors including Leslie Linder and Joan Duke. Beatrix’s husband William ensured that Hill Top farmhouse would be carefully preserved for the public’s enjoyment and become a place to see her original artwork. Until 1970, when a dedicated gallery opened in a nearby town, visitors could actually see these drawings at Hill Top. Today, the farmhouse is a pilgrimage site for fans of Beatrix’s books from around the world.

The “unchanging world of realism and romance,” as Beatrix described the countryside late in life, was an endless source of inspiration for her books. And these beloved tales, rooted in the natural world, continue to find new readers and new resonances across the globe today.