Manchester and the English Lake District


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by John Moss
unless otherwise credited

Hawkshead & Sawry

Hawkshead village lies between Lakes Windermere
and Coniston, in the Vale of Esthwaite and to the north of the Grisedale
Forest, about 2 miles from Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm at Sawrey,
and 3 miles from the Windermere ferry, possibly the best and most
picturesque way to approach it. It is probably one of the prettiest
villages in the whole of the Lake District National Park, which is
reason enough to pay a visit, but it also has the added benefit that
several key historical lakeland figures lived there for a time. It
was where the poet William Wordsworth went to school, and where Beatrix
Potter had a house.

Aerial Photograph of Hawkshead in the Lake District
Aerial Photograph of Hawkshead and Lake
Windermere. courtesy of Copyright © 2005.

The village is Norse in origin, having derived
its name from Haukr, an immigrant Viking who built the first stockaded
settlement there. It is a picturesque village of neat whitewashed
cottages with grey local slate roofs, huddled together with cobblestoned
alleyways and overhanging arches which give the whole place a sense
of intimacy and quaintness, as they lead from one idyllic scene to
In summertime, residents living around its squares seem to compete
for attention with their splendidly colourful flower tubs and window
There is much for the visitor to see in Hawkshead. The Parish Church
of St Michael and All Angels overlooks the town protectively from
its hilltop vantage, and marks the point which Haukr originally placed
his settlement due to its superb defensive position. Originally the
hill would have been surrounded by a ditch or moat. It is an austere
grey and plain building, in character with typical Lake District church
style and dates from the 15th century.

Beatrix Potter's Hilltop Farm, SawryAnne Tyson's Cottage, HawksheadHawkshead's main squareHawkshead St Michael's Parish Church
Left to Right: Hilltop Farm, Sawrey; Anne Tyson’s Cottage; The Main
Square; St Michael’s Parish Church

Much of it was built by Edwin
Sandys, Archbishop of York, who also founded the Grammar School nearby
– now most notable for having been attended by Wordsworth, who, in
typical schoolboy fashion, carved his initials into the wooden desk
– they can still be seen today, as the Grammar School is now open
to the public. In a hidden corner of the village is Anne Tyson’s Cottage.
It was here that Wordsworth boarded during his time at the Grammar
School, in 1778 and 1779. Anne Tyson’s account books are part of the
exhibition in the school museum.

Centrally placed is Beatrix
Potter Gallery, the former office premises of her husband, the solicitor
William Heelis, which she bequeathed to the National Trust, along
with Hill Top in Sawrey and several thousand acres of lakeland hillsides.
The gallery museum now displays most of her original water-colour
illustrations for her many now famous children’s books. (See more
– below).
Many of her characters were based on people she knew in Hawkshead,
and many of her illustration settings were taken from local sites.
The Market House in the main square originated in 1650, and over the
centuries, sheep and cattle markets have been held on its ground floor,
(known as the “Shambles”), and it was the place where farm labourers
congregated to obtain work.
Tucked away in a corner square is the Methodist Chapel which has been
operative since 1862. In the nearby village of Colthouse is the Friends
Meeting House, a Quaker chapel built in 1688. There is no access or
parking to the village centre, but ample large parking facilities
(paying) are available at the village outskirts – no more than 100
yards away. Numerous teashops, coffee shops, pubs and restaurants
with a wide choice of eating, drinking and dining facilities. Public
conveniences and Tourist Information Centres at Car Parks. Many small
souvenir shops in the village.

Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter, (1866-1943) was born in London,
who lived most of her life in the Lake District, and apart from being
a prodigious hill farmer and dedicated conservationist, is better
known for her writings and illustrations which have made her one of
the world’s best loved children’s authors.
Her experiences of country life enabled her to invent a world where
the many small creatures which she observed and drew came to life
in a fascinating and charmingly rustic series of short stories. The
characters which her fertile imagination and sympathetic style created,
(like Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, Tommy Brock, Jeremy Fisher
and Mrs Tiggy-winkle), have become part of children’s folklore – It
is well worth the visitor’s time to visit one of the several exhibitions
of her work.

The Beatrix Potter Gallery

Main Street, Hawkshead, Cumbria LA22
0NS. Telephone: 015394-36355
An award-winning exhibition in the house where her husband worked in
the centre of Hawkshead village. A selection of her original drawings
and writings are on display, as well as the garden. National Trust owned
property. Open 1st April to 31st October, Monday to Friday & Bank Holidays
10.30am-4.30pm. Last admission at 4.00pm.

The World of Beatrix Potter

The Old Laundry Visitor Centre, Crag
Brow, Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria. Tel: 015394-88444.
An award winning exhibition, open all year round. Carefully created
3-dimensional settings from her stories and well-loved characters, with
latest lighting and sound facilities as well as film and video displays.
The Old Laundry also hosts other visiting exhibitions and welcomes children’s
group activities. There is also a Visitors Shop and Tea Room specialising
in Cumbrian cakes and light lunches.

Beatrix Potter’s Lake

Packhorse Court, Keswick, Cumbria. Telephone: 017687-75173.

Specially created multimedia show which vividly brings Beatrix Potter’s
world alive. It also illustrates her many works of nature conservancy
(over 6000 acres) on behalf of the nation. Open 1st April to end of
October, daily from 10.30am-5.30pm, and from November to March on
Saturday & Sunday from 12noon to 4.00pm.

Hill Top Farm, Sawrey

Near Sawrey, Ambleside LA22 0LF. Telephone: 015394-36269.

A small 17th century farm house where Beatrix Potter spent most of
her later years, and where she wrote and set her many Peter Rabbit
books. The house contains much of the author’s furniture, artefacts
and china, as well as a selection of her original water-colour and
pencil illustrations. There is also a well maintained garden which
has changed little since she planted it years ago. The house is small
and group or party numbers are restricted. Long queues are likely
at peak holiday times. Car parking at the north end of the village
– none in the village centre. Open 1st April to 31st October, Saturday-Wednesday,
11.00am-5.00pm. Last admission 4.30pm. Closed Thursdays and Fridays
(except Good Friday). Unfortunately the house and garden are unsuitable
for wheelchairs or push-chairs. Braille Guide available. Small NT
shop on site. Refreshments nearby in the village at the Tower Bank
Arms pub.

Please check times and
prices for yourself before setting out as they may have changes since
this entry was written.


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© John Moss, Papillon Graphics AD 2013 Manchester, United Kingdom – all rights reserved.
This page last updated 16 Nov 12.