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What would Beatrix Potter think of the National Trust

Beatrix Potter most famous for her illustrated stories of animals, was one of the major sponsors of the National Trust leaving them 15 farms, cottages and 4,000+ acres of land in 1943, when at the time they had  only 6,500 members. So we thought what would she think of it if she was magically brought back to life today.

Beatrix's father Rupert was a keen photographer and some of his family images can be seen online.

Beatrix was around in a time when many people cold sketch, and had the time for it, she was, in some ways, ahead of her time and held strong views.  So if we brought her back now, we could imagine she would see the benefit of the internet as a means of communication and would want to take photographs and use these to produce sketches and stories from. I am sure she would want to visit some of the National Trust properties, and use these in her stories, and having seen the National Trust website, would be emailing them to get permission to visit. In theory this is possible.

From NT website:-

Q. Where can I take photographs?

A. We welcome amateur photography out-of-doors at our properties. We regret that photography is not permitted indoors when houses are open to visitors. The use of mobile phones with built-in cameras is also not permitted indoors.

However, at most properties special arrangements can be made for interested amateurs (as well as voluntary National Trust speakers, research students and academics) to take interior photographs by appointment outside normal opening hours.

Requests to arrange a mutually convenient appointment must be made in writing to the property concerned. Not all properties are able to offer this facility and those that do may make an admission charge (including Trust members).

All commercial photography and filming requests must be channelled through the Broadcast and Media Liaison Officer. Telephone 01793 817400

So we set up an email address for Miss B Potter, and selected 10 NT houses making sure they were properties that were open to the public and had visitor counts over 50,000 a year, so would be ones run by professional staff employed by the National Trust. Then we sent them the following email:-


Good Morning,

I am a pensioner, artist and write short stories and a little poetry, and would like to base some of these on visits to impressive houses, at the moment this is just for my own interest with no immediate plans to publish, so need to keep down costs.

The way I like to work with my drawings and paintings is to take photos and then back at my home produce the art, this is far easier than getting in everyone’s way when out and about.  Looking on the NT website FAQ page http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-global/w-contact_us/w-faqs/w-faqs-visitor.htm I see that I can take photos inside NT premises by arrangement.  The photos are for my own use only I will not be selling them.

I have a few questions that I hope you can answer

  1. What is the cost to me in coming when you are normally closed to take photos

  2. Is there any restriction on using flash, I can take photos with available light if there is

  3. How far do I need to walk, I am not as young as I once was and I need to carry a tripod, camera, maybe flash and sketch and note pad.

  4. What dates in July are available.

Best wishes

B Potter (Miss)

So was Beatrix welcome, could she be one of the National Trust says it is for, 'The National Trust for ever, for everyone'  or should it really say 'The National Trust for ever, for everyone (exceptions apply)'.


Beatrix aged 15

There was a possibility with three of the ten of taking photos.
  • Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire. A most helpful reply offering a lot of help, photography possibly, no flash, but a lot of assistance.

  • Lanhydrock, Cornwall said they do allow access on Mondays when the house is closed, no flash, Donations welcome.  Suggested use of picture library pictures instead.

  • Trerice, Cornwall said they may be able to help, but asked for a phone number to discuss it.

These three were all helpful and we think Beatrix would be happy with the service these offered, and would be putting the Assistant Curator who replied from Waddesdon Manor on her Christmas card list, she was so helpful.

One more was helpful, although no photos was possible.

  • Sizergh Castle, Cumbria said no photos in house and it has a resident family so no access outside of public opening times. Suggested a visit when open and then let them know what rooms, photos required for and they may be able to find some.

One more acknowledged the email.
  • Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire replied to say they have forwarded it to the house manager but he was off duty until the end of the next week.

Beatrix would not have been at all happy with the other 5 who did not reply.

So overall 40% of enquiries got a helpful response. This may suggest that a secret customer programme may be something that the National Trust should consider.

In some ways allowing each property to self manage and come up with their response rather than a formulaic one solution fits all is a good idea, but perhaps they need a way of allowing those who can't or don't want to deal with enquiries to bounce them onto a customer support team who could then at least make sure peoples enquiries are answered. 50% of enquires not being answered, I would suggest, does indicate that there is a serious problem in this area that needs attention.


By:  Keith Park  Section: Heritage Key:
Page Ref: Bpotter&NT Topic: Heritage Last Updated: 06/2009

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