Falmouth has the little known claim to fame that one of the world’s best loved children’s authors and illustrators, Beatrix Potter (1866 – 1943), enjoyed visiting the town for family holidays.

Moreover, during her stays here she sent illustrated letters to Noel and Eric Moore, the children of her former governess Annie, that went on to become the inspiration for her famous stories.

A letter she sent to Eric from the Pendennis Hotel on March 28, 1984 containing preliminary ideas for The Tale of Little Pig Robinson is currently on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum to Falmouth Art Gallery and forms one of the highlights of their ‘Ingenious?’ exhibition, on display until September 11.

Potter first visited Falmouth in March 1892 when she was still unknown. It was during this trip that she sent her earliest known illustrated letter from the Falmouth Hotel to four-year-old Noel Moore.

She wrote: "I have come a very long way in a puff-puff to a place in Cornwall, where it is very hot and there are palm trees in the gardens and camellias and rhododendrons in flower which are very pretty.

"We are living in a big house close to the sea. We go on the harbour in a steam boat and see ever so many big ships."


Beatrix Potters letter to Eric Moore

Beatrix Potter's letter to Eric Moore


She also wrote at length about Cornwall in her coded journal dated 1881-1897. This was decoded and transcribed by Leslie Linder in 1989 and printed by Potter’s Publisher Frederick Warne & Co. Her writing tells of very busy and enjoyable stays, you can read more extracts on Elizabeth Dale’s blog The Cornish Bird: https://cornishbirdblog.com/2019/10/20/beatrix-potter-in-cornwall/

Falmouth Art Gallery’s ‘Ingenious?’ exhibition explores a wide and eclectic range of inventiveness in Cornwall, with a focus on the Foxes of Falmouth. It sheds a light on the commercial activities of GC Fox & Co, ship agents established in Falmouth in 1759 and on those of George Crocker Fox’s descendants including the magnetic experimentation of Robert Were Fox II FRS and his ‘Dipping Needle’; the vision and erudition of his three children Anna Maria, Caroline and Barclay and the role that they played both in founding ‘The Poly’ and in a wider social sphere which included many noted writers, polemicists, economists and poets.

The family was extensive and had many houses in both Falmouth and the surrounding area, including Penjerrick which was visited by Beatrix Potter during one of her stays.


Penjerrick by Anna Maria Fox Picture: Falmouth Art Gallery Collection

Penjerrick by Anna Maria Fox Picture: Falmouth Art Gallery Collection


Potter recalls her time visiting the Fox Family: “One garden at Penjerrick, the residence of Miss Fox, who with her nephew Mr Robert Fox, seems to be the head of the family – is thrown open to visitors twice a week. It is a rambling old house full of aviaries and pets, doves cooing, and beautiful Persian cats walking about under the rookery on the lawn.

"The house stands at the very head of a straight, narrow coombe, with trees shutting in either side, a tropical garden in the steep trough of the ravine, and a little patch of blue sea far below in the distance. It is the most successful and striking piece of landscape-gardening I ever met with, but struck me as being almost too picturesque.

"It must be extremely beautiful in summer, but after all, tree ferns and feathery canes are rather out of place in an old English garden. There is nothing like a box-border and the scent of wall-flower and polyanthus over a snug brick wall.

"One thing at Penjerrick amused us, an ingenious arrangement of cord and pulley, whereby the old dame at the Lodge was able to open the gate with-out leaving the porch of her cottage, a charming example of that union of kindly comfort and successful usefulness in which Quakers excel.’

‘Ingenious?’ is on display at Falmouth Art Gallery until September 11. There are free ‘Ingenious?’ themed drop-in family workshops every Tuesday and Wednesday from 10am to 3pm until September 2.