HISTORY is never complete. Local exhibitions often generate more valuable detail to add to what we already know, as Ambleside’s Armitt Museum experienced this summer, writes Jane Renouf.

Its current exhibition, Langdale in a Time Of Change, which runs until October 31, is itself history in the making: “It’s been most gratifying”, curator Deborah Walsh said. “This exhibition has brought in so many locals that I feel the Armitt has done something really worthwhile, and we now have so much more information than we had before. For instance, there’s never been a definitive account of how many farms Beatrix Potter actually owned or managed, which has caused some confusion. However, a development grant from The Foyle Foundation enabled the Armitt, with researcher Graham Kilner, to dig into the National Trust’s archives as well as go out and meet the descendants of Potter’s tenant farmers, to establish how many farms the children’s writer owned.”

This is new and valuable knowledge which the Armitt intends to publish in a little book will reveal how ‘hands-on’ Beatrix Potter was even at 70, managing 15 or 16 farms, and how she bought the Monk Coniston estate in 1930 jointly with the National Trust, managing it all until 1936. She gave some of her farms to the Trust in her lifetime and others in her will. Tenants remembered how she always collected the rent herself, and how knowledgeable she was about breeding and showing her prize sheep, and how she enjoyed auctions, arriving in her chauffeur-driven car. The extent of Beatrix Potter’s sheep farming enterprise will surprise many and the newly-established details will be included in a renewal of the museum’s Beatrix Potter: Image and Reality exhibition.

The Armitt is also taking history on tour, in the form of a mobile identity parade of old photographic portraits taken by Joseph Hardman and purchased by the Armitt last year. By displaying prints at Grasmere Sports and Cockermouth Tup Show in October, Deborah is hoping to add names to the many faces.

With the possible prospect of a general election this autumn, the Armitt is nothing if not topical with the subject of a new exhibition, starting in November. Planned months ago, it will explore local electioneering, 19th century-style, vividly illustrated with a newly-acquired collection of dramatic tabloid-style electioneering broadsides and pamphlets. As Deborah says, Victorian politics were riven with bribery and corruption, gerrymandering and even riots - providing a timely comparison with nowadays!