Armitt Gallery, Museum and Library

(See also Ambleside)

Armitt Library courtesy Armitt LibraryLike its name, the Armitt combines the functions of a library and museum. Located in Ambleside, it houses the Armitt Collection, made up of art, archaeology, archives, books, geology, photography, and local history. It’s a resource with much information.

The art collection showcases a little known side of Beatrix Potter a collection of 400 drawings and painting of fungi and other botanical plants. Other painters of the Lake District are represented in the collection.

The archaeology section includes prehistoric and Roman material found in the Ambleside area. A collection of Lake District specimens made by John Ruskin is on display in the geology section.

Armitt Library courtesy Armitt LibraryThe archives are a source of invaluable material for the serious student. Representing John Ruskin, Harriet Martineau, and Charlotte Mason, among others, the collection includes manuscripts, letters, folk songs, records, and deeds.

Beatrix Potter was a member of the Armitt for thirty years and its greatest benefactor. She gave books and artwork during her lifetime and bequeathed her portfolios of botanical watercolours and personal copies of her ‘little books’ to it on her death.

Beatrix Potter: Image and Reality is a permanent exhibition mounted with assistance from the National Trust. The exhibition explores her life as a scientist, storyteller and illustrator, businesswoman, farmer, sheep breeder, estate manager, and conservationist.

The Armitt also has a gallery devoted to its Kurt Schwitters collection. Kurt Schwitters was a German refugee artist. A member of the pre – war avant-garde, he was denounced by the Nazis and was forced to flee first to Norway and then to Britain. He arrived in Ambleside in 1945 in ill health and spent the rest of his life there, dying in 1948. The Armitt has a growing collection of his work some of which has recently been on display at the Tate Britain and in Germany. Kurt Schwitters is now regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

Armitt story book courtesy Armitt LibraryMore than 10,000 books relating to the Lake District and its society encompass early guide books, medieval Cumbria, Lakeland poets, and works by local authors.

Those into personal memorabilia will be interested in the museum collection of artifacts belonging to such well known Lake District personalities as John Ruskin and Dorothy Wordsworth. As well, on display are historical items that were in use by everyday people of the area. A collection of Victorian photographs brings history to life.

The Armitt Library was founded in 1909 by Mary Armitt for scholars and serious students. As the collections grew a museum aspect was added to the library. The museum shop sells books, photographs, and prints, and these may also be purchased from the excellent website.

For anyone interested in the history and the literary figures of the area the Armitt Library and Museum is an invaluable resource full of fascinating material.

Armitt Library and Museum
Rydal Road
Ambleside, Cumbria LA22 9BL
Ambleside is on the A591.
Tel. 015394 31212
Website: Open: year round, museum, Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm; library, Mon-Sat, 10am-4pm.

Note: Please check opening times and dates before visiting in case of changes.

Photos courtesy of Armitt Library

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