Written on fine tissue paper, she starts by saying ‘you may remember my name’. She goes on to congratulate him on a speech he gave a year earlier to celebrate the town’s success in securing Catherine Parr’s prayer book. The Mayor had campaigned hard to raise funds to buy the Queen’s tiny prayer book because of the important link to Kendal.
However the main reason for Beatrix’s letter to Councillor Airey is, she says, to reassure him of her plans for a loom she purchased that very day; Kendal’s last working loom. ‘I will not take away a relic of Kendal without telling you’ she says and that it will not go to ‘Kendal museum, a dreary jumble of stuffed birds and sundries …’ but perhaps to ‘Coniston to the estate ‘workshop’..’.
She ends her letter by saying they are both ‘sentimental antiquarians’.
Beatrix’s remarkable letter, a copy of the prayer book and photographs of the ceremony are being sold by Henry Airey’s great grandson who hopes they will find an appreciative new home. The copy bible was presented to Mr Airey at the ceremony by the famed writer Hugh Walpole – who also signed it along with Margaret Strickland of Sizergh Castle.
Valuer David Brookes, from 1818 Auctioneers on the Cumbria, Lancashire border, has put an estimate of £1,500 on the collection. He said a letter to a Kendal bookseller from Beatrix Potter made a similar price at a recent auction.
As David Brookes explained:
“The two-sided letter is a delight to read. It is full of wit and reinforces Beatrix Potter’s passion for and commitment to preserving local skills and traditions. Given the Mayor’s successful efforts to secure Queen Katherine Parr’s Book of Devotion we can understand why she wanted to reassure him of her motives regarding Kendal’s last working loom.”
Katharine Parr was the sixth and last wife of King Henry VIII. Her name is also spelled ‘Catherine’ or ‘Kateryn’.
Katharine Parr’s father Sir Thomas Parr (c. 1483 – 11 November 1517) was an English knight, courtier and Lord of the Manor of Kendal in Westmorland.
UPDATE: The Beatrix Potter letter achieved a hammer price of £1,800.