Beatrix Potter in the Lake District

Beatrix Potter, Lake District

Beatrix Potter was known for a number of things

Children's Stories

Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, Tom Kitten, and Pigling Bland are perhaps the best known characters from her nursery tales. Consider how these charming children's tales evolved

Beatrix Potter grew up in London, but travelled round Britain with her parents. In particular she grew to love the Lake District, where her parents rented several different holiday homes during her childhood

The Potter family rented several different holiday homes in the Lakes, from Wray Castle, on the shores of Windermere, to smaller houses the village of Sawrey. So that is why she decided to settle in Sawrey when she moved to the Lake District, and bought her home Hill Top Farm, where she wrote most of her stories - thirteen books in all, six of which are set in Hill Top itself.

Peter Rabbit came before Hill Top. Peter was a character the Beatrix Potter used in a letter she wrote to the small son of her former governess.  'Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter' were characters designed to cheer up five-year-old Noel who was was ill.

The evolution of the Peter Rabbit stories into book form took eight further years. Beatrix rewrote and illustrated the tales, then approached a number of publishers, only to be rejected by all of them. She had 250 copies privately published, and tried again to get a commercial publisher a year later. This time she was successful, and her first children's' book was published by Fredrick Warne, who continued to publish her books

It was the income from these first books that enabled Beatrix Potter to buy Hill Top farm. In 1903, Beatrix published two more books The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and The Tailor of Gloucester.  It was during the discussions over the publication of these books that she met Norman Warne, the youngest son of the owner of the publishing business. Their friendship blossomed, and eventually Norman wrote a letter proposing to Beatrix. Although her parents did not approve, she accepted the marriage proposal. However Norman suddenly died of pernicious anaemia within a few weeks of the engagement. Beatrix was devastated. She wrote in a letter to his sister, Millie, "He did not live long, but he fulfilled a useful happy life. I must try to make a fresh beginning next year."

National Trust Benefactor

Beatrix visited the Lakes for the first time in 1882 on a family holiday. She got to know the local vicar of Wray, Canon Rawnsley, who taught her about the importance of preserving the countryside. He also gave her the confidence to publish Peter Rabbit

It was in 1895, that Canon Rawnsley helped to found the National Trust, an organisation set up to protect and preserve land and buildings of beauty or historical importance.

When she lived in the Lake District she was able, with the income from her Peter Rabbit books, to buy land for the National Trust. For example in 1927 she produced fifty drawings which were sold in order to provide the funds to buy Cockshott Point, on Windermere. And in 1930, she purchased the 4,000 acre Monk Coniston Estate, including Tarn Hows, to prevent it being developed or broken up.

When she died in 1943, Beatrix Potter left 4000 acres of land to the National Trust, including 14 farms, cottages and many local areas of beauty including Tarn Hows. She was not altogether for all the people who ran the National Trust, remarking once. 'There are, I fear, a number of foolish people in the National Trust. The difference between them is that the Trust will continue...'

Lakeland Farmer

She was a farmer and landowner in the Lakes, where she was a breeder and judge of prize sheep

At Hill Top, she was able to develop her interest in animals. At first she could not stay in her new home because she was expected to take care of her parents in London, but it was her first step to independence, and she visited it whenever she could.

She went on to buy several farms in the Lake District and during the course of her negotiations she met and married the solicitor William Heelis in October 1913 when she was 47and began another stage of her life. They made their home at Castle Cottage, Sawrey.

Beatrix Potter bred prize pigs (one of which became immortalised as Pigling Bland). But she is best-known in farming circles for the Herdwick sheep which she began to breed after buying Troutbeck Farm in 1923. By then she had stopped writing and become a full time farmer. Herdwick sheep are a rare and threatened breed indigenous to the Lake District. She encouraged the revival of Herdwick sheep in all her farms, and her sheep won most of the major prizes at local shows.

Beatrix Potter - in the V&A in London

In 1973 Leslie Linder bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum a large collection of Beatrix Potter's drawings, manuscripts and early editions, with photographs by Rupert Potter and related memorabilia.

The Linder Collection

This collection of 280 drawings and 37 early editions was given by Leslie Linder to the National Book League (now the Book Trust) in 1970, to make Beatrix Potter's work more available to the general public. Since the end of 1989 it has been housed with the NAL's other Potter collections at the Archive of Art and Design. The Linder Collection is the property of a charitable trust, the Linder Trust.

Beatrix Potter Trail in the Lakes.

A collection of the places she lived, the things she did, the legacy she left behind, and the more commercial exploitation of her name today!

The World of Beatrix Potter, at the Old Laundry, Bowness

Open all year except January, shows you the world of rabbits, ducks and frogs that Beatrix Potter portrayed

Peter Rabbit and Friends

Can be found in St Martins Square in Bowness and can also be found in the Main Street in Windermere

Steamboat Museum

In Windermere. You will find Beatrix Potter's own rowing-boat is on display - and plenty more besides, including a number of steamboats, houseboats and other craft as well as (for those who are Arthur Ransome fans as well) Captain Flint's houseboat and the Amazon. The Steamboat Museum is open from Easter until October.

Hill Top

The ferry will take you from Windermere to the other side of the lake and the village of Sawrey. Beatrix Potter's Hill Top Farm is here. Hill Top farmhouse is where where Beatrix Potter lived and wrote many of her stories. It is now owned by the National Trust. It is furnished just as it would have been during her day, and you get the feeling that she has just stepped outside to attend to the hens. It is open on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday until the end of October.

Tarn Hows

Only a short distance from Sawrey is Tarn Hows, the beauty spot that Beatrix Potter bought as part of the Monk Coniston estate - a popular spot for a picnic or a walk.

Beatrix Potter Gallery

In Hawkshead Village, the Gallery is a exhibition of the original children's book illustrations. and an insight into her work as a farmer. This is open until the end of October on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Beatrix Potters Lake District Exhibition
In Keswick.This exhibition concentrates on Beatrix Potter's work as a farmer and National Trust benefactor. From the stunning 'farmyard', with the lady herself examining a Herdwick sheep, you can pass through to a compact yet comprehensive display, complete with videos and film, which explains this work in detail. The familiar voice of actress Hannah Gordon tells her story, with Dame Judi Dench playing the part of Beatrix Potter, to bring this fascinating character to life. The Exhibition is open from April to October. From November - March it is only open at weekends from 12 noon - 4 pm.

Peter Rabbit and Friends

A chain of shops in Windermere, Grasmere and Kirkby Lonsdale specialising in all things Peter Rabbit

Wray Castle

Where she spent childhood holidays. Wray Castle is on the lake opposite Windermere. It is not open to the public


Troutbeck, where Beatrix Potter bred Herdwick sheep at Troutbeck Park Farm.

Brief life of Beatrix Potter

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