Beatrix Potter was known for a number of things
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...'
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.
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.
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!
Peter Rabbit and Friends
Beatrix Potter Gallery
Peter Rabbit and Friends
Brief life of Beatrix Potter