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Lake District Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter 1866 - 1943

Beatrix Potter with her dogBEATRIX POTTER was born in London in 1866 and lived until 1943. Her love of the countryside stemmed from her childhood holidays in the Lake District. In the 19th Century, there was no formal education for girls and Victorian values also forbid her to become a farmer. When Beatrix was young she had various animals as pets, which she made drawings of, whilst watching them.

During the summer months she would go to Scotland with her parents for a 3 month holiday. When she was [16] they could not go to Scotland because the house they usually rented was not available. Therefore, her parents decided to go to the Lake District and stayed and stay at a luxury hotel near Ambleside.

Beatrix became friends with the vicar, Cannon H. Rawnsley of Wray Church, who would later encourage Beatrix to publish her first book, "The Tale of Peter Rabbit". Cannon H. Rawnsley would become one of the co-founders of the National Trust, in the hope of preserving the natural beauty of the Lake District.

Over many years the family would visit the Lake District periodically, staying at various areas, watching the animals and also making many sketches of the numerous landscapes. Although she stayed in many places, she still remained in contact with Cannon H. Rawnsley and he would encourage her in her drawings. On returning home to London from her holidays she would make greeting cards of her pictures and eventually began making a book.

Beatrix Potter outside her houseThe book was to be "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" and was sent to Frederick Warne, a well known publisher of children's books. But it was returned, and many other publishers also rejected it. In 1901 she found a printer herself and he produced 250 copies of the book for a cost of 11. The books were then sold to doting aunts and uncles for their nephews, nieces and to friends for a price of 1s 2d. They sold well and more were produced. Also, another book was brought out, named "The Tailor of Gloucester" in 1902. In this year, Frederick Warne contacted Beatrix and said they would publish "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" if it could be published in colour. Then several books followed-"The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin" and "The Tale of Benjamin Bunny".

In 1905, Norman Warne, the son of the publisher, whom she spent a lot of time with, proposed to her. Beatrix' parents were upset at this, but she went ahead and became engaged to him. In doing so, she disobeyed her parents for the first time. During the summer of 1905 and a few weeks into their engagement, he fell ill and died of leukemia.

Also in 1905 she used her earnings to buy Hill Top, which was a farm in nearby Sawrey. Here, she would be able to escape to from London. The next 8 years, while based in London, she kept herself occupied by writing more books. The ideas came from Hill Top when visiting the farm.

In 1909, with her income beginning to grow, she bought Castle Cottage, a property just across the road from Hill Top, using a solicitors at the W. Heelis offices in Hawkshead [which are now the National Trust's "Beatrix Potter Gallery"], In1913, she married Mr Heelis, despite her parents disapproval. They lived together in Castle cottage. It was a bigger and more convenient farm cottage than Hill Top and it became her home for the next 30 years. Hilltop now had a farm manager at one end and the part in which she lived, remained empty and her possessions exactly as she left them. This later became her personal museum.

Beatrix was now Mrs. Heelis, a woman farmer who only wrote a few more books, rather giving herself to purchasing more property in and around Sawrey. In 1923 she purchased Troutbeck Park Farm and the Monk Coniston Estate in 1930, in which Tarn Hows is situated.

Beatrix PotterBeatrix was a passionate conservationist and as a farmer she became best known for the breeding of Herdwick sheep, Lakeland's own breed. She would talk more about the sheep than the books she wrote attending exhibitions and judging them.

When she died on 22 December 1943, aged 77, Beatrix Potter left 211,636, 14 farms and 4000 acres of land to the National Trust, together with her flocks of Herdwick sheep. The copyright of all her works went firstly to her husband and then onto her favourite nephew, Norman Warne.

Don't forget to visit World of Beatrix Potter Attraction at Windermere


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