Beatrix Potter

Thanks to
Beatrix's Life

Victorian childhood
Beatrix Potter was born on 28th July 1866 at No 2, Bolton Gardens, Kensington, in London. The Potters were a typical Victorian family, living in a large house with servants. Beatrix was looked after by a nanny, spending most of her time in the big nursery at the top of the house and often only seeing her parents at bedtime. When she was old enough to start lessons, the nursery was converted to a schoolroom and Beatrix was taught on her own by a governess. In those days, a girl of her social class often did not go to school.
Her younger brother Bertram was born when she was six years old. In spite of the difference in their ages, they became good friends as they grew up. They both enjoyed painting and drawing and they loved animals. The family always had a dog and the children also kept an assortment of different creatures as pets in the schoolroom, including rabbits, mice, frogs, lizards, snakes, snails and a bat.
Beatrix’s parents didn’t give her many opportunities to mix with other children but they were tolerant of the animals in the schoolroom. They also encouraged her interest in art, providing her with special art tutors and taking her to see exhibitions at galleries.
However, the most exciting time of the year for Beatrix was the summer. Every year her father rented a large house in Scotland for three months. The whole family travelled north by train with the dog, the servants and the carriage horses. Beatrix’s smaller creatures, such as a rabbit or mice, travelled with her in boxes. The house they visited most regularly was Dalguise, on the river Tay in Perthshire. Here the children had the freedom to explore the countryside and Beatrix learnt to observe plants and insects with an artist’s eye for detail.
The summer that Beatrix was sixteen Dalguise House was not available and so the family rented a property in the English Lake District instead. This was Beatrix’s first visit to the Lakes and she fell completely in love with the beauty of the countryside. It was an attraction that was to last for the rest of her life.

Secret diary
When Beatrix was fifteen, she began to keep a journal written in a secret code of her own invention. Even Beatrix herself, when she read back over it in later life, found it difficult to understand.
It was not until fifteen years after her death that the code was cracked. To the outside world Beatrix appeared a shy and reserved person but in her diary she was able to express herself openly, and she showed herself to be a strong critic of the artists, writers and politicians of the day.
Loves and losses
Norman Warne was the youngest of the three brothers who ran the publishing firm of Frederick Warne & Co., and he was assigned to be Beatrix Potter’s editor for The Tale of Peter Rabbit. He and Beatrix got on well from the first. Beatrix frequently made the journey by carriage to the Warne offices in Bedford Square to discuss the book’s production with Norman. It was not considered appropriate for a lady to visit business premises alone so Beatrix always had to take a female friend as a chaperone to these meetings.
By the time Beatrix was preparing The Tale of Two Bad Mice in 1904, Norman was fully involved in the creative process, buying doll’s house furniture as props for Beatrix to draw and inviting her to his brother’s house in Surbiton to sketch a real doll’s house he had made. Beatrix’s mother, however, refused to let her go. In her view, the Warne family were “in trade” and therefore not suitable friends for her daughter. Beatrix cared nothing for this. A romance was developing between her editor and herself, even though they were never able to spend any time alone together. On 25th July 1905 Norman sent Beatrix a letter proposing marriage. Beatrix’s parents were horrified and forbade the match. Eventually a temporary compromise was reached, whereby Beatrix was allowed to wear Norman’s ring but the engagement would not yet be made public. Sadly the issue was never resolved. Norman suddenly became very ill with a form of leukaemia and he died only a month after his proposal.
The tragedy was devastating for Beatrix but she did her best to overcome her grief by devoting herself to her work. She also spent as much time as she could in the Lake District where she was using the income from her books to buy farmland. The solicitor who helped with her property dealings was a local man, William Heelis, and he was to become the second love of her life. Their relationship developed gradually as they worked together and shared interests in the countryside and conservation. This time Beatrix ignored her parents’ opposition and she and William were married in October 1913. They remained happily together in the Lake District until Beatrix’s death in 1944.

Life in the Lake District
Hill Top Farm
As a young woman Beatrix had spent many holidays in the Lake District and the place she liked best was a village called Sawrey near Windermere. In 1905 she decided to use some of the income from her books and a legacy from her aunt to buy a traditional Lakeland farm in Sawrey called Hill Top. She arranged for an extension to be built on the house so that the farm manager, John Cannon, could continue to live there with his family and run the farm, with its pigs, cows, sheep, ducks and hens.
Although Beatrix was still living at home in London with her parents she spent as much time as she could visiting her new home. She organized renovations to the farmhouse and created a beautiful English cottage garden. Furthermore she used Hill Top as background material for the illustrations in her books.
In The Tale of Tom Kitten (1907) Tom and his family live in a house like Hill Top and the illustrations show the porch, glimpses of the interior and the wonderful flowery garden.
The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck (1908) is set in the farmyard. John Cannon’s wife and children appear in two of the illustrations, and both the simple-minded duck, Jemima, and Kep the kindly collie are based on real inhabitants of Hill Top Farm.
The Tale of Samuel Whiskers (1908) again features Tom Kitten and his family and has many scenes showing the rooms of the house looking exactly as they do today. The story was inspired by a real infestation of rats at Hill Top.
The Tale of Ginger and Pickles (1909) is set in the Sawrey village shop. The elderly owner of the shop appeared in the story at his own request, as a dormouse. By this time Beatrix was very much part of the local community. Her neighbours all enjoyed seeing representations of their homes and cats in a book.
The Tale of Pigling Bland (1913) features the Hill Top farm pigs, including the little black pig, Pig-wig, whom Beatrix kept as a pet because she was rejected by the farm manager as being too small. The story has a romantic ending with Pigling Bland and Pig-wig running away together. It was published in the year of Beatrix Potter’s marriage to William Heelis, although Beatrix always denied that the charming picture of the two pigs arm in arm represented her and William.
William Heelis
Managing Hill Top Farm taught Beatrix much about farming. With the money earned from the Peter Rabbit books, she began to extend her property in the Lake District. William Heelis was the local solicitor who advised her on her land dealings. He shared her love of the Lake District. In 1912, William Heelis proposed marriage to Beatrix and she accepted. William and Beatrix were married in October 1913 in London, when Beatrix was 47. They made their home at Castle Cottage, Sawrey.
Farming and The Fairy Caravan
During her lifetime Beatrix bought fifteen farms, and took a very active part in caring for them. Dressed in clogs, shawl and an old tweed skirt, she helped with the hay-making, waded through mud to unblock drains and searched the fells for lost sheep. She said she was at her happiest when she was with her farm animals.
With her shepherd, Tom Storey, she bred Herdwick sheep, winning major prizes at local shows. In 1943 she became the first woman to be elected President of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders’ Association, a sign of the high regard in which she was held by the local farming community.
She liked to keep secret her identity as Beatrix Potter, author of the Peter Rabbit books. However, she always welcomed American fans who made the journey to Hill Top, because she felt American readers had a more sympathetic understanding of her work than British ones. In 1929, she wrote her longest story, The Fairy Caravan, which featured her own Herdwick sheep. The book was dedicated to an American boy, Henry P. Coolidge, and she arranged for it to be published only in America by the firm of David McKay.
Conservation and the National Trust
Beatrix’s interest in conservation began on her first visit to the Lake District when she was sixteen. The local vicar was a charismatic young man called Hardwicke Rawnsley whose views on the need to care for the environment made a strong impression on Beatrix. Later Rawnsley was one of the three founders of the National Trust, dedicated to preserving places of historic interest and natural beauty.
Beatrix supported the National Trust all her life. She followed the Trust’s principles in managing her land, maintaining traditional buildings and farming methods. She understood the need to preserve rural culture as well as beautiful scenery. On her farms she reintroduced Herdwick sheep, a threatened native breed particularly suited to the Lake District fells.
When Beatrix died in 1943, she left fifteen farms and over 4,000 acres of land to the National Trust. In accordance with her wishes, Hill Top Farm was kept exactly as it had been when she lived in it and today receives thousands of visitors a year.

Miss Potter Film
Centred around the relationship between Beatrix Potter and Norman Warne, which developed while they worked together on the publication of the first few Peter Rabbit books and ended tragically in his early death, this Hollywood film stars Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor.
Directed by Chris Noonan (Babe), it took an incredible fourteen years to get from script to screen. It tells the fascinating tale of an incredible woman who created one of the world’s most enduring characters and became an author and artist of independent means in Victorian England.
Visit the National Trust's website to go behind the scenes and visit the stunning Lake District film


Helen Beatrix Potter is born at 2 Bolton Gardens, Kensington, London, on 28th July.


First governess
Miss Florrie Hammond is employed as Beatrix’s first governess.


Brother born
Beatrix’s brother, Walter Bertram is born on 14th March.


The Potters lease Dalguise House in Perthshire for the summer, the first of Beatrix’s holidays in Scotland.


Art lessons
Miss Cameron is employed to give Beatrix art lessons.


Art award
Beatrix is awarded an Art Student’s Certificate for model drawing and freehand.


Lake District
Wray Castle, near Windermere, Beatrix’s first visit to the Lake District.


New governess
A new governess is appointed for Beatrix, Miss Annie Carter.


Beatrix is seriously ill with rheumatic fever and has her waist-length hair cut short.


End of education
Beatrix’s education is considered finished.


First rabbit
Beatrix buys a rabbit, Benjamin Bouncer, from a pet shop.


Art sale
Beatrix sells six watercolour paintings.


Beatrix meets the famous Perthshire naturalist, Charles McIntosh.


Following the death of Benjamin Bouncer, Beatrix buys a new rabbit, Peter.


The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Beatrix sends a picture letter which tells the tale of Peter Rabbit for the first time.


A Frog he would a-fishing go
Beatrix sells a sequence of pictures called “A Frog he would a-fishing go”.


Beatrix is commissioned to prepare 12 lithographed plates of insects.


Royal Botanic Gardens
Beatrix’s uncle, assists her in getting a ticket to study fungus.


Linnean Society
Beatrix Potter’s scientific paper is presented to the Linnean Society.


Beatrix Potter publishes a privately-printed edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit illustrated in black and white.


Commercial edition
The Tale of Peter Rabbit is first published by Frederick Warne & Co.


Brother marries
Beatrix’s brother marries Mary Scott in Edinburgh.


The Tailor of Gloucester
Beatrix Potter’s privately-printed edition is published.


The Tailor of Gloucester and The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin are published


Peter Rabbit doll
Beatrix makes a Peter Rabbit doll.


The Tale of Benjamin Bunny and The Tale of Two Bad Mice are published.


Norman Warne proposes to Beatrix in July.


Norman Warne
Norman Warne dies of leukemia on 25th August.


The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and The Pie and The Patty-Pan.


Hill Top Farm
Beatrix Potter buys Hill Top Farm.


The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher, The Story of A Fierce Bad Rabbit and The Story of Miss Moppet.


The Tale of Tom Kitten
The Tale of Tom Kitten is published.


The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck and The Roly-Poly Pudding.


Castle Cottage Farm
Beatrix Potter buys Castle Cottage Farm.


The Tale of The Flopsy Bunnies and The Tale of Ginger and Pickles are published.


Jemima Puddle-duck doll
Beatrix registers a Jemima Puddle-duck doll at the Patent Office.


The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse is published.


The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes is published.


A new merchandising venture, Peter Rabbit’s Painting Book, is published.


Beatrix Potter leads a successful protest against a hydroplane factory.


The Tale of Mr. Tod is published.


The Tale of Pigling Bland is published.


Beatrix Potter marries William Heelis, in Kensington, London.


Castle Cottage Farm
Beatrix and William move into Castle Cottage.


Father dies
Beatrix Potter’s father, Rupert, dies on 8th May, aged 81.


Frederick Warne & Co. faces bankruptcy.


Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes and Tom Kitten’s Painting Book are published.


Brother dies
Beatrix Potter’s brother, Bertram, dies aged 46.


The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse is published.


Lindeth How
Beatrix Potter buys Lindeth How, for her widowed mother, Helen.


Nursing Trust
Beatrix Potter helps to sets up a Nursing Trust.


Pierre Lapin
Pierre Lapin (Peter Rabbit) and Jeannot Lapin (Benjamin Bunny) are published.


Published in braille
The first Peter Rabbit books are published in braille.


Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes is published by Frederick Warne & Co.


Troutbeck Park Farm
Beatrix Potter buys the 2,000-acre Troutbeck Park Farm.


Painting book
Jemima Puddle-Duck’s Painting Book is published.


Henry P. Coolidge
Thirteen-year-old Henry P. Coolidge from Boston visits Beatrix Potter at Hill Top.


Saving Cockshott Point
Campaigns to save the picturesque Cockshott Point at Windermere.


Peter Rabbit’s Almanac for 1929 is published.


The Fairy Caravan is published in Philadelphia.


Monk Coniston Estate
Beatrix buys the 4,000-acre Monk Coniston Estate.


Wins silver!
Beatrix wins the silver challenge cup for the best Herdwick ewe.


Mother dies
Beatrix Potter’s mother, Helen, dies on 20th December, aged 93.


An entire edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit is lost in a wartime bombing raid in London.


Beatrix is elected President of Herdwick Sheepbreeders’ Association.


Beatrix dies
Beatrix Potter dies at Castle Cottage, Sawrey on 22nd December, aged 77.


Husband dies
William Heelis, Beatrix’s husband, dies at Sawrey on 4th August, aged 73.


Hill Top Farm
Hill Top opened to the public by the National Trust.


Code broken
Leslie Linder, breaks the code of Beatrix Potter’s Journal.


Journal published
The Journal of Beatrix Potter, a complete transcription, is published.


Beatrix Potter’s fungus paintings used to illustrate Dr. W P K Findlay's Wayside and Woodland Fungi.


Ballet film
Tales of Beatrix Potter, featuring Royal Ballet dancers and choreographed by Frederick Ashton, is screened.


Beatrix Potter Society
Founded to promote the study and appreciation of her life and works.


New editions
Frederick Warne & Co. photograph Beatrix Potter’s artwork for all 23 Tales.


Beatrix Potter Gallery
Gallery dedicated to Beatrix Potter’s original art, is opened in Hawkshead.


The World of Beatrix Potter™
Themed attraction opens in Bowness-on-Windermere.


Animated TV series
The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends, begins on BBC TV.


Centenary year
“Reoriginated” new editions of all 23 Tales, published.


Miss Potter
The film Miss Potter is launched.


Peter Rabbit app
The first authorized Peter Rabbit app, available in iTunes


Emma Thompson
The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit, written by Oscar winning actress and screenwriter Emma Thompson.


Animation series
A brand new Peter Rabbit animation series is in development.



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Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter

Thanks to Beatrix's Life Victorian childhood Beatrix Potter was born on 28th July 1866 at No 2, Bolton Gardens, Kensingt…

Wiki - Beatrix Potter

Wiki - Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia This article is about the author. For the sociologist and reformer born Beatrice Potter, see …

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