Last year was the 150th anniversary of this Lake District icon – to mark the occasion we put together 150 fabulous facts celebrating the life, literature and legacy of author, artist and agriculturalist Beatrix Potter.
Lakes Culture celebrates the life, literature and legacy of Beatrix Potter with 150 fabulous facts about this this Lake District icon
// 150TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS
1. In January 2016 Patricia Routledge paid tribute to Beatrix Potter in this documentary to mark the 150th anniversary.
2. Beatrix Potter and the 150th Anniversary of a Lake District Icon included lots of National Trust events and activities, at various Lakes locations.
3. Throughout the year Allan Bank celebrated the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth by looking beyond her work as a children’s author and exploring the inspiration she took from her enduring friendship with Canon Rawnsley – Beyond Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter’s Inspiration.
4. You can still enjoy the Beatrix Potter musical Where’s Peter Rabbit? at the Old Laundry Theatre, in Bowness-on-Windermere, until 3 September 2017.
5. During 2016 the Old Laundry Theatre in Bowness-on-Windermere also premiered a second Beatrix Potter show – Meeting Bea.
6. Discover Beatrix Potter: Realism & Romance an exhibition of Beatrix’s original watercolours and illustrations, at the Beatrix Potter Gallery in Hawkshead, exploring the inspiration she found in the natural world.
7. Beatrix Potter & a Love of the Northern Lakes was an exhibition at Wordsworth House in Cockermouth, during 2016, highlighting the influence of the northern lakes on Beatrix Potter’s artwork.
8. Discover lots of Beatrix Potter related things to do on the Go Lakes website and download the Beatrix Potter 150th Anniversary Leaflet.
9. Thanks to a rediscovered manuscript a new Beatrix Potter book – The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots – was published in September 2016, featuring illustrations by Quentin Blake.
10. The Royal Mint marked the 150th anniversary of this incredible literary icon with a selection of 50p coins celebrating Beatrix Potter characters.
11. The Lakes International Comic Art Festival, which takes place in Kendal in October each year, invited students to creatively reinterpret the art of this Lake District icon with a Beatrix Potter Reimagined competition.
// LIFE OF A LITERARY ICON
12. Helen Beatrix Potter was born in London on 28 July 1866.
13. Born into a privileged Victorian family, Beatrix was educated at home by a sequence of three governesses at 2 Bolton Gardens, South Kensington.
14. On 14 March 1872 Beatrix’s brother Bertram was born.
15. Beatrix Potter started writing a personal journal between 1881 and 1887 – entries were written in a code that was cracked by Leslie Linder in 1958.
16. The journal code, a letter for letter substitution, was then transcribed revealing Beatrix Potter’s observations of her world as a young Victorian lady.
17. In the summer of 1882 Beatrix Potter first visited the Lake District – the Potter family rented the impressive Wray Castle, near Windermere, for this first family vacation.
18. The Lake District provided an idyllic adventure playground for Beatrix and her brother Bertram, where they could explore and draw the natural world around them – it was during these summer holidays that Beatrix Potter fell in love with the enchanting landscape of the Lake District.
19. The woodlands and fields provided ample opportunities to find animals that Beatrix and Bertram could tame – these pets fuelled their youthful imaginations and made perfect, if sometimes skittish, models for sketching.
20. In 1883 Bertram was sent to boarding school and Annie Carter join the Potter family as Beatrix’s governess.
21. Annie Carter was just three years older than Beatrix and the pair developed a strong, enduring friendship that would last a lifetime.
22. Between 1885, when Beatrix Potter was 19, and 1907, she spent nine summer holidays at Lingholm and one at Fawe Park – the estates of these two houses, located on the north western side of Derwentwater, and the surrounding landscape provided material for several of her books.
23. During these Lake District holidays Beatrix Potter became friends with the local vicar, Canon Rawnsley, who went on to be a founder member of the National Trust, and a lifelong friend and inspiration.
24. Beatrix Potter was to lose the close companionship of her governess Annie Carter, when she married Edwin Moore in 1886, leaving the Potter household.
25. Following Annie’s departure Beatrix Potter bought her first pet rabbit ‘Benjamin Bouncer’, who proved to be a perfect pet and model for sketching.
26. Over the years Annie and Beatrix remained in touch and Beatrix bestowed numerous delightful illustrated letters on Annie’s children.
// A LOVE OF THE NATURAL WORLD – BEATRIX POTTER: ILLUSTRATOR & MYCOLOGIST
27. In her twenties Beatrix Potter nurtured her love of natural history and continued to avidly illustrate flora and fauna, in particular she meticulously observed and sketched fungi.
28. Her parents did not actively encourage her intellectual development, but her enthusiasm for mycology (the scientific study of fungi) and her ability to produce detailed illustrations resulted in further artistic and scientific study.
29. Beatrix Potter’s interest in mycology continued to thrive after meeting the naturalist and amateur mycologist, Charles McIntosh during a summer holiday in Dunkeld, Perthshire in 1892.
30. Beatrix knowledge and keen observations continued over the years, specifically focusing on the germination of fungi – this included meticulous illustrations and scientific observations.
31. During her stay at Holehird in Troutbeck, in the summer of 1895, Beatrix produced 24 impressive watercolours of fungi that are now in the care of the Armitt Museum.
32. Another Lake District holiday followed in 1896 when the Potter family spent their holiday at Lakefield (now Ees Wyke, meaning ‘house east of the water’ in Old English) in Near Sawrey near Esthwaite Water.
33. After years observing and recording the reproductive nature of fungi, Beatrix Potter wrote up her conclusions and a paper was submitted on 1 April 1897, ‘On the Germination of the Spores of the Agaricineae’, to the Linnean Society.
34. Women were not allowed to present to the Linnean Society at that time, so Beatrix Potter’s paper was presented by George Massee on her behalf and rejected as presenting inadequate research – unfortunately the paper disappeared, along with the rich, artistic illustrations and drawings that accompanied it.
35. In 1997 the Linnean Society issued an official apology to Beatrix Potter, exactly one hundred years after the paper’s original reading.
36. Beatrix Potter (who was then referred to as Mrs Heelis – see point 50.) and her husband were members and generous benefactors of The Armitt Trust that was founded in 1912 in the Lake District town of Ambleside.
37. Beatrix bequeathed numerous mycological and natural history illustrations to the Armitt Museum and Library in Ambleside, upon her death in 1943 – today you can see a fine selection on display at the Armitt’s Beatrix Potter: Image & Reality exhibition.
// THE BIRTH OF PETER RABBIT
38. Back in 1897, rebuffed by the Linnean Society but undeterred, the commendable Beatrix Potter determined to pursue her writing in a new vein that involved two of her greatest talents – beautiful illustrations of animals and compelling children’s stories.
39. Peter Rabbit and his somewhat traumatic adventure had first manifested in 1893 as an illustrated letter to Annie Moore’s young son Noel.
40. Bertram Potter was so impressed by his sister’s imaginative tale that he encouraged his sister, then in her mid-twenties, to approach some publishing houses.
41. Beatrix Potter did have some success commercially with her illustrations, but the story of the rather naughty Peter Rabbit, with its collection of black and white drawings, was rejected by several publishers.
42. Consequently this resolute young writer decided to print 250 copies independently to circulate to her friends and family.
43. On condition of providing accompanying coloured illustration, The Tale of Peter Rabbit was finally published by Frederick Warne & Co in 1902, costing just one shilling (, and is today one of the most famous books ever written.)
44. 8000 copies were printed in the first run and by the end of 1903 more than 50,000 copies had been sold.
45. Today over 40 million copies of this adorable tale of the mischievious Peter Rabbit have been sold worldwide.
46. This international best selling children’s story has now been translated into more than 35 languages.
47. Beatrix Potter went on to publish two books in 1903 – The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and The Tailor of Gloucester.
// BEATRIX POTTER’S HILL TOP HOME
48. In 1905 with the money she made from her early books she made the Lake District her house and bought Hill Top Farm in the village of Near Sawrey.
49. Managing Hill Top taught Beatrix much about farming and she began to extend her property in the Lake District.
50. A local solicitor William Heelis, from Hawkshead, advised her on her property dealings and was later to become her husband in 1913.
51. Once married, at the age of 47, Mr and Mrs Heelis moved to Castle Cottage, minutes away from Hill Top.
52. 7 July 2016 marked a special anniversary for the National Trust team at Hill Top, celebrating seventy years of being open to the public.
// A TALE OF 23 TALES
53. Beatrix Potter wrote about 30 books between 1902–1930, but she is best known for her 23 children’s tale.
54. The twenty-three Beatrix Potter books published by Frederick Warne & Co are enchanting stories of curious, clever, mischievious, industrious and sometimes soporific animals.
55. Beatrix Potter was 36 when her first little book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was published.
56. The original tale of Peter Rabbit was in fact written in 1883 for five-year-old Noel Moore, who was the son of Potter’s former governess Annie Carter Moore.
57. Beatrix Potter’s second little book, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, was published in 1903.
58. This tale of a rather rebellious and cheeky squirrel originated as an illustrated story sent to eight-year old Norah Moore, Annie Carter Moore’s daughter, in 1901.
59. The Squirrel Nutkin picture letter was inspired by Beatrix Potter’s summer vacation at Lingholm, where she had spent the summer sketching the residents of the local red squirrel colony.
60. Owl Island in the story is modelled on St. Herbert’s Island on Derwentwater in the Lake District.
61. Also in 1903, Beatrix Potter published a book that is considered to be her personal favourite – The Tailor of Gloucester.
62. This story could have been inspired by a local legend involving a Gloucester tailor John Pritchard (1877-1934).
63. Legend has it that Mr Pritchard was commissioned to make a suit for the new mayor and after giving up one evening he returned to his shop on the Monday morning and found the suit completed except for one buttonhole, with a note attached “No more twist”.
64. Prichard’s assistants had finished the coat during the night, but a fiction unfolded suggesting that it has been the work of fairies!
65. The Tailor of Gloucester was dedicated to Annie Moore’s daughter Freda and includes a cast of diligent mice applying their tailoring skills to help out the exhausted Tailor of Gloucester despite the dastardly antics of Simpkin the cat.
66. After a summer time spent at the scenic Fawe Park in Keswick in 1903, Beatrix Potter went on to write and publish The Tale of Benjamin Bunny in 1904.
67. The kitchen garden of Fawe Park features in the story and it was Beatrix Potter’s own pet rabbit who modeled for the character of Benjamin Bunny.
68. In 1904 The Tale of Two Bad Mice was published.
69. This story of mousey mischief and mayhem was inspired by Hunca Munca and Tom Thumb, Beatrix Potter’s two pet mice.
70. The doll’s house that features in the tale was a creation that Norman Warne, Beatrix Potter’s publisher and editor, was working on for his niece Winifred.
71. Some of the doll’s house furniture that Beatrix Potter sketched for this tale can be see today on display at Hill Top. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hill-top
72. It was during the writing of The Tale of Two Bad Mice that Beatrix Potter and Norman Warne fell in love.
73. Despite family disapproval because he was a ‘tradesman’, the two were engaged, but sadly Norman passed away in 1905 before they were married.
74. After losing her fiancé Beatrix Potter dedicated her energy into further little books.
75. Now living at Hill Top Farm, Beatrix Potter immersed herself in the landscape and characters surrounding her in this scenic corner of Cumbria.
76. The Newlands Valley and surrounding Lake District fells provided the inspiration for Beatrix Potter’s fifth children’s book – The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle.
77. The book is dedicated to Lucy Carr, the daughter of the Vicar of Newlands and features ‘a good little girl’ named Lucie who lived at a farm called ‘Little-town’.
78. It was Beatrix’s very own pet hedgehog, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, who provided both the inspiration and model for the story.
79. ‘Catbells’ is Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle’s address in the tale and the view looking north of the summit overlooks Keswick on the edge of Derwentwater.
80. The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan, published in 1905, includes further exquisite illustrations of the delightful cottages and gardens located close-by Beatrix Potter’s Lake District Hill Top home in the village of Near Sawrey,
81. Beatrix Potter had originally written this story in 1903 and the sketches were also completed prior to Beatrix Potter buying Hill Top, reflecting her intimate interest in this idyllic Lake District spot.
82. Characters in the book were modelled on local pets: Ribby was a cat living in Sawrey; Duchess was inspired by two Pomeranians belonging to Beatrix Potter’s neighbour; while Tabitha Twitchit was the resident Hill Top cat.
83. In 1906 The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher was published.
84. This story, introducing the antics of a rather dapper frog, is revised from a picture-letter Beatrix Potter wrote on 5 September 1893 for Eric, the son of Annie Moore her former governess and friend.
85. Beatrix Potter sketched her very own pet frog ‘Punch’ for the illustrations.
86. The published version of the tale sees Mr. Jeremy Fisher’s watery home relocated from the River Tay to the Lake District.
87. 1906 was a productive year for Beatrix Potter with an additional two publications, this time stories rather than her trademark ‘Tales’.
88. The Story of A Fierce Bad Rabbit was an experimental book for its time (and today is very collectable!), presented accordion-style, with 14 pictures and text that folded into a tidy wallet that was then tied with a ribbon.
89. This novel approach proved to be popular with readers but not so popular with booksellers, who found the book hard to display.
90. From fierce rabbits to curious kittens… The Story of Miss Moppet was the 3rd book Beatrix Potter was to publish in 1906.
91. This lovable story features the adorable, if mischievous, Miss Moppet who was modeled on a rather hyperactive kitten belonging to a mason from Windermere.
92. The kitten characters continued for Beatrix Potter’s next book, The Tale of Tom Kitten, published in 1907, with delightful illustrations of Hill Top and its idyllic cottage gardens.
93. The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, published in 1908, was Beatrix Potter’s first book located entirely on a farm.
94. Illustrations for Jemima, Kep the collie, the farmer’s wife and her two children were all inspired by real characters living at and around Hill Top Farm.
95. The sketches of Hill Top and Lake District views from Near Sawrey remain remarkably unchanged today, and you can still pop into the Tower Bank Arms for pint!
96. The Puddle-Ducks and Tom Kitten saw an additional musical resurrection in 1935, in two books of piano pieces for children.
97. 1908 also saw the publication of the much-anticipated sequel to The Tale of Tom Kitten – The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or, The Roly-Poly Pudding.
98. Featuring the audacious, snuff-taking rat Samuel Whiskers, this tale is said to have been inspired by the invasion of rats that greeted Beatrix Potter when she first moved into Hill Top.
99. The book also has a dedication to Sammy, Beatrix Potter’s pet rat.
100. In 1909 Beatrix Potter published The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies.
101. This endearing tale provides another sequel, this time to the adventures of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny in later life, introducing us to Benjamin and Flopsy’s seven adorable and rather sleepy bunny babies.
102. The Tale of Ginger and Pickles, also published in 1909, is another Lake District inspired story dedicated to John Taylor who owned the local village shop in Smithy Lane, Sawrey.
103. John Taylor had aspirations to feature in one of Beatrix Potter’s books, perhaps as a dormouse – his literary dream came true when he was reinvented as John Dormouse in this charming tale.
104. From dormouse to The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse, a darling house-proud wood mouse who encounters a number of unwelcome insects, arachnids and amphibians into her house beneath the hedge.
105. The exquisite illustrations in this story, published in 1910, are testimony to Beatrix Potter’s artistic skill and reflect her experience in drawing insect anatomy.
106. The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes in 1911, which introduces the character of Timmy Tiptoes, an eastern grey squirrel – making this story unique as the first of her tales to feature an American mammal.
107. This story, hoping to appeal to Beatrix Potter’s growing American audience, also features chipmunks and a black bear.
108. Around this time Beatrix Potter was actively involved with a campaign opposing hydroplanes on Windermere, which consequently saw another year pass before The Tale of Mr. Tod was ready to be published in 1912.
109. Introducing two rather disagreeable characters, Mr. Tod the Fox and Tommy Brock the badger, this story is an alternative to the ‘many books about well-behaved people’ that Beatrix Potter had written – although it does still have a happy ending.
110. 1913 saw the publication of The Tale of Pigling Bland.
111. The story of Pig-wig is believed to have been inspired by a black Berkshire pig that Beatrix Potter kept as a pet.
112. In 1913 Beatrix Potter married Wiliam Heelis and moved to Castle Cottage, a moment that saw her world begin to shift away from her little books and towards her life as a married country lady in the Lake District.
113. A beautifully illustrated book – Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes was published in 1917, followed by The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse a year later.
114. Published in December of 1918 The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse is based on the Aesop fable, ‘The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse’.
115. The tale carries a dedication ‘To Aesop in the shadows’ and tells the story of Johnny, the sophisticated town mouse from Hawkshead and Timmy Willie, the resident of a garden in Sawrey.
116. Another 4 years passed before Beatrix Potter published Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes in 1922.
117. The guinea pigs that feature in this little book were actually illustrations that date back to 1893 and the models were Beatrix’s neighbour’s pets.
118. The Tale of Little Pig Robinson was the last of Beatrix Potter’s little books, published in 1930, but was in fact one of the first books she wrote.
// DISCOVER BEATRIX POTTER’S LAKE DISTRICT
119. By the early 1930’s she had bought over 4000 acres of farmland with the money she had made from her 23 tales.
120. In 1923, as part of her quest to help preserve the traditional Lake District landscape and character, Beatrix Potter (Mrs Heelis) acquired Troutbeck Park Farm – enjoy a walk from Ambleside to Troutbeck taking in this beautiful Lakes landscape.
121. In Ambleside be sure to visit the Armitt Museum’s Beatrix Potter: Image & Reality exhibition – a perfect opportunity to further explore the incredible life of Beatrix Potter through her writing, scientific theories and meticulous illustrations.
122. Brockhole, by Windermere, was the home of Beatrix Potter’s cousin Edith who married the merchant William Gaddum and she wrote to her young second cousins Jim and Molly when they lived here.
123. Today you can discover the Beatrix Potter Trail in the scenic grounds of the Brockhole Lake District Visitor Centre, Windermere – which indeed shares its very name with dastardly Mr Brock the badger.
124. The Beatrix Potter Gallery, in Hawkshead, is located in the 17th Century building, which was once the office of her husband, local solicitor William Heelis, and remains largely unaltered since his day.
125. Tarn Hows was bought by Beatrix Potter to protect it – today you can enjoy a walk and picnic in this beautiful unspoilt Lake District spot.
126. Yew Tree Farm was one of Beatrix’s tenanted farms and the most well-photographed of all her properties – built in 1690, Yew Tree Farm was owned by Beatrix Potter during the 1930s and today offers luxury self-catering accommodation – it also featured in the film ‘Miss Potter’.
127. Another unmissable Beatrix Potter location is Hill Top, which today is still full of her treasured possessions and left unchanged from the day she died in 1943.
128. Next door to Hill Top is the Tower Bank Arms, which can be seen in one of the sketches for The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck – why not enjoy a drink and meal in this traditional Lakeland pub that today remains remarkably unchanged?
129. Enjoy Beatrix Potter’s Windermere with 3 boats and 1 walk to discover Wray Castle, the Brockhole Lake District Vistor Centre and Ambleside, with Windermere Lake Cruises.
130. Explore a Wray Castle, a mock-Gothic castle sitting on the shores of Lake Windermere with turrets, towers and informal grounds, where Beatrix Potter stayed with her family for a Lake District holiday in 1882 when she was 16.
131. Walk in the footsteps of Beatrix Potter – Go Lakes have mapped a route around the shores of Lake Windermere and over the wooded fells of Claife Heights to the villages of Sawrey and Hawkshead.
132. Discover Beatrix Potter’s Derwentwater – you can still stand in the locations that inspired her, gazing across the water to St Herbert’s Island, a favoured nut collection spot for Squirrel Nutkin and his friends.
133. Explore the secluded Newlands Valley – enjoy the sweeping panorama of the valley sides and wander past Littletown, the farm where Lucie begins her adventures.
134. How about a stroll to Esthwaite Water and Moss Eccles Tarn – scenic settings for The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher, both only a short walk from Beatrix Potter’s home in Near Sawrey.
135. Families will delight in The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction at Bowness-on-Windermere, where visitors come face-to-face with many of Beatrix’s well loved characters.
// HERDWICKS & HERITAGE
136. When Beatrix Potter bought Hill Top Farm and other Lake District farms and estates with the profits from her publications, she proceeded to introduce Herdwicks to her land.
137. In 1923 she bought an old deer park in the Troutbeck Valley and restored the land with another herd of Herdwick sheep.
138. A dedicated and accomplished Herdwick sheep breeder, Beatrix Potter was elected as the first female president of the Herdwick Sheepbreeders’ Association in 1942.
139. A big supporter of Octavia Hill’s National Trust, Beatrix Potter worked with the organisation to purchase Lakeland farms in the Monk Coniston Estate, with the intention of being the custodian of the estate until the Trust was able to buy the land back.
// A LASTING LAKE DISTRICT LEGACY
140. On 22 December 1943 Beatrix Potter died at her home in Near Sawrey aged 77.
141. After her death in 1943, she left her 15 farms and 4000 acres of land to the National Trust, on the understanding that her beloved Hill Top Farm at Near Sawrey would be opened to the public and left unchanged.
142. Hill Top opened to the public in 1946 with an entrance fee of one shilling – Mrs Susan Ludbrook was the first custodian and only member of staff.
143. Hill Top was an immediate success and had over 1,000 visitors in the first seven weeks, today it is still one of Cumbria’s most popular visitor attractions, welcoming around 100,000 visitors each year, from all over the world.
144. 2016 has been a special anniversary year for the National Trust team at Hill Top, with vintage-themed celebrations on 7 July to mark seventy years of being open to the public.
145. Since 1943 Beatrix Potter’s books have continued to be popular world-wide, inspiring numerous song, stage and screen performances.
146. ‘The Tales of Beatrix Potter’ is a 1971 ballet adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s stories choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton (who performs as Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle), directed by Reginald Mills and featuring dancers from the Royal Ballet.
147. 1982 saw ‘The Tale of Beatrix Potter’, a BBC TV dramatisation featuring Penelope Wilton as Beatrix Potter
148. In 2006 ‘Miss Potter’ came to the screen starring Oscar winner Renée Zellweger, as Beatrix Potter and Ewan McGregor in the role of Norman Warne – the film is charming biopic of Beatrix Potter’s life during her Hill Top Farm years featuring various Lake District locations – you can explore the ‘Miss Potter’ movie map here
149. Beatrix Potter’s most famous character has now been brought into the digital age with Peter Rabbit, a new CBeebies show.
150. Today you can visit numerous venues and locations connected to this iconic author and artist – find our more about Beatrix Potter, the Lake District and the National Trust.
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Information for these 150 facts have been pulled together from numerous online sources (Wikipedia, the National Trust, Visit Cumbria and Go Lakes)
Additional sources include:
– Image & Reality: Beatrix Potter – A Portrait of an Extraordinary woman – (The Armitt Trust, 2014)
– Beatrix Potter: The Complete Tales – (Frederick Warne, 1989)