Beatrix Potter

English author, illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist Beatrix Potter  was Born 28th July 1866. She is best known for her imaginative children’s books featuring animals such as those in The Tale of Peter Rabbit which celebrated the British landscape and country life. She was born into a privileged Unitarian family, and along with her younger brother, Walter Bertram, grew up with few friends outside her large extended family. Her parents were artistic, interested in nature and enjoyed the countryside. As children, Beatrix and Bertram had numerous small animals as pets which they observed closely and drew endlessly. Summer holidays were spent in Scotland and in the English Lake District where Beatrix developed a love of the natural world which was the subject of her painting from an early age.She was educated by private governesses until she was eighteen. Her study of languages, literature, science and history was broad and she was an eager student. Her artistic talents were recognized early. Although she was provided with private art lessons, Potter preferred to develop her own style, particularly favouring watercolour. Along with her drawings of her animals, real and imagined, she illustrated insects, fossils, archeological artefacts, and fungi. In the 1890s her mycological illustrations and research on the reproduction of fungi spores generated interest from the scientific establishment.

The Tale of Mister Tod http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RSHGpAlCt00

After illustrating cards and booklets, Potter wrote and illustrated The Tale of Peter Rabbit publishing it as a small, three-colour illustrated book with Frederick Warne & Co. Potter then went on to write many other books (such as The Tale of Ginger and Pickles, about the local shop in Near Sawrey and The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse, a wood mouse) which reflected her increasing participation in village life and her delight in country living. Between 1902 & 1922 Potter Wrote, illustrated and designed spin-off merchandise based on her children’s books for Warne and published over twenty-three books.With the proceeds from the books and a legacy from an aunt, Potter bought Hill Top Farm Near Sawrey, a tiny village in the English Lake District near Ambleside in 1905. Over the next several decades, she purchased additional farms to preserve the unique hill country landscape. Realising she needed to protect her boundaries she sought advice from Solicitors W.H. Heelis & Son. With William Heelis acting for her she bought contiguous pasture. In 1912 Heelis proposed and Beatrix accepted and The couple moved immediately to Castle Cottage, the renovated farm house on Castle Farm. Hill Top remained a working farm but was now remodelled to allow for the tenant family and Potter’s private studio and work shop.

Potter settled into country life with her solicitor husband and his large family, her farms, the Sawrey community. The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck and The Tale of Tom Kitten are representative of Hill Top Farm and of her farming life, and reflect her happiness with her country life. Potter also became a prize-winning breeder of Herdwick sheep and a prosperous farmer keenly interested in land preservation. She also established a Nursing Trust for local villages, and served on various committees and councils responsible for footpaths and other country life issues, Potter had been a disciple of the land conservation and preservation ideals of her long-time friend and mentor, Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, the first secretary and founding member of the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty. She supported the efforts of the National Trust to preserve not just the places of extraordinary beauty, but those heads of valley and low grazing lands that would be irreparably ruined by development. She was also an authority on the traditional Lakeland crafts, period furniture and stonework and restored and preserved the farms that she bought or managed, making sure that each farm house had in it a piece of antique Lakeland furniture. Potter was interested in preserving not only the Herdwick sheep, but the way of life of fell farming.

In 1930 the Heelises became partners with the National Trust in buying and managing the fell farms included in the large Monk Coniston Estate. The estate was composed of many farms spread over a wide area of western Lancashire, including the famously beautiful Tarn Hows. Potter became the de facto estate manager for the Trust for seven years until the National Trust could afford to buy most of the property back from her. Her stewardship of these farms earned her wide regard. She was notable in observing the problems of afforestation, preserving the intake grazing lands, and husbanding the quarries and timber on these farms. All her farms were stocked with Herdwick sheep and frequently with Galloway cattle. Following her death Beatrix Potter left almost all her property to the National Trust including over 4,000 acres (16 km2) of land, sixteen farms, cottages and herds of cattle and Herdwick sheep.

Beatrix Potter sadly passed away 22 December 1943 near Sawry. However She is credited with preserving much of the land that now comprises the Lake District National Park and left almost all the original illustrations for her books to the National Trust. The copyright to her stories and merchandise was given to her publisher Frederick Warne & Co, now a division of the Penguin Group. Hill Top Farm was opened to the public by the National Trust in 1946 her artwork was displayed there until 1985 when it was moved to William Heelis’s former law offices in Hawkshead, also owned by the National Trust as the Beatrix Potter Gallery. Potter gave her folios of mycological drawings to the Armitt Library and Museum in Ambleside before her death. The Tale of Peter Rabbit is owned by Frederick Warne and Company, The Tailor of Gloucester by the Tate Gallery and The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies by the British Museum. The largest public collection of her letters and drawings is the Leslie Linder Bequest and Leslie Linder Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In the United States, the largest public collections are those in the Special Collections of the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Lloyd Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton University. To this day Potter’s books continue to sell throughout the world, in multiple languages, and Her stories have been retold in song, film, ballet and animation.

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