|Beatrix Potter was born on July 28th 1866 in London. A typical Victorian family, the Potters lived in a large house with several servants and Beatrix was educated at home under a sequence of governesses. Beatrix first visited the Lake District with her family in the summer of 1882 and she went on to spend many happy childhood holidays in the region. She and her brother Bertram explored the woods and fields, caught and tamed wild animals and sketched and painted all they saw. It was here that she became friendly with the local vicar, Canon Rawnsley, one of the founder members of the National Trust, who was to be a great influence and lifelong friend.
Beatrix’s very first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published by Frederick
Warne & Co in 1902, costing just one shilling, and became one of the most famous
books ever written. More than 40 million copies of this book have been sold
worldwide in more than 35 languages. Two more books followed in 1903 –
The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and The Tailor of Gloucester and in 1905 with
the money she made from her early books she made the Lake District her
home and bought Hill Top Farm in the village of Near Sawrey.
Managing Hill Top taught Beatrix much about farming and she began
to extend her property in the Lake District. A local solicitor William
Heelis advised her on her property dealings and was later to become
her husband. By the early 1930’s she had bought over 4000 acres of
farmland with the money she had made from her 23 tales, many of
which were inspired by and written in the Lake District.
Most of her later life was devoted entirely to farming, Herdwick sheep
being her passion, and on her death in 1943 she bequeathed all the
farmland to the National Trust so that it should remain undeveloped
and unspoilt forever. The National Trust continues to upkeep this
farmland and works in partnership with local farmers, maintaining the unique
dry-stone walls and footpaths and protecting the Lake District that Beatrix Potter
so loved as a living, working landscape.