Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter aged 15

Beatrix Potter was born on 28 July 1866 in South Kensington, London. She lived a lonely life at home, being educated by a governess and having little contact with other people.
She had many animals which she kept as pets, studying them and making drawings.


Her parents took her on three month summer holidays to Scotland, but when the house they rented became unavailable, they rented Wray Castle near Ambleside in the Lake District. Beatrix was 16 when they first stayed here. Her parents entertained many eminent guests, including Hardwicke Rawnsley vicar of Low Wray Church, who in 1895 was to become one of the founders of the National Trust.


His views on the need to preserve the natural beauty of Lakeland had a lasting effect on the young Beatrix, who had fallen in love with the unspoilt beauty surrounding the holiday home.


For the next 21 years on and off, the Potters holidayed in the Lake District, staying once at Wray Castle, once at Fawe Park, twice at Holehird and nine times at Lingholm, by Derwentwater, famous now for its rhododendron gardens. Beatrix loved Derwentwater, and explored Catbells behind Lingholm. She watched squirrels in the woods, saw rabbits in the vegetable gardens of the big house. She made many sketches of the landscape.


They still kept in touch with Rev Rawnsley, who after 5 years at Wray, moved to Crosthwaite Church just outside Keswick.


Rawnsley encouraged her drawings, and when back in London Beatrix made greetings cards of her pictures, and started a book. Rawnsley encouraged her to publish, and eventually Frederick Warne published ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’ in 1902. Her third book, ‘Squirrel Nutkin’ had background views based on Derwentwater, Catbells and the Newlands valley. Fawe Park featured in ‘The Tale of Benjamin Bunny’.


In 1903 Beatrix bought a field in Near Sawrey, near where they had holidayed that year. She now had an income from her books, Peter Rabbit having now sold some 50000 copies. In 1905 she bought Hill Top, a little farm in Sawrey, and for the next 8 years she busied herself writing more books, and visiting her farm. In 1909 she bought another farm opposite Hill Top, Castle Farm, which became her main Lakeland base. Seven of her books are based in or around Hill Top. Tom Kitten and Samuel Whiskers lived there. Hill Top is still as it was then, and is now the most visited literary shrine in the Lake District.


Beatrix Potter married William Heelis, a solicitor in Hawkshead, in 1913. Then started the next stage in her life, being a Lakeland farmer, which lasted for 30 years. The office of William Heelis is now the National Trust’s ‘Beatrix Potter Gallery‘.


In 1923 she bought Troutbeck Park Farm, and became an expert in breeding Herdwick sheep, winning many prizes at country shows with them. Beatrix continued to buy property, and in 1930 bought the Monk Coniston Estate – 4000 acres from Little Langdale to Coniston – which contained Tarn Hows, now Lakeland’s most popular piece of landscape.


In 1934 she gave many of her watercolours and drawings of fungi, mosses and fossils to the Armitt Library in Ambleside.


Beatrix Potter

When she died on 22 December 1943, Beatrix Potter left fourteen farms and 4000 acres of land to the National Trust, together with her flocks of Herdwick sheep. The Trust now owns 91 hill farms, many of which have a mainly Herdwick landlord’s flock with a total holding of about 25000 sheep. This was her gift to the nation, her own beloved countryside for all to enjoy. Beatrix was the first woman to be elected president-designate of the Herdwick Sheepbreeders’ Association, which continues to flourish.
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Renee Zellweger Stars as ‘Peter Rabbit’ Writer Beatrix Potter
“Miss Potter” – the Beatrix Potter biopic, made in the U.K., staring Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor and Emily Watson, and directed by Chris Noonan.
Written by Richard Maltby Jr., “Miss Potter” explores the life of Potter (Zellweger) as she becomes the author of the beloved and bestselling children’s book ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’, and struggles to overcome a domineering, unsupportive mother and the chauvinism of Victorian England to become a published author.
Ms Zellweger said: “Arriving in the Lake District is like the culmination of the journey we’ve been on these past few weeks. “It brings the whole Miss Potter story to life, to be in the places where Beatrix lived. “I have been completely stunned by the beauty of the landscape and the tranquillity of the scene.”

Yew Tree Farm, Coniston, becomes Hilltop for the film

Eleven days of filming for Miss Potter has involved 100 cast and crew staying in the area’s most luxurious hotels and holiday cottages. Filming has taken place at Yew Tree Farm, Coniston, which became Hilltop for the film, in the countryside near Beetham, South Cumbria, The Rum Story in Whitehaven in West Cumbria, and in various locations in the Lakes. Hopefully the film will boost tourism in Cumbria.

Cumbrian locations used in the movie :

  • Keswick and Derwentwater. One of the main filming locations, this area was also the setting for a number of Beatrix’s books including Squirrel Nutkin, Benjamin Bunny, and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle.
  • Yew Tree Farm, Coniston. Located in the Yewdale valley, this picturesque farmhouse was once owned by Beatrix Potter, and stars as her home Hill Top in the movie.
  • Coniston and Tarn Hows. Tarn Hows and the surrounding land was bought by Beatrix Potter in 1929 and is now owned by the National Trust. A 15 mile path circles the stunning tarn, and nearby fells feature in the movie.
  • The Settle to Carlisle Railway is steeped in history, and the 72 mile journey is breathtakingly beautiful. Travel over Arten Gill viaduct – one of the many impressive viaducts – and one of the locations in the film.
  • Loughrigg Tarn. One of the scenic locations, Loughrigg Tarn is situated in the fells near Grasmere.
  • Loweswater. Loweswater and the immediate vicinity was the stunning setting for several scenes.
  • The Rum Story. The Rum Story – the Dark Spirit of Whitehaven is set in the original shop, courtyards, cellars and bonded warehouses of he Jefferson family business. Used as the setting for the offices of William Heelis, Beatrix Potter’s husband.

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