Biography of Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter was famous for writing illustrated children’s books about animals such as Peter Rabbit but was also a farmer and jointly responsible for creating the National Trust.

When and Where was she Born?

28th July 1866, 2 Bolton Gardens, South Kensington, London, England.

Family Background:

Beatrix Potter was born into a wealthy family and christened Helen Beatrix. Her father Rupert William Potter was a trained Barrister but rarely practiced.

Education:

Given tuition by a series of Governesses.

Timeline of Beatrix Potter:

1871: Beatrix has her first summer holiday at Dalguise House, Dunkeld, in Scotland, which she will revisit many times.

1872: Birth of her brother Walter Bertram.

1882: First visit to the English Lake District. The family stays at Wray Castle.

Wray Castle, Cumbria
Wray Castle, Cumbria, (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1885: Beatrix is given a pet rabbit, which she names Benjamin Bouncer.

1887: She paints her first known watercolour of a fungus.

1890: Beatrix Potter rejects her final suitor brought suggested by her mother. Sells some of her illustrations which are turned into greetings cards.

1891: Death of her Grandmother Jessy. Illustrations rejected by Frederick Warne and Company.

1893: She writes the Peter Rabbit story as an illustrated letter to Noel Moore the five-year-old son of one of her governesses.

Mr McGregor's Garden
A recreation of Mr McGregor’s Garden 
where Peter Rabbit ate his carrots at Hill Top Farm, Sawrey, Cumbria
(copyright Anthony Blagg)

1895: Foundation of the National Trust by Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, a friend of the Potter family.

1896: Beatrix goes visits the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew with her uncle Sir Henry Roscoe to show him her fungus drawings. The family spend a summer holiday at Near Sawrey.

1901: Beatrix Potter made detailed drawings up to this time numbering over 270. She is encouraged by former governess Annie Moore to publish the story of Peter Rabbit she had given her son. She borrowed the letter back and made it into the book entitled The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Mr. McGregor’s Garden which she published herself as she could find no publisher. The publishers commented on the lack of colour illustration.

1903: Warne’s took out a patent on Peter Rabbit and created a soft toy to the design making him the earliest characters from fiction to be mass-produced.

1905: She becomes secretly engaged to her publisher Norman Warne. Her family disapproved of her marrying someone from a lower social class. He tragically dies on the 25th August of leukaemia before the wedding. She purchases Hill Top Farm in the village of Sawrey which was run by her farm manager John Cannon. Peter Rabbit wallpaper goes on sale for the first time.

Hill Top
“Hill Top” Beatrix Potter’s Farmhouse in Sawrey, Cumbria (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1909: Beatrix buys Castle Farm in Near Sawrey.

1912: William Heelis, a Lake District Solicitor proposes marriage to Beatrix.

1913: She moves to Castle Cottage permanently after her marriage to Heelis. She keeps Hill top Farm as a place to work.

1917: Harold Warne is arrested for embezzlement in London. Beatrix’s work helps save the company.

1918: Death of her artist brother Bertram from an unknown disease.

1920: Death of Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley.

1923: Beatrix buys Troutbeck Park Farm.

1930: She buys the Monk Coniston Estate. She becomes the First Woman President of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association.

1936: Beatrix Potter refuses an offer from Walt Disney to produce a film of Peter Rabbit.

When and Where did she Die?

22nd December 1943, Castle Cottage, Sawrey, Cumbria, England.

Age at Death:

77.

Written Works:

1897: Paper “On the Germination of Spores of Agaricineae” presented to the Linnean Society by her uncle Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe, as women were barred.
1901: “Peter Rabbit first published by Potter herself.”
1902: “Peter Rabbit” first published by a commercial publisher; Frederick Warne and Company.
1903: “Squirrel Nutkin”. “The Tailor of Gloucester”.
1904: “Benjamin Bunny”. “Two Bad Mice”.
1905: “Mrs Tiggy-Winkle”.
1906: “Jeremy Fisher”. “Miss Moppet”.
1907: “Tom Kitten”
1908: “Jemima Puddleduck”. “Samuel Whiskers”.
1910: “Mrs Tittlemouse”.
1911: “Timmy Tiptoes.”
1913: “Piggling Bland.”
1917: “Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes”.
1918: “Johnny Townmouse”.
1922: “Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes.”
1929: “The Fairy Caravan.”
1932: “Sister Anne”.

Marriage:

1913: To William Heelis, a Lake District Solicitor on 14th October in London.

Site of Grave:

She was cremated at Carleton Crematorium, Blackpool and her ashes were scattered in the countryside surrounding Sawrey. She left almost all her property to the National Trust.

Places of Interest:

CUMBRIA:

Hill Top farmhouse, Sawrey, (given to the National Trust).
Armitt Library, Ambleside, holds her watercolours of lichens.
Beatrix Potter Gallery, Hawkshead.

GLOUCESTERSHIRE:

A museum to her book the Tailor of Gloucester is run by volunteers in the town.

Additional Information:

www.beatrixpottersociety.org.uk/

www.peterrabbit.com/