Beatrix Potter and her life in the Lake District

Famous children’s author, Beatrix Potter, was best known for her beautifully-illustrated children’s books. The author was born in 1866 and died in 1943, having spent most of her life working and living in the Lake District.

Some of Potter´s most famous books included Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck and Squirrel Nutkin who was said to have sailed on Derwentwater and Hawkshead. The Tale of Johnny Townmouse was also written during her time in the Lake District when Beatrix Potter bought Hill Top Farm. Not only did she write about animals, but she also became an expert sheep breeder and the first female president of the Herdwick Sheepbreeders´ Association.

When Beatrix Potter died in 1943 she left over 4,000 acres of land to the National Trust and 14 farms, including her home, Hill Top, on the provision that it remained untouched and was opened to the public.

Beatrix Potter and Hill Top

Beatrix Potter bought Hill Top in 1905 with the proceeds from her first published books, which she wrote at her family home in London. The author visited the Lake District as often as possible, sketching the animals and scenery for her books.

Once she had bought the house she wrote more books at Hill Top and she bought Castle Farm in 1909 which became her main home in the Lakes. Some of her most famous characters were created here, including Tom Kitten and Samuel Whiskers and illustrations in the books were based on her house and garden at the time.

The garden contained many colourful flowers including honeysuckle, foxgloves, peonies and lavender with roses around the front door. The garden was also packed with strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb.

The National Trust owned Tower Bank Arms is next to Hill Top, and was featured in the Tale of Jemima Puddle-duck. Visitors to the house can still enjoy a pint and a snack in the pub, which opens every day.

As the author became more successful, she bought many more properties and land around Sawrey plus several small farms. In 1913 she married William Heelis in London and moved permanently to the Lake District. They lived at Castle Cottage which larger and more comfortable than Hill Top.

Beatrix Potter and Brockhole

The Lake District Visitor Centre at Brockhole was once the home of Beatrix´s cousin, Edith who was married to William Gaddum. The author used to write to her young cousins, Molly and Jim at Brockhole, regaling them with tales based on Jeremy Fisher, complete with illustrations. In many ways the author tried out her stories on her young cousins before approaching the publishers.

The Beatrix Potter Attraction, Bowness

If you want to take tea with Peter Rabbit, be chased around the garden by Jemima Puddle duck or enjoy some fun interactive exhibitions, visit the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction at Bowness. Great fun for the kids, this venue also attracts Potter fans of all ages from as far afield as Japan and the USA. Visitors can explore the landscape where the tales were bought to life and buy a book or souvenir from the Beatrix Potter shop.

Miss Potter – the film

The film, Miss Potter took place in London, the Isle of Man and also at Loughrigg, Grasmere and Coniston in the Lake District. Starring Oscar winner, Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor, the film was a huge hit internationally.

After the film was released the author´s works and her former homes in the Lake District became more popular than ever.

Did you know?

  • Over 20% of visitors to the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction and Hilltop Farm at Sawrey are from Japan? The author is as famous in Japan as she is in the UK, and the vast majority of Japanese children are encouraged to read her books.
  • Beatrix Potter kept a journal … in a complicated code that wasn’t deciphered for years! As a teenager, she wrote almost 200,000 coded journal words.
  • The author´s first publication was not actually Peter Rabbit, but rather a few illustrations in an 1890 children’s book, Happy Pair by Frederic Weatherly.
  • Many of Beatrix Potter’s books, including The Tale of Peter Rabbit, began as story letters to friends’ children. She borrowed them back from the recipients to turn the stories into books.
  • Ten years after she wrote the picture letter, when a black and white version of The Tale of Peter Rabbit had been rejected by every publisher Potter sent it to, this E.L. Jamesian inspiration self-published 250 copies—which sold out within days of its December 1901 publication.

Beatrix Potter is one of many famous former residents of the Lake District, and her children´s books are still popular throughout the world. Potter fans flock to the Lake District to enjoy the stunning scenery which was once her inspiration.