This year marks the 150th Anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth. Best known for her illustrations and tales of Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher and Jemima Puddle-duck amongst others, she was also an expert on fungi, Herdwick Sheep, a keen supporter of the National Trust and was key in the preservation of the Lake District and it’s heritage.
Born in London in 1866, Beatrix and her family would spend their holidays in the Lake District. Many holiday makers would have bought guide books to the areas they visited and on our shelves we have various guide books to the Lakes and surrounding areas with suggested walks and places of interest to visitors.It was in the Lake District she met Rev Hardwicke Rawnsley who would become a founding member of the National Trust. Rawnsley was a mentor and friend to Beatrix, so it was unsurprising that she would use the money from the success of the Tale of Peter Rabbit and an inheritance from an aunt to purchase Hill Top Farm in Near Sawrey in 1905.
The area surrounding Hill Top and the market town of Hawkshead proved a rich source of inspiration to Beatrix and her stories and illustrations. She also began breeding Herdwick Sheep with great success. There are several books on farming and husbandry on our shelves, some chronicling the history of farming alongside other contemporary items which would have been consulted by farmers local to Barnstaple, some Beatrix herself may even have been familiar with.
In 1913 Beatrix married local solicitor, William Heelis and on her death in 1943 she left the majority of her property, including several other farms and surrounding land, to the Trust her friend had helped to set up. William died not long after, leaving the remaining property in care of the Trust. Her and William’s legacy helped to preserve and conserve the heritage and culture of the place they both loved.
You can find out more about the places under the Trust’s care and its history in items on our shelves. They include more about Beatrix’s friend and mentor Hardwicke Rawnsley, the properties the Trust went on to look after as well as the places looked after in North Devon and the South West.
Beatrix will always be most known for her tales and the beautiful illustrations she produced for them. Including the Tale of Jeremy Fisher which was published in 1906. Jeremy had a close shave with a trout who tried to eat him, perhaps if he had consulted some books on fishing and trout like the ones we have on our shelves by one of our former directors, Eric Taverner, before he set off to catch minnows for his dinner he may have been a little more prepared!