Beatrix Potter, beloved children’s author, artist, and conservationist, was born in bustling Victorian London on July 28, 1866. Captivated by the glens, woods, and waters of Scotland and England, where she vacationed with her family, Potter was instilled early on with a love of the country.
The author—best known for her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, a best seller for more than 100 years—created an impressive volume of work. She wrote and illustrated twenty-four children’s books and spearheaded the merchandising of her charming characters. Although born at a time when a woman’s place was considered to be in her parents’ or her husband’s home, Potter envisioned owning a home of her own. In 1905, this dream became a reality when she purchased Hill Top with the royalties from her first book and a small inheritance.
In 2016, the 150th celebration of Potter’s birth is in full swing, with a variety of events taking place all over the world to honor her legacy. A favorite destination is the seventeenth-century house and working farm nestled among the trees, lakes, and hills of Northern England. Revered as Potter’s spiritual home, Hill Top is a visual treat and remains much like it was in the early 1900s, when the owner planned and tended the gardens. The garden gate, stone walls, and other familiar scenes are reflected in her timeless watercolor illustrations. Approaching the house are stone walkways lined with orchards and lush flower gardens. The home is tastefully decorated with Potter’s favorite antiques, family heirlooms, and cherished treasures, still in place as she left them.
But Potter’s legacy extends well beyond her literary and artistic contributions. She was an avid country farmer who purchased surrounding farms with the intent to protect the land from encroaching development. She bequeathed 4,000 acres to the National Trust, and her vision and generosity played a major role in saving the environment and the farming culture of the community. The National Trust continues to tend the land and care for the countryside so that future generations may enjoy it.
Text & Photography Donna Priesmeyer
To learn more about Beatrix Potter, see “The Legends & Lore of England’s Lake District” on page 50 of the September/October 2010 issue of Victoria.