Beatrix Potter – the Business Woman
Best known for writing one of the most loved children’s stories of all time, Peter Rabbit, but Beatrix Potter did not just write a story.
After devising the character in painting and letters, the first Peter Rabbit picture book was rejected by several publishers. But Potter took it upon herself to print the book herself, 250 copies of the Tales of Peter Rabbit. From the get go, she had ideas of making a viable business from her books and her drawings.
In 1903 Beatrix Potter designed and patented a Peter Rabbit doll – making Peter Rabbit the world’s oldest licensed character. On display at the Beatrix Potter Gallery, her husband, William Heelis’ office at Hawkshead are her own made merchandise of Peter Rabbit such as calendars and character figurines can be seen at her working home, Hill Top. Potter was extremely commercially savvy.
As you enter the National Trust owned Hill Top, the guides introduce the house as ‘just as she left it’, but at first glance this is hard to believe as everything looks as if it is on display for visitors to see – but that was as Potter left it.
When she died in 1943, Beatrix Potter left Hill Top to the National Trust with the condition that it be kept exactly as she left it, complete with her furniture and china. Beatrix had already begun arranging the house to be open to visitors as conservation of the building and land.
The first impression of a young girl visiting the lakes and bringing her pets and the nature around her to life through intricate drawings is only part of the picture. Beatrix Potter was first a business woman, second the author.
Love of land and sheep
The success of her books and her initiatives, Beatrix continued her love for the land and began to buy farms and land around the Lake District, adamant to preserve their nature and beauty.
Beatrix Potter (or Mrs Heelis as she became, following her marriage to local solicitor William Heelis) was very committed to the conservation of Herdwick sheep. She was eager to breed and show the best animals she could, winning awards throughout the Lake District.
Beatrix was a friend of Canon Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley – one of the three founder members of the National Trust. When she died, Beatrix left fourteen farms and 4,000 acres of land to the National Trust, together with her flocks of Herdwick sheep.
It is now thought that approximately 95% of all Herdwick sheep are kept within 14 miles of Coniston Water. All of Potter’s farms are still working farms managed by tenant farmers, in accordance with her wishes.
Hill Top, Near Sawrey and The Beatrix Potter Gallery, Hawshead is open mid-February – mid-December.
Entry prices range from £3.00 for children and £5.25 for adults.
For more information visit: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hill-top
Please Note: Hill Top is closed Fridays for restoration and conservation of the property.