Not only does July commemorate the death of Jane Austen 200 years ago, but it celebrates the birthday of Beatrix Potter!
Over 150 years ago Helen Beatrix Potter was born and six years later her brother Walter was born and both loved to draw and paint making sketches of their many pets, including rabbits, mice, frogs, lizards and a bat!
They would spend many hours making intricate sketches of animals and plants that would continue throughout her life. Two of her earliest models were her rabbits. Benjamin Bouncer who went for walks with her on their holidays to Scotland and Peter Piper who could perform tricks and followed Beatrix everywhere. When Beatrix was sixteen, the family stayed at Wray Castle overlooking Lake Windermere, where Beatrix began a lifelong love of the Lake District.
Before she was a published author Beatrix designed greetings cards and her earliest story, that of Peter Rabbit, came from an illustrated letter she sent to a friend. After being rejected by several publishers, Beatrix decided to publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit herself, printing 250 copies for family and friends in 1901. Frederick Warne & Co reconsidered their decision and published it in 1902 to immediate success, and the following year published The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and The Tailor of Gloucester.
Income from the books and her creation of toys and games for Peter Rabbit enabled Beatrix to buy Hill Top Farm, which would feature in many of her tales. Beatrix married William Heelis, a local solicitor who assisted with her property dealings and lived at Castle Cottage until her death in 1943. During her lifetime Beatrix bought fifteen farms and looked after them all before leaving them to the National Trust, along with many of her original drawings.
Hill Top Farm remains exactly as it was when Beatrix lived in it, and receives thousands of visitors every year.