Every child growing up in the UK knew the stories of Beatrix Potter. At bedtime, we would all love to hear the tales of Benjamin Bunny, Jemima Puddle-Duck, and Mrs Tiggy Winkle, and imagine the magical woodland world in which they lived. If you didn’t have the Peter Rabbit Bookshelf somewhere in your home, then you knew someone who did.
Today, Beatrix Potter is a British icon. The Tale of Peter Rabbit has been translated into 36 different languages and is one of the world’s best-selling books. Her stories have put the Lake District on the map and given thousands of tourists a reason to enjoy the stunning countryside there.
But how much do you actually know about Beatrix Potter? It turns out that she’s quite the fascinating lady, with many little-known accomplishments to her name. Let’s explore our top seven fascinating facts.
She was a leading thinker in Mycology
As a keen illustrator, Beatrix enjoyed spending much of her time making detailed illustrations of mushrooms, fungi, and various other natural phenomena. Her enthusiasm deepened, and she began drawing images of microscopic spores with great accuracy. She eventually developed a paper on spore germination and hybridization and her drawings are still used to identify species today.
She was a prize-winning sheep breeder
Potter is often quoted as saying that she was always happiest when with her farm animals. She was a great believer in preserving the rural culture of the lake district and liked to participate in local customs. One of her favourites was sheep breeding, and she kept a prize-winning herd of Herdwick Sheep – a breed that was perfectly suited to the Lake District landscape.
She left most of her land to the National Trust
At the time of her death, Potter owned over 4,000 acres of land with 16 farms. She left nearly all of this land to the National Trust, who today ensure that the rural legacy of her time is preserved.
She was a savvy entrepreneur
From a young age, Potter was interested in finding ways to make money and would print Christmas Cards with her brother to sell to locals. When her first book – The Tale of Peter Rabbit – hit the shelves in 1902 Potter capitalized on its success by immediately licensing the Peter Rabbit name and image to several companies. Shortly after, a Peter Rabbit doll and board game were released to the public, with much more licensed merchandise to follow.
Her books were turned down
Beatrix first submitted The Tale of Peter Rabbit to publishers in 1900. However, the initial copies and concepts were turned down. Rather than giving up, she self-published 250 copies of the book and sent them out to family and friends, including Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, of Sherlock Holmes fame. The books were so well-loved that publishers could no longer afford to ignore her work.
Her parents lived in West Brompton, London
Although the original building was destroyed during the Blitz, you can still see a blue plaque of where her family home used to stand.
Her first pets were two rabbits…
…and their names were Peter Piper and Benjamin Bouncer. They would inspire her life-long love of animals and nature and define a legacy that would span generations.
If you’d like to know more about this fascinating lady’s life, then take a look at our inspiring Lake District tour, where you can explore the world of Beatrix Potter.