Celebrating 150 years of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit

By Rachael Grealish

Beatrix-4-472x350THE Victoria and Albert Museum in London may be able to boast it has some of the original drawings, copies of and some early works of Beatrix Potter – but here in Cumbria we definitely have the bragging rights for being the birthplace of Peter Rabbit and friends.

This year we celebrate 150 years since the birth of Beatrix Potter – one of the world’s most-loved children’s authors.
Beatrix Potter wrote more than stories, she created characters that would become household names for young children all over the world.

Though Beatrix Potter was not a native to Cumbria, she made the Lakes her home and in 1901 she first sent her story, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, to not one, but six publishers – and like many great authors – she was rejected from all of them.

It wasn’t until 1902, and her determination of self-publishing 250 copies, that she was finally signed a publishing contract with Frederick Warne & Co – this led to over 28,000 copies being printed by the end of that year.

The inspiration for that mischievous little rabbit, we all know and love, were actually her own pet rabbits.

Her first bunny, Benjamin actually used to be walked on a lead during their holidays in Scotland and her second, Peter, was said to have a talent for performing tricks.

But Beatrix didn’t stop at her love for rabbits, she would sketch all her family pets as a child and soon her collection of stories told the tales of ducks, mice, foxes, badgers and snakes.

She was more than just a pioneer in the field of writing and illustrating, she was also a keen Herdwick breeder – eager to preserve the breed – a botanist and a sharp business woman.

Beatrix has not only been immortalised through the stories she has given to the world, but she was also immortalised in film when she was portrayed by Renée Zellweger in the 2006 film, Miss Potter, which was partly filmed in the Lake District where Beatrix spent a lot of her life.

This year not only celebrates the 150th birthday of Beatrix Potter, but the 25th birthday of The World of Beatrix Potter – Both on July 28.

The World of Beatrix Potter are planning to celebrate these significant dates on the same day, June 27 as they show the world première of the brand new family musical Where Is Peter Rabbit? – opening in the Old Laundry Theatre.image001

Roger Glossop, from the World of Beatrix Potter, said: “Beatrix Potter has dominated our lives for the last 25 years (in a good way!) so it is fantastic to have a double celebration for our 25th and her 150 years throughout 2016.  From the day we opened the door 25 years ago, Beatrix Potter has taken us on an exhilarating journey – exhibition, garden, shop, restaurant, on-line, theatre and ongoing – we couldn’t have aligned our creative and business life with a more original, entrepreneurial and visionary woman.”

We asked our readers what Beatrix Potter mean to them, here’s what they said:

Demi McDowell, 22, from St Bees, said: “When I was little kid I used to have my bedroom painted with a Peter Rabbit theme, all of the characters were hand drawn and painted on my walls by my parents. I loved reading the books. I think my favourites to actually watch episodes of where The Tale of Peter Rabbit and The Tale of Sam Whisker.”

Jennifer Carroll, 23, from Whitehaven, said: “Jemima Puddle Duck was my fave. So much so my Teddy is name Jemima!”

Brian Bowman, 30, from Whitehaven, said: “ I can recall Benjamin Bunny. He and Squirrel Nutkin were my favourites. I always remembered being sad at the end of Benjamin’s tale, because he lost his jacket and in my youth, I equated that with him being turned into a regular rabbit incapable of speech.”

Photos kindly supplied by The World of Beatrix Potter – courtesy of The National Trust & Frederick Warne Ltd See more at: www.hop-skip-jump.com