The first sentence in a story is like a gate because it will either draw the reader in or send them away. I hope to draw you into Beatrix Potter's world just a little bit through this post and future ones about our time in the Lake District. If you've read anything of Beatrix's life you will know she grew up in London but she grew deeper, more her true self, in the Lake District.
The white gate below was the original entrance to Hill Top Farm--Beatrix Potter's beloved country retreat. She purchased Hill Top after her fiancée Norman Warne, died suddenly, a month after their engagement in 1905. The green gate to the right leads to the garden of Tower Bank Arms where we were staying. We'd just arrived in Near Sawrey earlier that day, Thursday. . . .
A peek over the gate shows that this entrance has been blocked and is not used for tourists. . . .
Looking further beyond. . . .
Tourists--or more like guests since the house feels more like a home than a museum--walk a little further down the lane to the entrance to another gate that opens to the path to the gift shop. . . .
This year is the 100th anniversary of "The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse" so they had special editions for sale. Beatrix used Hill Top and Hawkshead in her illustrations for this story. . . .
Because I've read SO much about Beatrix Potter and Hill Top Farm in books and other blogs I felt I'd seen everything and knew everything already. But as I headed up the path to the house I paused to look behind me--through the original gate--and saw the view Beatrix saw every time she visited the Hill Top. Photographs cannot begin to convey what you will feel when you see this magical place in person. You can see Castle Cottage in the distance, which she purchased in 1909 and would renovate and move into when she married William Heelis in 1913. She added the extension that you see in the photo. . . .
There were not many flowers in bloom--I was told the garden was running about three weeks late this year. The bright sun that day made it difficult to capture the true color of the few flowers that were in bloom. . . .
Looking back down the path I'd just walked up. . . .
Turning around I'm standing in front of Hill Top. The white Wisteria is only just beginning to bloom. . . .
This is the addition Beatrix added for her farm manager, John Cannon, and his family in 1906. . . .
Roses over the front porch of the main house are beginning to bloom . . . .
Across from the front porch is the gate to her vegetable garden. . . .
Inside you see the Bee Skep tucked into an alcove of the stone wall. . . .
I'm waiting for our 1:00 tour to be called in. Photography is allowed inside, but we were asked not to use a flash so some photos will be dark. . . .
The Hall or Firehouse....The house dates back to the 17th century. Originally this room, held the oven for cooking and heat. The view through the window overlooks the vegetable garden wall. . . .
Beatrix would eventually remove this stove insert. It was restored in 1980 however. . . .
The door to the right of the fireplace went to John Cannon's house. It is said that Beatrix would wander in unannounced from time to time to the consternation of Mrs. Cannon. . . .
Her hat and clogs. . . .
Beatrix has given me an idea with her plan to leave Hill Top to the National Trust! I told my husband we should set up a trust for our house so that I can just leave all my collections, photo albums, journals, books, etc. in the house. Our sons and their families can use it as a gathering place for the cousins after we are gone. Don't you think Susan Branch should do the same with her house for future FOSBs?
Here is one of Beatrix's china collections. . . .
She also collected furniture. . . .
The doorway to the right of this courts cupboard leads to the parlour. . . .
The Parlour. . . .The doors to the right was possibly a bed-cupboard. . . .
Beatrix added the fireplace surround and paneling to the room. . . .
After soaking up the atmosphere of the two front rooms we passed the doorway to the new kitchen at the foot of the stairs. The old kitchen was demolished to make way for the Cannon's addition. . . .
The original stairs was a spiral staircase in the Firehouse room leading directly into a bedroom. Beatrix added this light-filled staircase as part of the new wing. . . .
Upstairs landing. . . .
The New Room. . . .Originally it was called the Library. Beatrix used this room to write and illustrate her stories. It also houses her brother's oil paintings. This room was above the new section she had built for the Cannons. . . .
Looking east in the direction of Castle Cottage. . . .
Her pencil sketch of Hill Top. . . .
Williams' Lake District butterfly collection. . . .
Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, a founder of the National Trust, was a friend of the family and well-known to Beatrix since she was a child. He was instrumental in getting her Peter Rabbit book published by Frederick Warne. He also founded the Herdwick Sheep Breeders' Association, which Beatrix later championed and helped save a dying breed. . . .
The Bedroom. . . .Beatrix embroidered the canopy. . . .
The wallpaper is a William Morris design. . . .
The Treasure Room. . . . Beatrix kept a collection of miniature figures from her stories here along with other "curiosities". . . .
After borrowing Norman Warne's niece's doll house as a model for "The Tale of Two Bad Mice" Beatrix later purchased this one to house the furnishings Norman had purchased for her while illustrating the story. . . .
The Sitting Room. . . .Beatrix used one of the upstairs bedrooms as a sitting room. It is thought that the piano came from William's family. . . .
This is Beatrix's embroidery frame. . . .
Back down the stairs. . . .
Through the Firehouse/Hall. . . .
With a glance up at the wallpapered ceiling. . . .
Back out into the garden. . . .
And down the path parallel to the one I traversed up on. . . .
It overlooks the orchard. . . .
And beyond that a sheep pasture. . . .
I wanted to go through Beatrix's garden one more time before we left Near Sawrey, so Sunday morning as soon as they unlocked the gate I went in. The crowds were still up the lane at the ticket office. Because it was mid-morning the garden had a different feel to it because of the morning sun. . . .
A bee in Bea's garden. . . .
If you want to know more about Hill Top I highly recommend Susan Denyer's book, "At Home With Beatrix Potter." It also has many full-page photographs of the house and surrounding area. There is a wealth of information on Beatrix at your local library and on the Internet.
In 2016 I used Beatrix's illustrations to practice drawing and watercoloring. Each month I'd feature a different story, then draw and paint an illustration from that story. You will find extra information about Beatrix and her stories in each post. This post features Beatrix's garden. You can find them all HERE. To read them in order, scroll all the way to the bottom and work your way back up.
The introduction to the animated Peter Rabbit and Friends was filmed inside Hill Top. . . .
Note: To enlarge photos and view them as a slideshow, click on first photo.
Be sure to check out:
The Garden at Hill Top
Beatrix Potter's Characters and Hill Top
Up Next: Over the Hills