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Hill Top was the traditional Lakeland farm cottage bought by Beatrix Potter, initially as an artistic retreat, and which became the inspiration for many of her stories. It is now owned by the National Trust, and has been preserved much as it would have been when she lived there.
Beatrix Potter understood her popularity, and the fact that her stories became an integral part of many people's childhood memories. She believed that people would enjoy looking around the house which inspired so many of those stories. She bequeathed Hill Top to the National Trust, along with instructions regarding how it should be presented to the public. Consequently the house is how she would have known it. It is not a mock up, or reconstruction. Most of the items on display relate to her life and times, and many are her own treasured possessions.
Those familiar with Beatrix Potter's books will doubtless recognise a number of the objects on display, as well as items of furniture.
Also as it would have been when Beatrix Potter lived at Hill Top is the garden. Arranged in cottage style, it is a glorious profusion of informally planted flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables.
Entry to the house is on a timed-ticket system, allowing only a small number of visitors into the property at any one time, so avoiding overcrowding. Once inside it becomes obvious why the National Trust need to operate this system. The house is not large, and it is easy to imagine it as a family home.
Hill Top also gets busy and at certain times a queuing system operates, so it is best to get to the house early to avoid disappointment or a long wait. Also, the car park is small, so again, an early visit is recommended.
Hill Top was built some time in the 17th century. The exact date is not known. It is a traditional Lakeland farm cottage of a type common in the area, and, as is the case with many such buildings, probably built by an experienced local builder who carried the plans in his head. Little did he know that 300 years later his roughly built farm cottage would become famous the world over.
In 1905, Beatrix Potter, already a successful author, became engaged to Norman Warne, the son of her publisher Frederick Warne. They planned to buy a cottage in the Lake District, intending to use it as a holiday retreat after they were married.
The marriage never took place due to the unexpected death of Norman from leukemia. Grief stricken, Beatrix decided to go ahead with the plan to purchase a cottage to use as an artistic retreat, and bought Hill Top. As she knew nothing about farming, she asked the tenant farmer and his family to stay on, building a extension to the house to provide accommodation for them.
Dividing her time between the Lake District and London, she visited Hill Top regularly and started to become involved in village life. She also continued to write, setting many of her stories in the house, the village of Sawrey, and the surrounding countryside.
In 1913 she married William Heelis, her solicitor, and they moved to Castle Cottage the house at Castle Farm, also in Sawrey. However, she retained a workshop and study at Hill Top.
When she died in 1943 she left Hill Top to the National Trust, along with instructions regarding how it should be presented to the public. It is now a popular visitor attraction.
Other places of Interest regarding Beatrix Potter
A young Beatrix got her first taste of the Lake District when her family took a summer holiday at Wray Castle.
The Armitt Museum and Library, Ambleside
As a young woman Beatrix was a talented botanical artist, and there is a display of her work at the Armitt. For more information about the Armitt, click here ...
Beatrix Potter Gallery, Hawkshead
Housed in the old solicitors office in Hawkshead, the gallery holds a collection of illustrations by Beatrix Potter. For more information, about the gallery, click here ...