6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Lancashire Life today click here

Castle Cottage - The real Lake District home of Beatrix Potter

PUBLISHED: 16:03 21 December 2012 | UPDATED: 17:59 08 February 2016

Castle Cottage

Castle Cottage

The real home of Beatrix Potter has been out of bounds for years – until now. Mike Glover reports

Shepherdess Alison O’Neill, left, with Mandy Shepherdess Alison O’Neill, left, with Mandy

The iconic image of Beatrix Potter, with her Herdwick wool overcoat and squashed Fedora, is an enduring one. It portrayed well the country woman farmer she was for the second half of her life, living with her solicitor husband in the wilds on the Lancashire side of Windermere.

But this image was one carefully cultivated by the clever entrepreneur who had, after all, seen the merchandising opportunities of her most famous creation, Peter Rabbit, decades before anyone else.

In reality, even though the author, artist, farmer and conservationist embraced and championed the country life, she never lost the tastes of the big city.

Just how much the London influence stayed with her is only now being revealed to her admirers, with the opening up of her real Lake District home, Castle Cottage, to viewing.

Yew Tree Farm Yew Tree Farm

Mandy Marshall, a former retail and property businesswoman from Didsbury, took over the tenancy of Castle Cottage a little more than a year ago with her husband, Bill. It was relief to the locals who had campaigned against it becoming yet another holiday home.

It had already been renovated by owners, the National Trust, and the Marshalls have been clearing out the clutter, tidying the garden and getting it ready to be seen by guided parties by arrangement.

Although Hill Top in Near Sawrey is the Mecca for all lovers of Beatrix Potter’s works and life, it was only ever a retreat and meeting place for her business deals. When she married William Heelis and moved to the Lake District permanently in 1913, the couple’s matrimonial home was here at Castle Cottage, a farm over the road from Hill Top.

As she settled in and developed the cottage and surrounding barns and land, she introduced many features more typical of London town houses.

Beatrix Potter Beatrix Potter

‘Although you could take the woman out of London, you could never take London out of the woman,’ is how Mandy describes the way Beatrix developed the cottage.

Among the features are an extension comprising two large rooms, one downstairs with French windows out on to the garden, and one upstairs with a period fireplace, both with South-facing views of the surrounding Fells through ample poster windows.

Outside is a south-facing veranda on which Beatrix would sit and contemplate the end of the day. There is a hidden wrought iron garden staircase from the upstairs, giving a quick escape to the rear of the estate and Moss Eccles Tarn, which the couple owned.

When she left Castle Cottage to the National Trust, along with 14 other farms and 4,000 acres, she stipulated that they could not open the home as an attraction.

Potter’s literary legacy Potter’s literary legacy

But as a qualified Blue Badge Guide, Mrs Marshall can give tours of the estate, including the house, and surrounding areas. The National Trust has helped with the period appeal by donating authentic furniture left to them by the Potter-Heelises, like his favourite desk.

Mandy has also been appointed sales manager for the Beatrix Potter Society, with stocks of their pamphlets, cards and books being moved from their headquarters in Surrey to Castle Cottage. And in another development resonating with her distinguished forbearer, Mrs Marshall has also taken up championing the Herdwick sheep beloved by Beatrix.

The author was the first president of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders’ Association and stipulated in the terms of her bequest how many Herdwicks had to make up each flock at each farm.

Mrs Marshall has set up a company, called simply Herdwick, with shepherdess Alison O’Neill, who featured in September’s Lancashire Life.

Its logo will be based on an original Smit mark used by local shepherd Tom Storey to brand Beatrix’s sheep. The company will make and sell Herdwick tweed handbags and accessories, manufactured by John Chapman bags of Carlisle, to the designs of the two women.

The pair has already hosted visits by the Beatrix Potter Society and a couple of other groups. ‘I have already had a couple of people in tears sitting on the veranda. It is unbelievable how honoured they felt, because up until now all this has been inaccessible,’ said Mandy. ‘In fact, most of the guide books say no one can come in to Castle Cottage.’ She also plans to start guided tours based on other literary greats, such as Wordsworth and Ruskin.

This takes us back to Castle Cottage’s literary connection. The only book Beatrix Potter wrote there was Johnny Townmouse, about a town mouse meeting a country mouse and their dilemma over where to live.

On the back is inscribed: ‘One place suits one person; another place suits another person. For my part, I prefer to live in the country, like Timmy Willie.’

Perhaps a reference to her own internal debate. She may have been happy living as a country mouse, but the way she developed Castle Cottage shows she hadn’t lost all her town mouse ways.

Visit the house

Beatrix Potter Heelis, died on December 22, 1943. She bequeathed 15 farms and over 4,000 acres to the National Trust including Yew Tree Farm, pictured on this page, a working farm and bed and breakfast. Now, you can visit Castle Cottage by special arrangement by ringing 07808934175.

0 comments

More from People

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Miranda Markham’s modelling career may have started in the aisle of a supermarket but her fabulous looks have taken her from Rawtenstall to catwalks of Milan

Read more
Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A remarkable young woman has traded places as a teacher to set up as a farmer. And the small matter of not having a farm certainly hasn’t stopped her.

Read more
Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A chance encounter at a hockey tournament means a Preston student will be crossing the Atlantic to join one of the world’s most prestigious universities - and she’s the only one from the north. Martin Pilkington reports

Read more
Friday, April 20, 2018

This is no longer a sleepy coastal community full of retired folk but a town set to entertain Lancashire.

Read more
Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Inspiring Women Awards lunch will be packed with awesome females. But who will be the winners?

Read more
Thursday, March 15, 2018

Blackpool-born cricketer Steven Croft speaks of his pride at being awarded a testimonial year

Read more
Thursday, March 8, 2018

With International Women’s Day this month, Helen Pankhurst considers the progress made in the fight for equality in the century since women were granted the vote. Paul Mackenzie reports

Read more
Monday, March 5, 2018

Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff is somewhere he never dreamed he’d be – treading the boards in a major musical production and he’s loving it. He spoke to Kate Houghton.

Read more
Friday, March 2, 2018

An inspirational mum from St Annes has raised tens of thousands of pounds since the sudden death of her young son, as Paul Mackenzie reports.

Read more
Friday, March 2, 2018

Rural communities throughout the UK could be eligible to receive funding via the Calor Rural Community Fund from energy provider Calor

Read more
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Commonwealth Games hopeful Sarah Davies is a top weightlifter but there’s a softer side to this Lancashire lass. Roger Borrell reports

Read more
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Subscribe or buy a mag today

Local Business Directory

Lancashire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search