Victorian childhood

Beatrix Potter was born on 28th July 1866 at No 2, Bolton Gardens, Kensington, in London. The Potters were a typical Victorian family, living in a large house with servants. Beatrix was looked after by a nanny, spending most of her time in the big nursery at the top of the house and often only seeing her parents at bedtime. When she was old enough to start lessons, the nursery was converted to a schoolroom and Beatrix was taught on her own by a governess. In those days, a girl of her social class often did not go to school.

Her younger brother Bertram was born when she was six years old. In spite of the difference in their ages, they became good friends as they grew up. They both enjoyed painting and drawing and they loved animals. The family always had a dog and the children also kept an assortment of different creatures as pets in the schoolroom, including rabbits, mice, frogs, lizards, snakes, snails and a bat.

 Beatrix’s parents didn’t give her many opportunities to mix with other children but they were tolerant of the animals in the schoolroom. They also encouraged her interest in art, providing her with special art tutors and taking her to see exhibitions at galleries.

However, the most exciting time of the year for Beatrix was the summer. Every year her father rented a large house in Scotland for three months. The whole family travelled north by train with the dog, the servants and the carriage horses. Beatrix’s smaller creatures, such as a rabbit or mice, travelled with her in boxes. The house they visited most regularly was Dalguise, on the river Tay in Perthshire. Here the children had the freedom to explore the countryside and Beatrix learnt to observe plants and insects with an artist’s eye for detail.

The summer that Beatrix was sixteen Dalguise House was not available and so the family rented a property in the English Lake District instead. This was Beatrix’s first visit to the Lakes and she fell completely in love with the beauty of the countryside. It was an attraction that was to last for the rest of her life.