On 28th July 1866 – one hundred and fifty years ago this week – there was born at 2 Bolton Gardens (since destroyed by German bombs) a girl that many regard as the world’s greatest children’s author. Beatrix Potter’s father was a barrister sufficiently wealthy to live in this expensive neighbourhood and with enough spare time to regularly take Beatrix to the Natural History Museum allowing his daughter to sketch the many exhibits there.
[T]he mention of Beatrix Potter conjures up the huge tracks of land she purchased on the royalties she earned from iconic books. But surprisingly much of the stories could have been derived from London.
Beatrix wrote The Tale of Peter Rabbit around the turn of the last century and after having it turned down by six publishers had Peter privately printed in 1901.
The son of the company’s founder, Norman Warne, changed the company’s initial decision to reject the book and went on the publish 24 works by Beatrix.
In part his attraction to the author might have been a deciding factor as they became engaged in 1905; unfortunately he died before they married.
There is a possible London connection for Cumbria’s favourite adopted daughter. Close to her childhood London home is Brompton Cemetery and while it is easy to give credence to an urbane myth is takes a dedicated individual to prove it.
Step in James Mackey, a member of the Friends of Brompton Cemetery committee. Hoping to win Lottery funding for the cemetery Mackay investigated the recently computerised burial register at Chelsea library which had on its database 250,000 burial sites, which was a great assistance as the cemetery itself had lost many of the headstones and some, of course, were interred in an unmarked grave.
George and Susannah Nutkins’ gravestone
First an old edition of Beatrix’s writings had the character Jeremiah Fisher and Mackay was able to track down that individual’s headstone. Others whose mortal remains lie in Brompton Cemetery include: Peter Rabbett, Mr. Nutkins, Mr. Brock and Mr. McGregor.
The final resting places of Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail at the time of writing remain undiscovered.
Picture: Nutkins’ gravestone Rehan Qayoom