Textile industry links, but Beatrix had love of nature

Margaret Curry, a frequently visiting speaker to Todmorden Antiquarians, presented “Beatrix Potter, An Industrial Inheritance.”

The theme was based on Beatrix’s four Grandparents, highly successful textile firms in our region.

Beatrix’s paternal Grandparents, Edmund and Jessie Potter, inherited one mill but expanded hugely into calico printing works at Dinting Vale edging Glossop.

Edmund Potter became an enterprising businessman with two warehouses in central Manchester. He later became MP for Carlisle. Beatrix was very fond of Grandmother Jessica, who loved the arts and was born to mill owners in Bolton.

Margaret explained the maternal Grandparents, John and Jane Leech, were also prosperous mill magnates in Stalybridge. John Leech even bought sailing ships to organize his own trading. They lived at Gorse Hall Park overlooking Stalybridge.

The estate is now under Tameside Council. An open classroom has been created from former foundations and a nature trail depicts Beatrix Potter style animal sculptures.

Beatrix Potter was born in 1866 in Kensington. Her father, Rupert Potter, attended London University and Law School to become a Barrister. He married Helen Leech. Margaret said that Beatrix was considered delicate, so had a sheltered childhood with governesses.

The family enjoyed an affluent lifestyle and took long holidays in Perthshire, then the Lakes. Her younger brother Bertram went to boarding school. Beatrix Potter spent her first 40 years with her parents, frequently visiting her grandparents in Manchester millscapes.

Margaret concluded that Beatrix’s timeless writings and detailed drawings resulted from her love of nature, her detailed artistry and scientific leanings. Her Potter grandparents and parents are buried in the family vault at Hyde Unitarian Church.