Landscape is the theme for the Weekly Photo Challenge and it inspired me to get out and about on a literary trail with my little Panasonic camera.
So many of our great writers were, and still are, inspired by the landscape. I know I have previously blogged about Thomas Hardy’s Dorset, and I have probably exhausted my readers with photos of Shakespeare’s Stratford on Avon, so just for a change, I set off for Gloucester, and The Tailor of Gloucester’s house in particular.
I chose this because 2016 marks the 150th birthday of Beatrix Potter who wrote a delightful story about the Tailor of Gloucester following her success with The Tale of Peter Rabbit and the Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. I am auditioning this month to be part of a community choir that will perform in the Everyman Theatre’s professional production of The Tailor of Gloucester and I could not be more excited. The theatre, in my home town, is putting on the play to celebrate the 150th anniversary, and to celebrate the fact that a new Beatrix Potter story has been discovered. The new book, called The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, is to be published on 1 September 2016.
Beatrix Potter was passionately interested in conserving and protecting the landscape to be enjoyed by everyone. She was a great supporter of, and benefactor to, what is now the National Trust, whose Motto is the title of this blog~ “For ever, for everyone”. She was so generous to the trust in fact that when they moved their headquarters to the site of the Steam Museum in Swindon, they named it Heelis, which was Beatrix’s married name. Altogether Beatrix bequeathed to the nation the 15 farms she had bought in the Lake District comprising over 4000 acres of land, farm buildings, cattle and flocks of rare Herdwick sheep.
The building which now represents the Tailor of Gloucester’s house and shop can be traced back to 1535. It is in a historic cobbled street which leads through an ancient archway into the cathedral grounds. Having been through many changes, the building was eventually bought by Beatrix Potter’s publisher, Frederick Warne and Co Ltd in 1978. Using the illustrations which Beatrix did for the story, they replicated her vision of the inside and front of the building.
While in the shop I read an account of the remarkable background to the story:
“The inspiration for this story came in May 1894 when Beatrix Potter was staying with her cousin, Caroline Hutton. Whilst at the Hutton’s home, Harescombe Grange, which lies 5 miles South of Gloucester, Caroline told Beatrix the curious tale of a local tailor. Closing the shop at Saturday lunchtime with a waistcoat cut out but not sewn together, he was surprised to discover when, on Monday morning he opened the shop again, that apart from one button hole, the waistcoat had been sewn together. A tiny note was pinned to the button hole which read, ‘no more twist’. Beatrix requested that they visit Gloucester the next day when she saw the tailor’s shop and sketched some of the city’s buildings.”
The actual event did of course have a much more logical prosaic explanation than the wonderfully magical one imagined by Miss Beatrix Potter.
There was an actual tailor in Gloucester called Mr Pritchard who worked in a building at the end of the lane leading to the Cathedral. He was young and very keen to succeed. He did have an order for a very important client which he had not managed to complete. He left the garment all cut out when he closed up his shop on Saturday lunchtime ready to be finished on Monday. However, his two assistants, knowing how worried he was about the garment, came back over the weekend and finished it beautifully for him.
Poor Mr Pritchard, who had obviously been worrying all weekend was amazed when he found the garment completed so beautifully. In fact he was so surprised that he put a sign in the shop window saying he believed fairies had sewn the garment.
It was some time later that his assistants admitted their part in the mystery and his wife eventually broke the story.
But of course Beatrix had elaborated on the event as only she could, making it Christmas and the poor tailor ill. It is believed that she actually used her Gloucester friend’s coachman, Percy Parton, as the model for her illustrations of the tailor. Her other illustrations were drawings that she had done in and around Gloucester and Harescombe Grange. The most identifiable picture is of College Court, the lovely old lane leading from Westgate Street to St Michael’s Gate, an ancient entrance to old Abbey, now the Cathedral precincts.
Beatrix chose number 9 College Court as the setting for her tailor’s shop and this is the building which Frederick Warne and Co Ltd purchased and restored just as Beatrix had imagined it in her illustrations.
Below are some of my photos from the actual shop.
Do enjoy some landscape photos from around the Cathedral Grounds and the Gloucester Docks close by the Tailor of Gloucester’s shop.