Support for plaque to honour Beatrix Potter publisher Norman Warne

Thursday, 5th April 2012

Pictured, top, is Norman Warne with his nephew, Fred, and, below, Beatrix Potter, age 15, with her dog, Spot
Published: 4 April, 2012

BEATRIX Potter fans have criticised a decision by English Heritage to snub the home of her publisher in its prestigious blue plaque scheme.

The New Journal revealed last week how the conservation body turned down a proposal to honour Norman Warne, who lived and worked in Bedford Square, in Bloomsbury.

He planned to marry Potter but died a month into their engagement in 1905.

They couple met in 1900 when Potter was first searching for a publisher for her original story, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which celebrates its 110th anniversary this year.

Judy Taylor, a member of The Beatrix Potter Society, said: “A plaque would have been lovely.

"We have copies of hundreds of letters sent between Warne and Potter and it’s a very interesting correspond­ence.

"There are quite a number from Potter to Warne asking about layout, colours, words, phrasing and production.

“Warne died in his house in Bedford Square, but Potter wasn’t there, she was in Wales. It was all very tragic.”

The Beatrix Potter Society has already marked Potter’s Kensing­ton home with a plaque of their own and may now look at awarding Warne a similar privil­ege.

English Heritage runs the country’s most prestigious plaque series, erecting tributes at properties associated with the famous.

Journalist and children’s author Hunter Davies, who lives in Gospel Oak, said: “It’s a shame they have turned it down.

"It is worth doing because publishers so rarely get any sort of national attention.

"People don’t know their names, but the Warnes have been a major publishing house for decades.

“I don’t know whether young children actually read Beatrix Potter any more, but they have her books read to them.

"Whenever a member of the extended family or friends have a baby we always give them a Beatrix Potter book, usually ­Peter Rabbit or Jemima Puddleduck.”

The Warne family lived and worked in Bedford Square from 1869 and Norman is buried in Highgate.

Potter was a frequent visitor to the house, where he lived with his sister and widowed mother.

After his death she stayed with the publishers, which was then run by Norman’s two brothers.

Ms Taylor added: “Warne published all 24 of her books.

"She published herself at first, bless her heart, and took it to around a lot of different publishers until Warne, in 1902, said: ‘Yes, we’ll take it, but only if you redo all the pictures in colour’.”

Renowned children’s illustrator John Burningham, who lives in Hamp­stead, said: “Her drawings would have stood up without colour but colour is quite important to her atmosphere. It brings it to life.

“They should put a blue plaque there.”

English Heritage say they only have funds to erect around 12-15 plaques a year and so have to be “rigorous” about their selections made by an appointed blue plaque panel.

Ewan Macgregor played Warne in the 2006 film, Miss Potter.

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