The Story

Number 9, College Court, standing beside the ancient St Michael’s Gate, was the building Beatrix Potter chose for the setting of her story, The Tailor of Gloucester.

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 five miles south of Gloucester, Caroline told Beatrix the curious tale of a local Tailor, John Pritchard. Closing his shop one Friday evening, with a waistcoat cut out but not sewn together, he was surprised to discover when, on the Monday morning he opened the shop again, to discover 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”. The Tailor was amazed and bewildered that the work had been finished short of completion. From this date, John Pritchard advertised his work had been ‘made at night by fairies’.  On hearing this, Beatrix requested that they visit Gloucester the next day to visit the Tailor’s shop, number 45 Westgate Street. Whilst visiting, Beatrix sketched some of the beautiful buildings in the cathedral city of Gloucester, including 9 College Court.

Presumably, Beatrix Potter had already formed the story in her mind but it was not until 1901 that the tale was committed to paper as a Christmas present for the daughter of one of her tutors, Freda Moore.


Because you are fond of fairy-tales, and have been ill, I have made you a story all for yourself – a new one that nobody has read before. And the queerest thing about it is – that I heard it in Gloucestershire, and that it is true – at least about the tailor, the waistcoat, and the “No more twist!”

Christmas, 1901

Beatrix later reworked the story and this became the edition Frederick Warne published in October, 1903.


The Building

Historically, the original building on the site of the House of the Tailor of Gloucester can be traced back to 1535. It was in a lane that originally ran alongside the precinct wall of St Peter’s Abbey – now the Cathedral. Since the 1930s, the ‘House’ has been a selection of different businesses, including a bakery, a grocery store, a cleaning and dying service. When Beatrix was visiting Gloucester, the beautiful building that was to become the inspiration for the Tailor and Simpkins residence, was occupied by the Broadway Oyster Company. At a later date it was used as a cycle depot by H.G. Norton & Co. In 1953, then owned by Mr Percy Zatman, a dealer in gold and silver, the ‘House’ became an antique shop. In 1978, the property was purchased by Frederick Warne and Co. Ltd. Using Beatrix Potter’s illustrations in The Tailor of Gloucester Warne’s remodelled the shop’s interior and frontage.

Visitors may enjoy the Tailor’s kitchen, reconstructed from Beatrix Potter’s drawings (pages 17 & 21) from the large fireplace, the grand clock to the dresser where Simpkin sits proudly keeping watch over his captured mice, under the arrangement of tea-cups.

Upstairs you can read history of the original Tailor, John Prichard, and view a collection of  his work tools. The walls and glass cases are filled with beautiful Beatrix Potter memorabilia. After watching the automaton where the mice work on the waistcoat, there is the shop where there is hopefully something for everyone. This magical experience is free and everyone can enjoy it.


How the Attraction was Saved

The House of the Tailor of Gloucester was closed in 2005 by its then owners, the Frederick Warne publishing company, in the face of falling sales.  A campaign was launched by local businessman Ivan Taylor, who at the time ran Truscotts jewellers in Westgate Street, to raise enough money to buy the building to save the attraction for the city.  Ivan was joined in the campaign by local solicitor Robin Morris and City Councillor Paul James.  Thanks to the generosity of many people in the city, who invested up to £2500 each, enough money was raised to buy the building and it reopened in 2007. The shop and museum are largely run by volunteers, without whose help we could not keep it going. 

If you’re interested in volunteering, please contact us.


Watch Patricia Routledge opening The House of Tailor of Gloucester.

The Shop and Museum were officially re-opened in February 2007 by the actress Patricia Routledge. She is best-known for playing the character Hyacinth Bucket in the television sitcom, ‘Keeping Up Appearances’. However, she is also the Patron of the Beatrix Potter Society and played Beatrix Potter in the 1998 stage play ‘Beatrix’.


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