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Finding Jane Austen in England

Pauline Kenny

Jane Austen was one of England's best and most famous writers. She lived from 1775 to 1817 and published several novels during her lifetime. More were published after her death. I am a fan of all things Jane Austen and read her books again and again (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, etc.). This page has some of the Jane Austen sights in England, based on places where she lived.

The Jane Austen Mini Tour

You can easily visit the main Jane Austen sites in one day because they are all in the county Hampshire and are close to each other. Start at Steventon, near Basingstoke, where she was born and lived the first 25 years (only the church remains), then drive 34km (40 minutes) south-east to Chawton where she lived for the last years of her life (her house is the Jane Austen Museum) and then drive 27 kms (30 minutes) south-west to Winchester where she lived in the months before she died. She is buried in Winchester Cathedral. These places are described in more detail below.

Photos

Slow Travel Photos - Jane Austen: Photos of Chawton and Winchester from our May 2005 trip and of Adlestrop and Steventon from our May 2006 trip.

Steventon, Hampshire

Steventon, in Hampshire near the town of Basingstoke, is the village where Jane Austen was born in 1775 and lived until she was 25. The house she lived in was destroyed in 1823, but the church is still standing. St. Nicholas Church was built in 1200. Small changes have been made since them, but the basic structure is the same now as it was when Jane Austen used the church.

St. Nicholas Church, Steventon

St. Nicholas Church, Steventon

We stopped in Steventon in May 2006, while driving from the Cotswolds to Gatwick Airport (to fly home the next day). to get to Steventon, take the A34 that goes south from Oxford to Wincester. On the A34, between the M4 and the M3, exit on the B3400 for Whitchurch, Overton and Oakley. Coming from the north, we exited at Litchfield, following signs for Whitchurch. It looks like you can also exit just south of Whitchurch. Drive on B3400, east towards Basingstoke, along the River Test valley. You can get to Steventon either from Overton (on a very narrow lane), or further east along the B3400. Once you get off the B3400, you are on very narrow country lanes (one car wide), but there is not much traffic.

Steventon is a small village and the church is located outside of the village. On the northern edge Steventon, look for the one intersection, south of the railway bridge (intersection of the north-south road through the village with a road going east, leaving the village) and turn east following a very small sign to the "village church". In about 1/2 mile, take a right turn (signed) up a hill to the church. There is a large house across from the church and not much else. There is no "Jane Austen lived here" sign and we could not find the spot where her house was located, but we parked and walked around the churchyard (the church was closed) and walked along footpaths out to the fields.

Even though you cannot see the house she lived in, it is worth coming to Steventon because this was where she spent her first 25 years and gathered much of the inspiration for her novels. I would like to spend more time in this area and visit some of the neighboring villages that she would have visited. The book "In the Steps of Jane Austen", describes a couple of nice walks in the area where she would have walked.

Resources

www.dutton.force9.co.uk/nwsadhs/stevchur.htm: A Guide to St Nicholas' Church, Steventon. Click links on the page to see the inside of the church and chapel.

Bath

In 1801, when her father retired, the family moved to Bath for a few years. On our May 2000 trip to England, we visited the Jane Austen Museum in Bath. This museum is not in the house she lived in, but is in a similar house nearby. Jane lived at 25 Gay Steet, higher up the hill towards the Circus.

There is a good gift store in the museum. Bath is a great place to visit and knowing that Jane Austen lived there, and set some of her stories there, makes it even more interesting.

Resources

www.janeausten.co.uk: The Jane Austen Center at 40 Gay Street in Bath.

Adlestrop, Gloucestershire (Cotswolds)

Jane Austen's mother was a "Leigh" and was first cousin to Reverend Thomas Leigh (1726 - 1813), a rector for the Cotswolds village of Adlestrop (a few miles east of Stow-on-the-Wold, off the A436 to Chipping Norton). The literature in the church at Adlestrop says there is evidence of three family visits by Jane Austen to Adlestrop (1794, 1799, 1806).

The village of Adlestrop is small and beautiful; a few houses clustered around one small shop and the church. It is well worth a visit to walk along the few streets, look out to the countryside and to visit the church.

The church, St. Mary Magdalene, was rebuilt in 1750, so the church as you see it now is much how it was during Jane Austen's visits. Parts of the church are earlier than the 18th century; the Chancel Arch (13th century) and the Tower (14th - 15th century). When we visited the church, which was open, a local cat kept us company. Adlestrop House, the Rectory where Jane Austen would have stayed when visiting, is across from the church.

St. Mary Magdalene, Adlestrop, Gloucestershire

St. Mary Magdalene, Adlestrop, Gloucestershire

During her 1806 visit, her relative Thomas Leigh inherited Stoneleigh Abbey (north, in Warwickshire), said to be a model for Sotherton Court in "Mansfield Park". The Austens when with him when he claimed his inheritance. Other things in Adlestrop are said to have influenced the novel.

There are many good walks from Adlestrop. We walked to Evenlode and then to Chastleton (National Trust Chastelton House was closed). Note, the trail from near Chastleton to Evenlode was very muddy (there had been heavy rain recently). I found several hikes from Adlestrop in the Jarrods Pathfinder books. We did the walk on a Sunday and there were many people out on the trails.

Adlestrop is also famous for a poem written about the train station by Edward Thomas's. The train station is no longer there, but the sign and the bench, with a copy of the poem, have been saved. You can see them on the edge of the village, near the parking lot.

Resources

www.adlestrop.org.uk: Adlestrop village, information about the village and the text of the Edward Thomas poem

www.dukesofbuckingham.org/places/adlestrop/adlestrop.htm: Information about Adlestrop

www.wildinthecotswolds.co.uk: Notes about Adlestrop, including the text of the Edward Thomas poem

www.stoneleighabbey.org/janeausten.html: Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire, that her Adlestrop relative Thomas Leigh inherited and where she visited

Southampton, Hampshire

After Bath, Jane Austen and her mother and sister lived in Southampton for a short period.

Chawton, Hampshire

Chawton is a village in Hampshire, north-east of Winchester (about a 10 minute drive), near the larger village of Alton. Jane Austen's brother inherited a large estate in Chawton and Jane Austen and her mother and sister lived in one of his cottages from 1809 until just before she died in 1817. The cottage has been turned into a very good museum where you can see original letters from Jane Austen, the table she wrote at, her bedroom, a quilt she made with her mother and sister, and some of her possessions.

There is a nice bookstore and gift shop in the museum. Entrance fee for the museum was £4.50 in 2005.

Her mother (died 1827) and sister Cassandra (died 1845) are buried in the graveyard beside the Chawton Church, about a 10 minute walk from the museum. Behind the church is the large estate, Chawton House, that her brother owned. (This estate is currently owned by American Sandy Lerner, one of the founders of the Networking company Cisco Systems.) From their website: "Chawton House, the grade ll* listed Elizabethan manor house that once belonged to Jane Austen's brother and 275 acres of land, is being restored as part of a major international project to establish the new Centre for the Study of Early English Women's Writing, 1600 - 1830."

We visited Chawton in May 2005 and thought the Museum was very good. There is a pub and tea rooms across the street from the house. The tea rooms were closed the day we were there (although the sign says they are open Wednesday to Sunday, and we were there on a Wednesday). We went into Alton in search of tea rooms, but did not find anything nice.

Jane Austen Museum in Chawton, in the house she lived in. May 2005

Jane Austen Museum in Chawton, in the house she lived in

Resources

www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk: Jane Austen house in Chawton, Alton, Hampshire (near Winchester)

www.chawton.org: Chawton House Library and Study Center

BBC Radio Women's Hour: August 2004 interview with Sandy Lerner, owner of Chawton House

Winchester, Hampshire

When she was ill, Jane Austen moved to Winchester and died there. She lived on College Street in Winchester (the house has a plaque). She is buried in Winchester Cathedral. We went to see her grave after visiting her house in Chawton. Find the memorial on the wall in the North part of the Cathedral (as you enter, it is straight ahead, on your left, just 30 feet past the ticket booth), then look down and you will see her grave marker on the floor. She died in 1817.

Entrance fee for Winchester Cathedral is £4.00 (donation).

Timeline for Jane Austen's Life (where she lived)

1775: Born in Steventon (in Hampshire, near Basingstoke). She lived at Steventon Rectory for 26 years, until 1801.

1801: Her father retired and the family moved to Bath, at 4 Sydney Terrace.

1805: Her father dies and the family moves to 25 Gay Street in Bath.

1806: Family moves to Southhampton (Castle Square).

1809: Family moves to Chawton Cottage (Hampshire, near Alton), part of the Chawton House estate inherited by her brother Edward. This is where she lived for the last eight years of her life.

1817: Jane is ill and moves to Winchester, College Street. Dies at age 42 on July 18. She is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

Resources

Resources also listed in each section above.

Slow Travel Photos - Jane Austen: Photos of Chawton and Winchester from our May 2005 trip and of Adlestrop and Steventon from our May 2006 trip.

www.hants.gov.uk/austen: Hampshire County Council web site with a section on Jane Austen things.

www.hants.gov.uk/austen/visits.html: This page lists the places in Hampshire that are related to Jane Austen

www.janeaustensoci.freeuk.com: Jane Austen Society, United Kingdom.

pemberley.com: The Republic of Pemberly. Your haven in a world programmed to misunderstand obsession with things Austen.

www.austen.com: Austen.com with lots of information about Jane Austen.

www.austenblog.com: Austen Blog, she's everywhere.

www.britishtours.com: British Tours offers Jane Austen day tours.

www.janeaustenfestival.co.uk: Jane Austen Festival in Bath.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Austin: Wikipedia, Jane Austen

Books

Anne-Marie Edwards, In the Steps of Jane Austen, Jones Books, 2003

Walking the areas where Jane Austen lived. The original version was written in 1979. This is either a new version or a re-release. I have just ordered it so will know soon.

Order on Amazon

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Modern Library, 1995 (Hardcover), first published 1813

If you are only going to read one Jane Austen book, read this one and then watch the BBC movie. This is the famous romance story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. The first line of the novel: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

Order on Amazon

DVD - Miniseries: Pride and Prejudice, 1996 BBC Miniseries, starring Colin Firth (Mr. Darcy) and Jennifer Ehle (Elizabeth Bennet), directed by Simon Langton.

Order on Amazon

Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility, Everyman's Library (Hardcover), first published 1811

This is a nice hardcover version of this classic. If you are only going to read two Jane Austen books, read this one too. This is the story of two sisters looking for love and marriage.

Order on Amazon

DVD - Movie: Sense and Sensibility, starring Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, directed by Ang Lee. This movie was very good.

Order on Amazon

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