This is the third and final of our posts on Kirby Hall in Northamptonshire, which was used as the setting for Mansfield Park in Patricia Rozema’s 1999 adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel. Today we shall concentrate on the exteriors and the garden.
This is how it appeared in the film. As you can see below, if you look carefull at the windows to the left of the central entrance, you can see that this part of the range is now ruined,but by artful use of glass and temporary glazing, the filmmakers disguised the wrecked nature of that part of the building.
The north side of the inner courtyard, which faces the entrance above, was used as the main entrance to Mansfield in the film.
This north side of the courtyard actually contains a loggia- an arcaded space- on the ground floor,which supported another long gallery on the first floor.
This has all disappeared, and there is no roof or first floor actually remaining…just the ruined loggia beneath…
This shows the view through the entrance to the inner courtyard on to the forecourt…
The formal gardens, the West Gardens, have been extensively restored after years of careful excavations, and this is where ,in the film, Miss Crawford was given her infamous riding lesson.
We see part of this scene from a vantage point through a window on the first floor of the house.
The garden is extremely beautiful, and is a recreation of how it would have appeared in the mid 17th century.
The walk from the house to a formal “Mount”, a viewing point in the garden was also used
by Mary and Henry Crawford, walking along a gravel walk near to the parterre.
and this is a video of the site taken from that viewpoint..complete with strimming gardener sound effects….my apologies…
The magnificent bay windows also feature in the film, and they are as beautiful outside as in, giving the feel ,as Sacheverell Sitwell described them in 1945 as appearing like two galleons at anchor, side by side…
To the right of these windows is the service wing of the house…which is now in ruins…
And this site was used for one of the final scenes in the film, showing the remaining family at home at Mansfield.
And that concludes our tour of the buildings as used by the film. It is a most beautiful setting and I would recommend you to go and see it, as it has a unique atmosphere. And students of architecture would love it as in many places the bones of the building are laid bare…
But before we leave you may be interested to note that there is a genuine Jane Austen connection to Kirby Hall. During the late 18th/early 19th centuries the hall was owned by a neighbour of Edward Austen Knight’s in Kent: George Finch Hatton of Eastwell Park
Jane Austen found his wife to be trying company, as she was not a great conversationalist.
I have discovered that Lady Elizabeth, for a woman of her age and situation, has astonishingly little to say for herself, and that Miss Hatton has not much more. Her eloquence lies in her fingers; they were most fluently harmonious.
Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 24th August 1805.
And I daresay Mrs Finch Hatton had an interesting tale should she have wished to tell it, as she was the granddaughter of Lord Mansfield the judge,and was brought up by Mansfield and his wife in the company of her illegitimate cousin, Dido Elizabeth Belle. Here they are in the famous painting of them, once thought to be by Zoffany:
©The Earl of Mansfield
You can read more of her story here. No wonder Jane Austen was all astonishment at her silence. Convinced as I am that Jane Austen named her novel Mansfield Park as an abolitionist tribute to Lord Mansfield,who had presided in the famous Somerset Case, I wonder if the makers of the film knew of this connection between their choice of film location and Jane Austen’s political views? I do hope this wasn’t all accidental,but suspect it may have been….