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Last week we visited part of the grounds of Stoneleigh Abbey, and now we continue our tour with a glimpse into the walled kitchen garden.
The gates to the garden are in need of some restoration and when I visited the walls, suffering from damp, were also were being repaired.
The ever practical Mrs Austen, writing to her daughter-in-law Mary, was very impressed by the kitchen garden and the vast amount of soft fruit it produced:
I do not fail to spend some time every day in the kitchen garden where the quantities of small fruits exceed anything you can form an idea of.
She was, understandably,a little distressed by the waste:
This large family with the assistance of a great many blackbirds and thrushes cannot prevent its rotting on the trees.
The kitchen gardens are now the private gardens of the owners of the many homes in the Abbey.
There are over five acres of walled gardens,
The garden contains 5 acres and a half.
all subdivided by walls to provide ample micro-climates and space for the growing of fruits; pear,apple and soft fruits would have been trained along the walls, and also grown in hot houses.
Her you can see how the land sweeps suddenly away from the walled garden and slopes down towards the Avon. This photograph was taken from the first gate to the walled kitchen garden
As was the case with many of these very grand estates, they were virtually self sufficient in food, and while the kitchen garden provided green stuffs , vegetables and fruit, there were stew ponds, for fish , venison from the deer in the park, dovecotes,etc. Mrs Austen simply marvelled at it all:
The ponds supply excellent fish, the park excellent venison; there is also great plenty of pigeons, rabbits, & all sort of poultry, a delightful dairy where is made butter, good Warwickshire cheese & cream ditto. One man servant is called the baker, he does nothing but brew & bake. The quantity of casks in the strong beer cellar is beyond imagination: Those in the small beer cellar bear no proportion, tho’ by the bye the small beer may be called ale without a misnomer.
And that ends Mrs Austen’s impressions of the Abbey grounds.
But there are other things to see, if we retrace our steps back to the gatehouse. The Conservatory, above and below, was a 19th century addition to the house, looking over the Avon, and which can now be hired for receptions or weddings.
It is surrounded with slightly municipal style gardens which are also later additions to the grounds and were not there when the Austen ladies visited.
Walking back towards the gatehouse you can clearly see the startling junction of the West Front of the house with the old Abbey buildings.
Humphrey Repton embellished them with the pointed finials and balls made from the local sandstone.
If you compare it to this engraving of the Gatehouse dating from 1817, you can clearly see that very little has changed from the time Jane Austen visited….I should imagine it appealed to her sense of history, and her liking for ancient buildings…
I think Stoneleigh had an enormous effect on her as a writer, introducing her to the grandeur and the practical intimacies of the workings of a very great estate. Far grander than Godmersham, for example.
This is the other side of the gatehouse, the one you see as you approach the Abbey….
To complete our tour we shall visit the Stables which were not built at the time of Jane Austen’s visit.
The Stables and Riding school were built between 1815 and 1819 and were designed by the Birmingham architect,Charles Samuel Smith.
They are built in a semi circular horseshoe pattern, which was influenced by the design of the kennels at Belvoir Castle,which were and are used to house the hounds of the Belvoir Hunt.
No horses are kept here now…..but at the time they were built they were at the cutting edge of stable design.
With individual loose boxes, a covered riding school and space for housing carriages.
This is an old photograph of the very grand Leigh carriage which would have done service from Stoneleigh.
I do hope you have enjoyed it.
This week, in order to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the First Publication of Sense and Sensibility, I’m taking a slightly different tack and am writing not about an edition of the book, or about literary criticism or illustrations( my main emphasis thus far) but about Dorset, a county that features in the book.
(Do remember you can enlarge all the illustrations in this post by clicking on them)
Jane Austen clearly had mixed feelings about the county. She appears to have despised the fashionable sea-side town of Weymouth, made famous by the visits of the Royal Family, in particular George III who visited the seaside resort to recover his health:
(This marvellously gaudy photograph of George III in Weymouth is reproduced here by kind permission of my Twitter friend Patrick Baty, the renowned Historical Paint Consultant)
Weymouth is altogether a shocking place I perceive without recommendation of any kind and worthy only of being frequented by the inhabitants of Gloucester…
(See Jane Austen’s Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 14th September 1804)
But she liked Lyme Regis immensely:
They were come too late in the year for any amusement or variety which Lyme as a public place, might offer. The rooms were shut up, the lodgers almost all gone, scarcely any family but of the residents left; and as there is nothing to admire in the buildings themselves, the remarkable situation of the town, the principal street almost hurrying into the water, the walk to the Cobb, skirting round the pleasant little bay, which in the season is animated with bathing-machines and company; the Cobb itself, its old wonders and new improvements, with the very beautiful line of cliffs stretching out to the east of the town, are what the stranger’s eye will seek; and a very strange stranger it must be, who does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme, to make him wish to know it better. The scenes in its neighbourhood, Charmouth, with its high grounds and extensive sweeps of country, and still more its sweet, retired bay, backed by dark cliffs, where fragments of low rock among the sands make it the happiest spot for watching the flow of the tide, for sitting in unwearied contemplation; the woody varieties of the cheerful village of Up Lyme; and, above all, Pinny, with its green chasms between romantic rocks, where the scattered forest-trees and orchards of luxuriant growth declare that many a generation must have passed away since the first partial falling of the cliff prepared the ground for such a state, where a scene so wonderful and so lovely is exhibited, as may more than equal any of the resembling scenes of the far-famed Isle of Wight: these places must be visited, and visited again to make the worth of Lyme understood.
Pesruasion, Chapter 11
She certainly approved if its country estates, for it is in Dorset we find that Colonel Brandon lives, in Sense and Sensibility. His delightfully old-fashioned home, Delaford, is situated in that country. Mrs Jennings tells Elinor Dashwood and, of course, us of its quiet , old-fashioned charms:
Delaford is a nice place, I can tell you; exactly what I call a nice old fashioned place, full of comforts and conveniences; quite shut in with great garden walls that are covered with the best fruit-trees in the country: and such a mulberry tree in one corner! Lord! how Charlotte and I did stuff the only time we were there! Then, there is a dovecote, some delightful stewponds, and a very pretty canal; and everything, in short, that one could wish for: and, moreover, it is close to the church, and only a quarter of a mile from the turnpike-road, so ’tis never dull, for if you only go and sit up in an old yew arbour behind the house, you may see all the carriages that pass along. Oh! ’tis a nice place! A butcher hard by in the village, and the parsonage-house within a stone’s throw. To my fancy, a thousand times prettier than Barton Park, where they are forced to send three miles for their meat, and have not a neighbour nearer than your mother…
Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 30.
The Delaford living is eventually given to Edward Ferrars and this is, of course, where he settles with his new wife, Elinor. A few months later, the marriage of Marianne Dashwood to the deserving Colonel Brandon reunites the sisters to live within a very small distance of each other:
Between Barton and Delaford, there was that constant communication which strong family affection would naturally dictate; and among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands.
Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 50.
Dorset therefore becomes the home county of four of the leading characters in the book. What did their new home county look like? What did their neighbours look like? Was Dorset then a sleepy backwater or a hive of intellectual and industrial achievements Well, these questions are more can be answered by visiting an exhibition that is currently on show at the Dorset Country Museum in Dorchester, Georgian Faces: Portrait of a County, curated by Gwen Yarker.
The exhibition attempts, and succeeds, in delineating a portrait of the county as it was in the 18th century. The idea for the exhibit resulted from the purchase of George Romney’s portraits of the Rackett family in 2008.
As Gwen Yarker comments in the preface to the exhibition catalogue:
I became aware , whilst researching the life of the Reverend Thomas Rackett and his extensive circle of friends and acquaintances, of just how formative the century (the 18th century-jfw) was in shaping the county and its institutions not least the Dorset County Museum itself.
The backbone of the exhibition is the Reverend John Hutchin’s History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset first published in 1774. The book contained detialed descriptions of 18th century Dorset. Hutchins surveyed and recorded the country parish by parish. He wrote about the history, the people and the topography of the county.
The exhibtion shows that
… Dorset was not an isolated rural county, but was aware of the latest thinking, ideas and intellectual developments coming out of London. This included rural centres such as Blandford Forum, where a circle of natural philosophers were based. They in turn returned to the capital with their local discourses in natural philosophy, antiquarianism and archaeology.
The portraits are grouped along social lines, downwards from the King and powerful landowners, through to the county’s prosperous merchants, the merchant princes of Poole with its lucrative trade to and from Newfoundland, the members of the Dorset Volunteer Rangers , a corps of light cavalry who were founded in 1794 to defend the county against French invasion, the scientists and antiquarians of the county, right down to rare portraits of servants and gamekeepers.
Only sitters who lived in or regularly visited Dorset are included in the exhibition. Many of the portraits have rarely been seen before in public, and the curator was successful in persuading a number of private collectors to agree to their portraits being shown to the public for the first time.
The Digby family group of portraits are one example of this. All save one had their portraits painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds. They amply illustrate the fate the 18th century assigned to them due to their birth order and potion in society, and the pattern of their lives represent exactly the society about which Jane Austen wrote.
The eldest, Edward 6th Lord Digby, inherited the tile and estates, and employed Capability Brown to landscape the garden of the family seat in Dorset, Sherbourne Castle. Charitable and kind he caught a fever whilst visiting the family’s estates in Ireland and died prematurely at the age of 27.
The second son,Henry, became an M.P.He succeeded to the ownership of the estates on the death of his eldest brother.The third son, Robert, entered the navy to eventually become a Rear Admiral of the Red in 1780.
William the fourth son held the family living of Coleshill in Warwickshire. ,Stephen the fifth son was commissioned into the Army. Charles, the six son also went into the church and was given another family living in Somerset.
The exhibition is fascinating, and I thoroughly recommend it . For lovers of the 18th century it provides wonderful and detailed insights into the people who lived in Dorset at this time, their homes and their occupations,
Interestingly, the research for the exhibition was begun on a budget of £1000 only,and unpaid volunteers did a lot of the ground work.What an innovative way to involve the local community and to beat budget cuts. Bravo to all concerned.
If, however, you can’t get to Dorchester to see it, then the catalogue of the exhibition, produced in paper back form is a very readable and interesting book in its own right. It is available to order by post from the Dorset Country Museum in Dorchester.
Last week on the anniversary of Jane Austen’s Birthday we toured the ground floor of her Chawton home, now the Jane Austen House Museum. Shall we now mount these small stairs to visit the upstairs rooms? It’s allowed…Yes, let’s…
On the way up we pass this window looking out onto the Bakehouse and the garden to the rear of the house.
The central corridor leads you towards three rooms on the left and two rooms on the right. Let’s go first left…..
and into a room full (full!) of Austen family relics.
This fine portrait of John Austen hangs in pride of place over the fireplace. He was Jane Austen’s great- great- grandfather,and was remembered in the family for his miserly treatment of his windowed daughter…shades of Sense and Sensibility.
There are so many treasures in this room, I’ve decided to show you only a few…….this post will be long enough as it is and you are all busy people….
One of the most touching treasures is a small lock of the Reverend George Austen’s hair, taken after his death in Bath in 1805, and kept in a small parcel of paper labelled by Jane Austen as “My father’s hair”…
A book of Jane’s eldest brother, James’ poetry, in his own hand
Jane’s ivory cup and ball, at which she was very skilled, and some ivory spillikins,again a dexterous game at which she excelled….
Some baby’s caps……familiar items to the lady below…..
Susannah Sackree, “Caky”, the nursemaid to Edward Austen Knight’s children at Godmersham…..
…and a copy of her prayerbook….bound in red leather…
Silhouettes of General and Lady Jane Matthews, the parents of Anne Matthews who was James Austen’s first wife and mother to Anna Austen.
The wonderful receipt book of Martha Lloyd, completed in many different hands…..
Jane Austen’s copy of Mentoria,which she remembered when writing Mansfield Park.
Into the room opposite, facing the garden and not the road…..
With a short exhibit explaining all the different houses where Jane Austen lived in Hampshire and Bath
And glass cases holding more treasure….The needlecase which Jane Austen made for her niece, Louisa
Eliza de Feuillide’s rouge pot, a deliciously tiny porcelain pot decorated in gilt on a dark blue ground
A soft cream silk shawl,an expensive gift to Jane from Mrs Catherine Knight, Edward Austen’s adoptive mother ….
Then to another room across the corridor, overlooking the road, dedicated to the naval brothers….
With Frank Austen’s collapsible cabin bed…..
All neat , ship-shape and Bristol Fashion…..
As he was thought to be the insportaion for Captain Harville in Persuasion, some of his handiwork is on show…..
including a carved writing case thought to have been made by him…
All overlooked by his Admiral, Horatio Nelson, shown here in a commemorative plate dating from 1805.
Then into a tiny adjoining room that is kept in darkness for its contents are very precious. As you walk in a light is automatically switched on and you see the quilt Jane Austen made with her mother and Cassandra
Have you remembered to collect pieces for the patchwork? We are now at a stand-still.
The window at the end of the corridor looks out onto the garden….
and to the road leading to Edward’s home,Chawton House…..
and the Winchester road…….the finger post marking the way….
But if we retrace our steps back along the corridor, we reach a special bedroom….
Jane’s Room, the room she shared with Cassandra from 1809 till she moved to Winchester in July 1817.
Here is a replica of one of the two beds that Mr Austen ordered for Cassandra and Jane in 1794 while they were still living at Steventon, and which has recently been installed at the museum.
The room faces the garden and looks down onto the bakehouse….which you can see with its open door below.
The closet contains a wash bowl and ewer
And the small fireplace has been decked out for the Christmas season….
A whited spotted muslin dress is on show here
A woman can never be too fine while she is in all white
Here is a short video of the room, which give you some idea of its dimensions, I think.
I do hope you enjoyed this second part of the tour. Next, the Gardens and Outbuildings.
It might at first appear strange that I am reviewing a book that was first published in 1948, but it has recently been re-printed in facsimile foom by Spire Books Ltd in association with the Bath Preservation Trust (whose property, Number 1 The Royal Crescent, is used to illustrate the cover of this book)
Walter Ison’s book is in fact an established classic and a deserves to be read and enjoyed by anyone who has visited Bath and has fallen under the spell of its Georgian Buildings; or, indeed, by anyone who has never been lucky enough to visit but has likewise fallen under its spell after reading about the city in such books as Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, where the buildings and city of Bath are essential elements of the book, the city being a character in its own right.
The first copy of this book that I owned was the edition that was revised and published in 1980 (see below) where the photographs were embedded in the text. The new edition is much more clearly set out, as was the original 1948 edition, with two distinct sections -text and line drawings in part one, then photographs and reproductions of contemporary engravings in part two: I much prefer it.
The new edition has an informative foreword by Michael Forsyth who is the Director of Studies in theConservation of Historic Buildings at the University of Bath and is also the author of another book on the architecture of Bath, the Yale Pevsner Guide to Baht, an excellent work, which was first published in 2003.
Walter Ison was born in another spa town, Leamington Spa in Warwickshire in 1908.He became a draftsman in an architectural practice in London where he first read Mowbray Green’s study of Georgian Bath, “Eighteenth Century Architecture of Bath“,which fired his imagination. It is no lie to say that he became obsessed with the city and the history of its development and its buildings. Bath degenerated as a spa town from the mid to late 19th century. It was not until the 1930s that it was realised that something had to be done to stop the city decaying completely and such treasures as the Assembly Rooms were at last recognised as being buildings of merit and, as such, were deserving of restoration and protection. In 1934 the Bath Preservation Trust was established and in 1936-8 the Assembly Rooms were restored. The Second World War then intervened and Bath was badly damaged by the so-called Baedeker offensive of 1942: 400 lives were lost and 329 buildings were destroyed in those air-raids, including the newly restored Assembly Rooms. A further 732 buildings were demolished as a result of damage in later air raids,and another 20,000 buildings were recorded by the City Engineer as having been damaged in some way as a result of the attacks.
Ison moved to Bath after his war time service with the air force ended, on the encouragement of his wife, Leonora. She also donated an important personal legacy to him, so that he had the funds with which to be able to research,write and finish his proposed book. Taking his inspiration from earlier histories of the buildings of Bath, including John Wood the Elder’s own version(see above) his resulting book is a comprehensive history of the building of the city and all its major buildings, and the architects responsible. The book was rather touchingly and appropriately dedicated to his wife.
The book is divided into chapters which deal with the development of the city, the pubic buildings,domestic buildings and representative buildings of the period 1700-1725, 1726-1750, 1750-1775, 1775-1800 and finally 1800-1830. The text of the book is also studded with magnificent plans and line drawings of the important buildings. Above is his ground plan, section and elevation of the Hot Bath where Mrs Smith in Persuasion went to receive her treatment, living close by in the lowly Westgate Buildings.
The second part of the book is filled with contemporary engravings -such as this, above of the Pump Room and the new private baths from Stall Street and photographs( all in black and white) taken mostly in the late 1940s
Now, it has to be remembered that when Jane Austen knew Bath the buildings were not yet blackened with industrial grime. This photograph of Great Pultney Street from Ison’s book shows the buildings as I first remember them from my first visit to the city aged 5 in the early 1960s. The soot and grime of the Victorian era -coal fires and grime from the nearby industrial town of Bristol- had turned most of the buildings black, and it was only from the mid 195os that a programme of cleaning and the effects of the Clean Air Acts enabled them to be returned almost to the white glare of the newly recreated limestone buildings that so distressed Anne Elliot in Persuasion. But the photographs now have a period charm of their own-the cars and sometimes the 1940s fashions of the people shown in them are now as fascinating to me as the sedan chair and muslins of the inhabitants of the 18th century prints and engravings
(My photograph of Pulteney Street taken this summer)
Interior views are also inlcuded: not only of the great public buildings like the Guildhall, but of more domestic settings as such as this first floor drawing room of number 41 Gay Street: Jane Austen, remember, lived briefly at number 25 Gay Street after the death of her father, and in Persuasion it was the home of The Crofts.
The book is easy to read and comprehensively covers every aspect of the creation of the famed Georgian buildings in the city. Walter Ison died in 1997, and this new edition ensures that his book will live on as a classic, in his memory. I can highly recommend this magnificent book, and do hope that some of you are tempted by this review to rush out and buy it.
Over the past week the following pages have been added to A Jane Austen Gazetteer, Austenony’s siser site (Do click on the links to visit the different pages):
Charles Street, London
Covent Garden, London
Cork Street, London
The Temple, London
The sharp-eyed amongst you will be sensing that these seemingly random names are, in fact, all related. Can you guess what unites them, yet? ( Ha!) Final trance of additions to be released next week….with the answer to the riddle, so do keep tuned.
Today I’ve added some pages to the sister site to AustenOnly, A Jane Austen Gazetteer. Do click on the links below to explore them….
There will be more additions in the very near future, to tie in with a new site I’ve been planning about Jane Austen’s Letters, and I hope to be able to announce the grand opening(!) very soon. I’ll keep you all posted…
Laurel of Austenprose has kindly asked me to contribute some posts for her Pride and Prejudice Without Zombies Group Read. Today I am writing about Country House Tourism in the early 19th century,and next week will be writing about William Gilpin’s influence on Jane Austen’s writings…So let’s apply to the housekeeper, shall we? I’m sure she has some interesting tales to tell…
Tourism in the United Kingdom, visiting grand country houses and the untamed countryside, developed apace in the 18th century. The diaries of the period reflect this trend containing as they do many, many accounts of visiting differing parts of the country, and of course, the trip that the Gardiners and Elizabeth Bennet make to Derbyshire in Pride and Prejudice is an example of the typical tour that those who could afford to would want to make. Their original destination,The Lakes of Cumberland, Westmoreland and Lancashire, were terribly popular.
The Gardiner’s second choice, Derbyshire, was almost as celebrated.
Why this growth in domestic tourism? First, because of the developments in travel: if you couldn’t “get” to a country house/pleasant vale easily you simply couldn’t visit it. Improved roads-both routes and road surfaces- and the system of posting horse and carriages for hire, made travel easier for those who could afford it. Secondly ,The Grand Tour of Europe , as undertaken by Edward Knight, Jane Austen’s brother, was tourism on a grand lavishly expensive and foreign scale, but it became impossible to complete. The wars with Napoleon curtailed safe travel to Europe to a large extent, and so people turned to touring England and Wales for leisure and educational purposes.
The interest in viewing country houses and their grounds increased as the concept of ‘taste” was taken up in England . Originating in 17th century France, taste, -le gout- and by that I mean the idea of expressing one’s superior education and good breeding by one’s possessions, house and gardens, was taken up rather rapidly by the English, of nearly all classes.
If you were unsure as to what actually constituted good taste help was at hand. Edmund Burke, in his book, “Philosophical enquiry into the Origins of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful “(1757) and Jane Austen’s favourite, William Gilpin, with his series of books on The Picturesque-the correct way to view landscape and country houses,as compositions for pictures,- led the way in explaining what was de rigueur.( More on Gilpin from me next week, by the way)
As Adrian Tinniswood comments in his wonderful book on the history of country house tourism, The Polite Tourist, when talking about visiting Lord Scarsdale’s magnificent house, Kedleston House, also in Derbyshire:
It is no coincidence that Kedleston Hall should have been the most consistently praised of all new houses in the later 18th century. It conformed absolutely to the educated classes’ conception of what modern architecture ought to be : costly, but not showy; elegant but not effete; convenient and in line with the accepted canons of classical taste, but at the same time spectacular enough to stand out from the mass of country houses. Together with its collection to became a symbol of the ideal: and by noticing and approving of the paintings, the proportions and the grandeur of the whole, tourists could share in the owner’s statement of his culture and taste. They were able to demonstrate that they belonged to that collective elite which constituted polite society at the end of the 18th century.
Provided people were correctly attired, polite and genteel and could travel, then, by the early 19th century the cultural world of the English country house was open to them. The English began to explore their own country and its contents, equipped with these sophisticated guides for the evaluation of art, architecture and the natural scenery around them. It gave people an opportunity to develop and exhibit their own sense of “taste”, something Elizabeth Bennet quite naturally does while walking around Pemberely House and its grounds.
The housekeeper came; a respectable-looking elderly woman, much less fine, and more civil, than she had any notion of finding her. They followed her into the dining-parlour. It was a large, well-proportioned room, handsomely fitted up. Elizabeth, after slightly surveying it, went to a window to enjoy its prospect. The hill, crowned with wood, from which they had descended, receiving increased abruptness from the distance, was a beautiful object. Every disposition of the ground was good; and she looked on the whole scene — the river, the trees scattered on its banks, and the winding of the valley, as far as she could trace it — with delight. As they passed into other rooms these objects were taking different positions; but from every window there were beauties to be seen. The rooms were lofty and handsome, and their furniture suitable to the fortune of their proprietor; but Elizabeth saw, with admiration of his taste, that it was neither gaudy nor uselessly fine; with less of splendor, and more real elegance, than the furniture of Rosings.
Pride and Prejudice Chapter 23
In order to be able to criticize Darcy’s taste Elizabeth needed to be able to understand what was acceptable and correct,and more importantly, what was not. Something she did with ease, though she found criticising oil paintings in the Pemberley gallery rather more difficult. An example of Mrs Bennet, yet again, failing her daughter in her education: even if masters were to be had, they had patently failed to provide Elizabeth with an education in the appreciation of art.
I’ve dealt with some aspects of opening these country houses to the pubic in the 18th and early 19th centuries -the problem for visitors and owner alike and the role of the housekeeper in an old post here on Austen Only, which I do invite you to read, for in this post I want to concentrate on a different aspect of country house visiting: the practicalities of such tourism, and to answer such questions as how did the visitors find out about these houses and estates? And what was on show once they were there?
To the first question. Obviously the houses in one’s locality would be known to the prospective country house visitors, but when travelling how did the traveller know where these places were to be found, especially if you were not in the company of a knowledgeable former resident like Mrs Gardiner?
The answer again is to be found in books. Detailed publications like John Britton and Edward Baylake Bayley’s The Beauties of England and Wales; or, Delineations, Topographical, Historical and Descriptive of each County ,
Or, John Cary’s Traveller’s Itinerary,
proliferated in the early 19th century to guide the determined traveler, and are one of my favourite types of antiquarian books collect. The one probably of more use to us today was written by a woman, Georgiana Kearsley whose Traveller’s Entertaining Guide Through Great Britain is a favourite of mine.
Cary’s book is a masterpiece detailing all the roads and cross roads in England and Wales ( with some of the main routes in Scotland)
and he does give some descriptions of houses –the seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen – to be seen along the route you are taking while riding in your comfortable carriage or hired post-chaise. Both books, note, contain a chapter amounting to 60 pages each, giving details , set out alphabetically, of most of the known country houses in the kingdom
(Do note that you can enlarge all the photographs of the pages of the books in order to be able to read the detail:
I do recommend it as I find them fascinating.)
But Georgiana Kearsley’s book is far more detailed. For example, on this page we have her version of part of the route from London to Manchester, passing through the towns of Matlock, Darley, Rowsley and Bakewell in Derbyshire.
The entry for Bakewell, is very useful for the traveler, and tells him all he really needs to know:
Bakewell is the best town on the north side of the Peak, on the Wye. It is supposed to have been a Roman town, because of altars dug up near it at Haddon-house. Three miles on the r. is Chatsworth a magnificent seat of the duke of Devonshire. It is reckoned among the wonders of the Peak. It is a most magnificent house, built of stone dug on the spot and is a most beautiful structure. This was one of the prisons of Mary queen of Scots. On the road, three miles on the r. is Hassop, F. Eyre esq.
Inns: George, New George.
Let’s deconstruct this entry.
She tells us a little of the ancient history of the place, important for the early 19th century traveller as interest in antiquities was then a very gentlemanly pursuit. Then she informs us of the direction to Chatsworth, with details of what might attract us there and a little of its history.
And finally Georgiana points out another house where we might want to apply to the housekeeper to see its gardens and contents. Then once we have decided to linger in Bakewell to see these attractions we are told of the two inns where we can stay overnight, or refresh ourselves and our horses on the way. All very useful information, I’m sure you will agree.
Once the travellers arrived at a country house, what would they see? Well, of course, the route and content of such a tour depended on the owners of the house or the housekeeper’s patience or desire for a gratuity. We know that Elizabeth Bennet’s tour of Pemberley House included viewing the hall, dining parlour,other rooms,including Georgina Darcy’s sitting room, the picture gallery and some bedrooms.
Was this typical?
Lets compare it to a tour of Osterley House just outside London, the home of the wealthy banking family, the Childs, which was made by Sophie von La Roche, the German authoress in 1786. The house was originally a Tudor building which was aggrandized in the 18th century by Robert Adam. Her account is full of delicious detail and prefect for our purposes today and here are some extracts from it, illustrated with pictures of the rooms she is describing:
Today we made a pleasant trip to Osterley Park, Madame Child’s country seat, widow of the late banker of this name, whose property amounted to 500,00 guilder. We would never have imaged such a place had we not seen it It lies eight miles from London, in the county of Middlesex almost opposite the Duke of Northumberland’s fine property Sion House, and indeed they are the joint owners of equal shares of the Sion Monastery estate….
As friendly Mr Burth, whom I met at Count Reventlow’s had sent us a ticket admitting five people, we were led into the breakfast room until the caretaker arrived. Where we looked at some nice pictures, had a view on to the park and the very portion of the wood where the fallow deer were and had the pond on one side and some field and Richmond hills in the distance on the other.
Fr0m here the friendly woman conducted us into the magnificent library….the dining room is very large with delicious decorations and looks out onto flower beds…
From here we came through a fine tapestried apartment into a gallery 130 feet long with large windows onto the garden…
This gallery led into the drawing room, where are some superb hangings and chairs of Gobelin Tapestry
We entered a green bedroom next,
Then one where all the draperies and curtains are richly yet prettily embroidered. Another lovely room follows and yet another called the Etrurian cabinet since its wall paintings are copied from one similar found in Pompeii…
Upstairs we saw Mrs Child’s apartments; she is away in Switzerland at the moment. These are dainty boudoirs contining all the most delicate porcelain, gold and silver ornaments and miniatures. More especially a collection of enamels being the portraits of the Child family and a number of them by the famous Petitot.
I was pleased to find my “Sternheim” in English translation amongst Mrs Child’s book and on the fly leaf I wrote down something of the joy and pleasure I had experienced at Osterly Park- in English too as well as I was able…
We went down to the very lowest floor where are all the sevants quarters-kitchen,
bake-house, laundry housekeeper’s lodge- all as spruce and clean as I myself could have desired my whole life long
The dairy and milk room however surpassed all my expectations. There was an entrance in which milk and milking pails and butter tubs stood in splendid array al white with brass rings gleaming like gold; then down a step into the dairy where the milk was standing in large flat china pans, especially made with broad spouts for pouring off the milk, around the four walls on grey marble tables….we were brought each a glass of cream with bread and butter in it…
And the housekeeper led us on though the poultry run and across a fine spot reserved for the washing, bleaching and drying back to her own part where we had to partake of some cherry brandy and very good cakes so that the milk should not chill in our stomachs..
We visited the garden especially the Chinese summer-house where all the furnishings come from China…
Into a vegetable garden there again were whole hosts of a thousand different flowers besides the vegetables; hot houses containing hundreds of pineapples of unusual size; one for growing rapes…Beehives made with particular care so that their work should always be visible.
Sophie’s tour was long and more detailed than Elizabeth’s. Viewing the domestic offices is an unusual thing to do for the time, as was being offered refreshment. But I can’t imagine Mrs Reynolds allowing visitors -even celebrated authors- to deface her mistresses’ book….In the last few years many people has asked me if bedrooms would really have been on show at Pemberley, as they felt that this would have been too intrusive. I think you can see that it was clearly not an outrageous thing to have done when compared to the extensive tour of Osterley house,which included both state and private bedrooms,and so the answer is, “yes’.
So there you have it-the practicalities of touring a grand country house in the early 19th century. Sophie von La Roche’s tour compared rather well with Jane Austen’s imaginary tour of Pemberely as experienced by Elizabeth Bennet, but of course it had one vital difference: she didn’t manage to marry the intriguing owner of the estate…. I do hope you have enjoyed this post and it will add a little something when you tour Pemberley in the company of the Gardiners and Elizabeth Bennet in Chapter 42.
If you are intrigued by this subject and want to know more I can do no better than recommend my Twitter Buddy and fabulous historian, Adrian Tinniswood’s great and entertaining book( to which I referred above ), The Polite Tourist.
Sadly, it is currently out of print and quite hard to find secondhand, but Adrian tells me he has six copies of the book and he is willing to sell his remaining copies to the first comers.You can contact him here: he is a wonderful author and a smashing chap so do try and get his book (s) if you can. You wont regret it :-)
Like the idiot I can sometimes be, I forgot to inlcude images of The Veiled Vestal Virgin in yesterday’s Chatsworth Interiors post.
She used to reside in the Sculpture Gallery and that is of course where she was seen by Elizabeth Bennet ( played by Kiera Knightley) in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice.
Last year she was moved to the exhibition space on the top floor of Chatsworth, but now she lives in the Oak Room next to the Chapel.
The Veiled Vestal Virgin is lifesize and is incredibly intricate as you can see from the photographs,(which can all be enlarged by clicking on them),and was made from marble by the sculptor, Raffaelle Monti (1818 – 1881). She was commissioned by the sixth Duke of Devonshire -The Bachelor Duke- on 18 October, 1846. She was completed in 1847
My apologies for the omission ….
Yesterday we toured around the grounds of Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, the home of the Duke of Devonshire. Today we shall visit the interiors,and ever mindful of the maxim that a picture is worth a thousand words, there will not be many words in this post…but there will be many pictures ;-) The house has recently undergone substantial refurbishment and the tour of the house has changed considerably. So, even if you have been to Chatsworth within the past two years, a visit these days will be a very, very different experience.
The tour proper begins in the Painted Hall, the first ‘real’ room you enter after having gone through the north entrance hall….
The ceiling is magnificently baroque : do note you can enlarge all these photographs merely by clicking on them….
Many of you will of course recognise this room and the staircase as it was used for one of the interior shots of “Pemberley ” in the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice..more on this later….
For the first time in years the courtyard around which the house is built is now open to the public.
As you can see it is still in the process of being restored
The gilding on the balcony is simply stunning..we can get very used to a “faded” look in country houses,but this of course is not how they would have looked when they were first built….then they would have glittered like this in the sun….
The Chapel is a very baroque confection. Probably Fanny Price may have like such a room in preference to the cool Palladianism of Sotherton Court, which was clearly based on the chapel at Stoneleigh Abbey).And here I apologise for the fuzziness of these photographs. Chatsworth is wonderful in that you are allowed to take photographs of absolutely everything within the house. This is HIGHLY unusual and laudable in my experience. But even so, I cannot bring myself to use “flash” as I think it is too disturbing to the other visiors.So you will have to put up with my fuzzy pictures in some rooms on this tour I’m afraid…..
The tour then takes you to the top floor where there is a series of State Rooms Drawing Room, Music Room, Bedroom and closet like Dressing Room, all now furnished as if they were awaiting a special visit in the 1680s when the house was first constructed
A 17th century buffet…..
17th century Delft tulipieres..complete with faux tulips
Yet more Deft
A magnificent gilt dressing table set
More Delft…woud they miss one tiny vase I wonder?
A fabulous Venetian looking glass…I love the dark sensuousness of these rooms. They are terribly atmospheric….
The Picture gallery has been re-hung with a fabulous light green silk and new curtains. All the portraits appear to have been cleaned.They are simply stunning.
Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire by Gainsborough….
And as the goddess Diana, the Huntress
Her son, The Batchelor Duke who was responsible for the enlargement of Chatsworth in the early 19th century is rather difficult to see in his new position….
But luckily an old photograph I have of him , taken from a better position, clearly shows his odd resemblance to Matthew MacFaddeyn……
Some of the Treasures of Chatsworth are now on display…I adored this wonderful diamond tiara…
And the Staircase Hall has now been re-hung with its newly cleaned portraits:
For this season only there is a special exhibition to celebrate the life of the Dowager Duchess, nee Deborah Mitford.
This letter to her father, Lord Redesdale, was one of my favourite things. The Duchess ‘s father was of course the model for the character of “Farve ” in her sister, Nancy Mitford’s series of books beginning with The Pursuit of Love- one of my favourite series of books of all time (Austen excluded, naturally)
One of Chatsworth’s distinguishing features is the care it gives to displays. These flowers were in one of the exhibition rooms simply to be beautiful…..
Here is a fuzzy picture of the Duchess’s coronation robes worn at the coronation of Elizabeth II( together with her page’s sweet outfit)
The Library on the ground floor is somewhere I long to be left alone in…. on a windy winter’s night…next to the fire , book in hand…..(a girl can dream)
And the Great Dining Room always reminds me of Thornfield in Jane Eyre- a room of fire and ice
The room where Princess Victoria had her first grown up dinner party…..
Cranberry glass abounds……
And the passementerie is stunning……
The tour of the house concludes in the Sculpture Gallery..which again was used in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice...
With Napoleon’s sister
And his mother overseeing the proceedings…
Darcy is no longer there……
Nor is Lizzy Bennet’s dress…….
With its beautiful detailing….
So, there , our feet are now aching and we need to find some refreshment,and give Reynolds a very handsome tip….I do hope you enjoyed this little tour:-)
Laurel at Austenprose has begun her mammoth Pride and Prejudice without Zombies Group Read, and has asked me to join in by contributing a couple of pieces on early 19th Century Tourism. So next week (the 25th June) I will be posting about Tourism and Pride and Prejudice in a rather general but hopefully interesting way, and then the following Friday (the 2nd July) I will be posting about William Gilpin and Jane Austen with r particular reference to his influence on her writing of Pride and Prejudice.
So to ease us in to this theme, I’m going to be posting about a couple of grand houses with Jane Austen connections over the next week. And both are still open to the public as they were in the early 19th century ( though now it is done on a rather more egalitarian and commercial basis) . In a few days I will be writing about Chatsworth but today I am writing about a much less well known but, in my opinion, equally spectacular country house, Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire.
Grimsthorpe is an ancient building, and has had a long association with the Bertie and Willoughby families. In 1516 it was given to William Willoughby, the 11th Baron Willoughby d’Eresby by Henry VIII on the occasion of his marriage to Maria de Salinas who was lady in Waiting to Queen Katherine of Aragon. In the early 18th century, the castle’s appearance was altered and it was given a fabulous baroque north front by Robert Bertie the 4th Earl of Lindsay who had become the first Duke of Ancaster in 1715.
The new front was commissioned to reflect his new ducal status. He employed Vanbrugh the playwright/architect of amongst other housesCastle Howard and Blenheim, to undertake this work, which as you can see is fantastically overblown. I adore this style of architecture, even though it was short-lived in popularity. Indeed, by the time the front was finished in 1726 it was already out of fashion….
What is Jane Austen’s association with this beautiful place? The connection is made though her eldest brother James,
who while living in Overton,near to Steventon as curate to that parish, made the acquaintance of General Edward Matthew and his wife who also lived there. The General’s wife was Lady Jane Bertie the daughter of the 2nd Duke and Duchess of Ancaster of Grimsthorpe.
(The 2nd Duke of Ancaster)
The Matthews had three daughters and James married Anne the eldest, who was over 30 years of age when they married.
As Deirdre le Faye shrewdly notes:
Anne Matthew must have seen in James Austen her last chance of matrimony, and he had a weakness for elegant aristocratic young women. The General and Lady Jane “could not have considered the young curate a good match for their daughter though as his uncle Mr Leigh Perrot had no children and he was his father’s eldest son, it was possible that he might some day have a comfortable income.” But for Anne’s sake they gave their consent to the marriage and made her an allowance of £100 a year.
(See: Jane Austen: A Family Record, pp71-2)
The sole issue from this marriage was, of course, Jane Austen’s niece, Anna Austen who was born on 15th April 1793,
and who arrived with a great deal of help from her indomitable grandmother Mrs Austen :
Mrs Austen rose from her bed in the middle of the night and walked by the light of a lantern a mile and a half of a muddy country lane to attend her [daughter in-law] and to usher into the world a new grand child.
Sometimes I can’t but admire Mrs Austen however exasperated I might be by her in general…..
Anna’s godparents were the 5th Duke and Duchess of Ancaster.
(The 5th Duchess)
Anna Austen remembered meeting the 5th Duke and Duchess , while visiting the Austens in Bath in February 1803:
I remember the last Duke and Duchess of Ancaster and being presented to the former (who was my God Father) in the Pump Room at Bath being then about 10 years of age. My Grandmother Austen with whom I was staying took upon herself the introduction, after which I was invited once or twice to spend the day in Great Pultney Street where the Duke had a house…This Duke and Duchess had had one child a Daughter who married a handsome agreeable but dissipated Irish Peer and died early leaving one Son. This child was brought up by the Ancasters . He was rather younger than myself but I well recollect spending a day with them at Bath and giving him his first lesson in dancing
(See A Family Record page 138)
Ah, that Mrs Austen…… back to Grimsthorpe…
The castle maintains its fabulously irregular Tudor South front,
which overlooks the topiary gardens
and the East front
which in turn overlooks very formal gardens
and a formal potager.
The west front over looks the lake
which was the place where in 1778,the English Mozart, Thomas Linley
met his untimely death while he was staying at Grimsthorpe with the 3rd Duke and Duchess of Ancaster ( who were of course Anna Austen’s aunt and uncle).
The Bath Chronicle of 13th August reported the accidental death as follows:
Mr Linley and Mr Olivarez an Italian Master and anther person agreed to go on the lake in a sailing boat which Mr Linley said he could manage but a sudden squall of wind sprung up an overset the boat; however they all hung by the masts and rigging for some time till Mr Linley said he found it was in vain to wait for assistance and therefore though he had his boots and his great coat on, he was determined to swim to shore for which purpose he quitted his hold but he had not swam above 100 yards before he sunk. Her Grace the Duchess of Ancaster saw the whole from her dressing room window and immediately despatched several servants off to take another boat to their assistance but which unfortunately came only time enough to take up Mr Olivarez, his companion not being able to find the body of Mr Linley for more than 40 minutes.
The church where poor old Thomas Linley is buried was the parish church used by the Ancasters, in the neighbouring village of Edenham. You can just see its tower though the trees in this picture taken from the south front of the castle.
The parish church of St Michaels and all Angels, is open to the public too
and contains many fine monuments to the Ancasters.
This is a picture of the 3rd Duchess. Poor lady, witnessing such a scene.
Here she is in masquerade dress, standing before the rotunda at Ranelagh, the great pleasure garden in London.
Back to Grimsthorpe.
The interiors of the castle are wonderfully intimate , on a very humane scale, unusual in this type of house. One of my favourite rooms is the magnificent chapel, begun by Vanburgh but thought to have been completed by his assistant, Nicholas Hawksmoor.
It is a pale, peaceful confection of a room, still used for services, and is such as would not have satisfied Fanny Price in Mansfield Park at all…
They entered. Fanny’s imagination had prepared her for something grander than a mere spacious, oblong room, fitted up for the purpose of devotion: with nothing more striking or more solemn than the profusion of mahogany, and the crimson velvet cushions appearing over the ledge of the family gallery above. “I am disappointed,” said she, in a low voice, to Edmund. “This is not my idea of a chapel. There is nothing awful here, nothing melancholy, nothing grand. Here are no aisles, no arches, no inscriptions, no banners. No banners, cousin, to be ‘blown by the night wind of heaven.’ No signs that a ‘Scottish monarch sleeps below.’”
“You forget, Fanny, how lately all this has been built, and for how confined a purpose, compared with the old chapels of castles and monasteries. It was only for the private use of the family. They have been buried, I suppose, in the parish church. There you must look for the banners and the achievements.”
“It was foolish of me not to think of all that; but I am disappointed.”
(Mansfield Park, Chapter 9)
Crimson cushions abound, however……
One feature of the interiors is that there are number of thrones kept in the castle, once used by various monarchs in the House of Lords. They are kept by the family as one of the “perks” of being hereditary Lord Chamberlain. This is George IV’s throne which he used at his Coronation Banquet.
So, there we have it: a marvellous and relatively unknown country house with some interesting Jane Austen connections. I do hope you have enjoyed this short tour and that if you are in the vicinity you are able to tour this fascinating house and estate.
A new month- a new site…..
I would like to introduce you all to a new project, one I have been working on for years- a Jane Austen Gazetteer.
The aim of the site is to allow you to virtually visit all the places associated with Jane Austen and her family. Though we can still visit many of those places to day, they have changed irrevocably in the intervening 200 years. Looking at them via the medium of maps, engravings and descriptions all contemporary with Jane Austen brings us closer to the places as she knew them.
At present only the main locations associated with Jane Austen have been completed, but in time I hope the site will grow to become a comprehensive guide to Jane Austen’s world as she would have known it.
Each page on the site gives details of a one particular location, and will usually contain a contemporary description, a map and possibly an engraving. In addition external links to current websites are provided where appropriate, together with details of all Jane Austen’s references to those places, for example details of all her letters which document that particular place,etc.
I do hope you will enjoy exploring the site, a glimpse into Jane Austen’s world .
Jane Austen appears to have had definite views about schools for girls. From the evidence of the text of Pride and Prejudice she seems to have detested the expensive town seminaries that educated the likes of the Bingley sisters:
They were in fact very fine ladies; not deficient in good-humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of being agreeable where they chose it, but proud and conceited. They were rather handsome, had been educated in one of the first private seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of associating with people of rank, and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves, and meanly of others. They were of a respectable family in the north of England; a circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than that their brother’s fortune and their own had been acquired by trade.
Pride and Prejudice Chapter 4
However for unpretentious schools like Mrs Goddard’s in Emma, Jane Austen appears to have had more respect and, even, some affection:
Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a School — not of a seminary, or an establishment, or any thing which professed, in long sentences of refined nonsense, to combine liberal acquirements with elegant morality upon new principles and new systems — and where young ladies for enormous pay might be screwed out of health and into vanity — but a real, honest, old-fashioned Boarding-school, where a reasonable quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price, and where girls might be sent to be out of the way and scramble themselves into a little education, without any danger of coming back prodigies. Mrs. Goddard’s school was in high repute — and very deservedly; for Highbury was reckoned a particularly healthy spot: she had an ample house and garden, gave the children plenty of wholesome food, let them run about a great deal in the summer, and in winter dressed their chilblains with her own hands. It was no wonder that a train of twenty young couple now walked after her to church. She was a plain, motherly kind of woman, who had worked hard in her youth, and now thought herself entitled to the occasional holiday of a tea-visit; and having formerly owed much to Mr. Woodhouse’s kindness, felt his particular claim on her to leave her neat parlour hung round with fancy-work whenever she could, and win or lose a few sixpences by his fireside.
Emma, Chapter 3
And indeed she may have held that affectionate view, because she personally experienced such a school. For a long time it has been believed that her view of Mrs Goodard’s school was based on her own experiences, in particular the short time Jane and Cassandra Austen spent at the Reading Ladies Boarding School from July 1785-Decbember 1786.
Let’s find out some more about the school and its characters shall we?
Jane Austen and her elder sister Cassandra along with their cousin Jane Cooper had two periods of formal schooling away from home.
The first episode, under the care of Jane Cooper’s aunt Mrs Ann Crawley, took place between April and September 1783,first at Oxford then at Southampton. Mrs Crawley was not noted for her easy manners: she was regarded as a rather stiff person,and was unfortunate in her unhappy marriage to Ralph Crawley, who left his widow childless and in debt, leaving her to turn to educating young girls as her only source of income.
Mrs Crawley did not in fact run what we would term a school, but in the same manner that the Reverend Austen took in boarders to prepare them for entrance to public school, she had a similar tutoring arrangement for girls. She charged £30 each for the Austen sisters board lodging and lessons.
Sadly, this episode ended unhappily. The three girl caught typhus. Jane Cooper was near death when her mother discovered her state of health and Mrs Crawley infamously refused to contact the Austens about their children’s illnesses. Mrs Cooper, outraged by this intransigence, arranged for Mrs Austen to come to Southampton to remove the children back to Steventon with her. Jane Austen was in fact seriously ill. As a result of this intervention Mrs Cooper also caught the fever and died in October 1783.
Jane Cooper’s father , Dr Cooper was inconsolable after his wife death and left his home in Bath to return to Henley and Reading area of his youth. He became rector of Sonning in Berkshire.
(Berkshire by John Cary,circa 1797)
His son Edward was entered for Eton, and Jane was to be sent to the Reading Ladies Boarding School. The Coopers spent the Christmas of 1784 with the Austens at Steventon and here it appears that he decision also to send Cassandra and Jane to that school was taken.
The school was set in the 13th century gatehouse of the ruined Abbey in Reading. It had been founded by Henry I in 1121
for the salvation of my soul, and the souls of King William my father, and of King William my brother, and Queen Maud, my wife.
King Henry I is buried in the abbey grounds. During the Dissolution of the Monasteries it was destroyed under the orders of Henry VIII. Imagine what a thrill it would have been for the imaginative and impressionable Jane Austen to live in a ruined abbey. No wonder Catherine Morland was so enamoured of them, and no wonder Jane Austen went on soon after her time there to write The History of England ;-)
The ruins still remain: and the gatehouse has been restored. But the house which you can see in the engraving above- to the left of the gatehouse- was the main part of the school where the majority of the schooling took place when Jane Austen attended .It has since been demolished and it is now a car park.
The school was at that time informally known by the name of its principal, Mrs La Tournelle. She is the most interesting character and Jane Austen must have noted every detail. Born Esther Hackett in London she re-named herself Sarah as a teenager. She became first an assistant at the school , then principal. Her obituary in The Gentleman’s Magazine in 1797 explained her adoption of her Frenchified surname as follows:
Having early in life been engaged as a French teacher her employers thought it right to introduce her to the school under a foreign name
And thus she became Mrs la Tournelle. She may have come from a theatrical family for the same obituary records that she used to regale pupils with tales of
Plays and play actors and green room anecdotes and the private lives of actors.
Luckily for us Mrs Sherwood ,nee Mary Martha Butt ( 1775-1851) the prolific evangelical children author’s attended the school as a parlour boarder and left us some details of life there in her autobiography.
This is quoted extensively by William Austen-Leigh and Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh in A Family Record (1913) :
Miss Butt, afterwards Mrs. Sherwood, who went to the same school in 1790, says in her Autobiography that Mrs. Latournelle never could speak a word of French; indeed, she describes her as ‘a person of the old school, a stout woman, hardly under seventy, but very active, although she had a cork leg. . . . She was only fit for giving out clothes for the wash, and mending them, making tea, ordering dinner, and in fact doing the work of a housekeeper.’
But in Mrs. Sherwood’s time she had a capable assistant in Madame St. Quentin, an Englishwoman, married to the son of a nobleman in Alsace, who in troubled times had been glad to accept the position of French teacher at Reading Grammar School under Dr. Valpy. Mrs. Sherwood says that the St. Quentins so entirely raised the credit of the seminary that when she went there it contained above sixty pupils. The history of the school did not end with Reading, for the St. Quentins afterwards removed to 22 Hans Place, where they had under their charge Mary Russell Mitford. Still later, after the fall of Napoleon, the St. Quentins moved to Paris, together with Miss Rowden, who had long been the mainstay of the school. It was while the school was here that it received Fanny Kemble among its pupils.
Mrs. Sherwood tells us that the school-house at Reading, ‘or rather the abbey itself, was exceedingly interesting, . . . the ancient building . . . consisted of a gateway with rooms above, and on each side of it a vast staircase, of which the balustrades had originally been gilt. . . . The best part of the house was encompassed by a beautiful, old-fashioned garden, where the young ladies were allowed to wander under tall trees in hot summer evenings.’
Discipline was not severe, for the same lady informs us: ‘The liberty which the first class had was so great that if we attended our tutor in his study for an hour or two every morning . . . no human being ever took the trouble to inquire where else we spent the rest of the day between our meals. Thus, whether we gossiped in one turret or another, whether we lounged about the garden, or out of the window above the gateway, no one so much as said “Where have you been, mademoiselle?”‘
After reading this we are no longer surprised to be told that Cassandra and Jane, together with their cousin, Jane Cooper, were allowed to accept an invitation to dine at an inn with their respective brothers, Edward Austen and Edward Cooper, and some of their young friends.
(see Jane Austen, Her Life and Letters: A Family Record by W A Austen Leigh and R A Austen Leigh pp26-28)
Tony Corley in his very interesting article about the school in the Jane Austen Society’s Report of 1996 has been able to discover more interesting and tantalizing detail about the school. There was a uniform of
A dark dress (bell skirted for the juniors) protected by a pinafore and topped by a plain cap of Norwich quilt with narrow pleating round the edge-shaped to fit the head tightly. For best, caps were of coloured silk or satin decorated with flowers or ribbon.
The teaching was mostly undertaken by one Miss Pitts. She was at the time Jane Austen was at the school in her twenties and an orphan, having been sent to the school as a parlor boarder. She graduated to teaching and eventually became a partner in the school. Mrs Sherwood tells us that
Her complexion was bright brown and red carmine, her eyes bright her nose not bad and her teeth white. She had fine dark hair and a beautiful hand and arm.
She danced with great gusto and was
really the most hospitable generous affectionate of human beings.
She married in 1789 Monsieur St Quentin, a former diplomat from Alcaes, escaping from the French revolution. He was a good teacher at the school but sadly was addicted to gambling and in 1794 the school had to be sold in order to pay his debts. A notice of the auction of the sale of the fixtures and fitting of the school as it appeared in the Reading Mercury on the 3rd March 1794 is fascinating, for it lists all the equipment and furniture to be found at the school, most probably as it was when Jane Austen attended the school:
Once the debts were paid there were some funds remaining, and Monsieur Quentin moved to Hans Place in London to establish a new school ( where most interestingly he taught the writer, Mary Russell Mitford.)
The dreadfully harsh winter of 1785 did for Jane and Cassandra’s school careers. The appallingly bad, prolonged and cold weather affected The Reverend Austen’s income for he depended upon the sale of produce obtained from farming the glebe lands in Steventon for most of his income. Hay, turnips and straw became scarce and expensive, and any animals on the farm due to be overwintered and sent to market in the spring could not be properly fattened for sale, thus reducing any sale price. This combined with a good wheat harvest in 1785-which accordingly brought the price of wheat down, reduced his income considerably. As a result Mr Austen was in some financial difficulty and retrenching took place. Jane and Cassandra left the school mid December 1786. And that was the end of their formal education.
Jane Austen seems to have retained affectionate memories of the school remembering , in her letter to Cassandra of 1st September 1796
I could have died of laughing at [your letter-jfw] as they used to say at school’
She clearly remembers in Northanger Abbey the fashion for changing one’s name as a teenager as Mrs la Tournelle had done:
Sally, or rather Sarah (for what young lady of common gentility will reach the age of sixteen without altering her name as far as she can?), must from situation be at this time the intimate friend and confidante of her sister
Northanger Abbey, Chapter 2
Ditto the ruined Abbey- a favourite of Gilpin, and artists in the 18th century, must have been wonderful for her to live amongst. And I really do feel sure that her description of Mrs Goddards school in Highbury is her affectionate tribute to her last and really only experience of a real school.
Cottesbrooke Hall in Northamptonshire has long been thought by some to have been the estate and house that inspired Jane Austen when she created the house (and estate) of Mansfield Park in her novel of the same name.
Is there any evidence that she knew of it or even visited it?
Let’s see, shall we?
At the time Jane Austen was composing Mansfield Park- 1813- she famously wrote to her sister Cassandra and to her close friend Martha Lloyd to ask questions about the landscape of Northamptonshire. It is extremely unlikely from our knowledge of her travels in England that she ever visited or even travelled through the county en route to somewhere else:
( Map of England and Wales from my copy of Cary’s Traveller’s Companion or a Delineation of the Turnpike Roads of England and Wales etc. (1812) written, drawn and published by John Cary, The Strand, London)
Her trip to Staffordshire in 1806 –which was the most northerly point she is ever recorded to have visited in England- and the return journey to Hampshire would probably not have taken her through Northamptonshire. She would have travelled from her starting point, Adlestrop in Gloucestershire on to Warwickshire(Stoneleigh Abbey) and then northwards into Staffordshire to Edward Cooper’s home at Hamstall Ridware.. The return journey would have been taken through Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and finally back into Hampshire where the Austen ladies visited James Austen (Jane’s oldest brother and then then rector of Steventon) and his family.
Indeed, her ignorance of the shire is rather confirmed by the questions she asked about Northamptonshire to be found in the extracts from these letters:
If you could discover whether Northamptonshire is a County of Hedgerows, I should be glad again.
(Letter to Cassandra Austen, dated 29th January 1813)
I am obliged to you for your enquiries about Northamptonshire but do not wish you to renew them, as I am sure of getting the intelligence I want from Henry, to whom I can apply at some convenient moment “sans peur et sans reproche”…
(Letter to Martha Lloyd, dated 16th February 1813)
(Northamptonshire :from my copy of Cary’s Traveller’s Companion or a Delineation of the Turnpike Roads of England and Wales etc. (1812) as above.Do remember this can be enlarged simply by clicking on the image)
She would have asked Henry about Northamptonshire because of all her family and acquaintance, he had some links with the county, due to his friendship and business relationships with the Sandford and Tilson families. They were all related in some way to the Langhams, the baronets and the then owners of – yes, you’ve guessed it- Cottesbrooke Hall.
Indeed, the opinions of Sir James Langham and Henry Sandford were sufficiently important to Jane Austen to be included in her collection of opinons of Mansfield Park, amongst the other opinions collected from her family and friends etc :
Sir James Langham & Mr H. Sanford, having been told that it was much inferior to P. & P.—began it expecting to dislike it, but were very soon extremely pleased with it—& I beleive, did not think it at all inferior.
Taking all this infomration into account, Sir Frank MacKinnon, the British High Court judge and Austen scholar, suggested that Cottesbrooke was indeed the inspiration for Mansfield. Dr R. W. Chapman ,the Austen scholar supreme of the early 20th century, published this information in 1931 in the Times Literary Supplement and seemed to agree with Sir Franks’ assessment.
Logan Pearsall Smith visited Cottesbrooke in 1935 and published his impressions in 1936 in Jane Austen: Reperusals and Recollections:
The name of the owners of Mansfield Park was Langham…The Hall was built by the fourth Baronet, Sir John Langham..That beautiful and stately house in the great park we visited…we saw the stairs on which Edmund found the little Fanny weeping, the breakfast rooms in which she wrote her letter to her borther William and her room upstairs with its empty grate. Then downstairs we went to the library with the billiard room adjoining which was the scene of the rehearsal of Lover’s Vows…Was Jane Austen ever at Cottesbrooke Hall? There is good reason to believe that she as acquainted with the Sir James Langham of the time, and that her brother Henry Austen was familiar with his family. It may be that he supplied her with the necessary plans and information…But anyone who has made this most delightful of all Jane Austen pilgrimages will find it difficult to believe she had not been there herself so accurately does she describe all the details.
Cottesbrooke Hall, admittedly, is a very fitting place to stand as the home of the Bertrams. It is a red brick building,with two wings either side of the main block on the entrance front. The original building was designed by Francis Smith-Smith of Warwick- and the stone embellishments you can see (the columns etc) were added in the 1790s by Robert Mitchell.
It is set in Northamptonshire, in a large, beautiful park,-a real park –just as Mary Crawford describes, and is delighted with(in this passage it is clear she is more delighted with the surroundings than the heir to the estate, frankly):
She acknowledged, however, that the Mr. Bertrams were very fine young men, that two such young men were not often seen together even in London, and that their manners, particularly those of the eldest, were very good. He had been much in London, and had more liveliness and gallantry than Edmund, and must, therefore, be preferred; and, indeed, his being the eldest was another strong claim. She had felt an early presentiment that she should like the eldest best. She knew it was her way.
Tom Bertram must have been thought pleasant, indeed, at any rate; he was the sort of young man to be generally liked, his agreeableness was of the kind to be oftener found agreeable than some endowments of a higher stamp, for he had easy manners, excellent spirits, a large acquaintance, and a great deal to say; and the reversion of Mansfield Park, and a baronetcy, did no harm to all this. Miss Crawford soon felt that he and his situation might do. She looked about her with due consideration, and found almost everything in his favour: a park, a real park, five miles round, a spacious modern–built house, so well placed and well screened as to deserve to be in any collection of engravings of gentlemen’s seats in the kingdom, and wanting only to be completely new furnished—pleasant sisters, a quiet mother, and an agreeable man himself—with the advantage of being tied up from much gaming at present by a promise to his father, and of being Sir Thomas hereafter. It might do very well; she believed she should accept him; and she began accordingly to interest herself a little about the horse which he had to run at the B———– races.
(Mansfield Park ,Chapter 5)
However, here, for me at least, is the main problem with the argument that Cottesbrooke is Mansfield.
Mansfield is clearly described as :
A spacious modern-built house
At the time Jane Austen was writing, Cottesbrooke could not be described as modern, for it was originally built in 1702- some 111 years prior to the composition of Mansfield Park.
But it is a beautiful place to visit : all the photographs here were taken by me on a visit last summer – and please do note that they can all be enlarged merely by clicking on them so that you can see the beautiful details of this place.
But note that the gardens- which are stunning- are a modern development, designed by some of the most influential designers of the past 100 years-and the grounds would not have looked as they do now when Jane Austen was writing about it, or not….or visiting ,or having plans sent to her… ;-)
It is tempting to want to see Cottesbrooke as Mansfield, and I can understand why, with all its connections and it being in the right location, people might want to do that . But do I think it more likely that Jane Austen’s modern house was not based on any one building but was rather the product of her genius.
But who am I to judge? I shall leave it to yourselves to determine ;-)
I thought that before 12th Night is upon us I’d share part of an interesting Christmas gift I received…a copy of the Illustrated London News for 1858, and within its pages is this wonderful article commemorating Queen Victoria’s visit to Stoneleigh Abbey, in Warwickshire, the home of the Leigh family.
Slightly out of our time period, but interesting nevertheless especially with Jane Austen’s connection to the Abbey.
The pages are vast and are too big to be scanned completely, but I attach them here for you to explore. They can all be made larger simply by clicking upon them.
The test is interesting, and as Stoneleigh had not changed much since Jane Austen’s visit of 1806, the details are relevant to this site. The scenario is reminiscent of all royal visits, or so it seems to me -newly cut lawns and repairs hastily made in order to impress .
I hope you enjoy exploring this interesting article over the holiday weekend,and I take this opportunity of wishing you all
A Very Happy and Peaceful New Year
Jane Austen lived in Southampton, Hampshire in Castle Square from 1806 until 1809 together with her sister in law, Mary Austen (nee Gibson, wife of Frank ), her mother, Mrs Austen ,Cassandra Austen her sister, and their friend Martha Lloyd. In July 1809 Jane, Cassandra Mrs Austen and Martha left Southampton to live at Chawton, in a house provided by their brother Edward Knight.
Today we think of Southampton mainly as a modern port-much changed and modernised since the ravages of the Second World War; but in Jane Austen’s time it had been discovered by “persons of rank” and became known as a resort and spa from the middle of the 18th century.
The old port had long been in decline at this point and the new business rejuvenated it. New houses were built, inns were modernised and communications with London improved. The rich built villas in the surrounding countryside. Fashionable promenades were created and shops boomed along with circulating libraries etc.
This is a general description of it from my copy of A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-bathing Places etc (1803) by John Feltham
EQUALLY adapted for :health, pleasure, and commerce, Southampton, distant about seventy-seven miles from London, is bounded on the east by the river Itchin which flows past the ancient city of Winchester, and on the west by the Tese or Anton, which rises near Whitchurch. It occupies a kind of peninsula, the soil of which is a hard gravel ; and, as the buildings rise from the water with a gentle ascent, the streets are always clean and dry. The approach from the London road is uncommonly striking and grand; in fact, it is almost unparalleled in the beauty of its features, for the space of two miles. At first appear an expanse of water, and the distant Isle of Wight, the charming scenery of the New Forest, and Southampton itself, in pleasing perspective. Elegant seats and rows of trees, nearer the town, line the road on both sides ; and, on entering the place, by one of its most fashionable streets, that venerable remain of antiquity the Bargate, gives a finish to the scene, and fixes the impression of the objects through which we have passed.
But by the time of Jane Austen’s death in 1817 its star had faded, and it was only with the introduction of the railway in 1840 that Southampton once again became a port and place of some import. However, it was undoubtedly a fair place in JAne Austen’s time:
THE lovely situation of Southampton, the elegance of its buildings, the amenity of its environs, and the various other attractions which it possesses, in a very high degree, will always render it a place of fashionable residence, as well as of frequent resort. As a sea-bathing place, indeed, it has less reputation than some others that are described in this work. It has no machines, nor is its beach favorable for immersion; the marine is, also, deeply mixed with the fresh water; but, if the opinion of those is correct, who maintain, that water acts only by the shock and ablution, and that one cold or one warm bath is the same as another, Southampton, notwithstanding the disadvantages we have mentioned, is as eligible as any other station on the coaat, and, in many respects, it is superior. The air is soft and mild, and sufficiently impregnated with saline particles to render it agreeable, and even salutary, to those who cannot endure a full exposure to the sea, on a bleak and open shore.
(See: A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-bathing Places etc (1803) by John Feltham)
For Frank Austen it was a place not too far away from Portsmouth, the naval base, where he could safely leave his new wife , his mother, sister and their friend Martha while he was away on duty. For the Austen ladies it was a chance to return to Hampshire, and to leave the confines of Bath and a way of life ever decreasing in style and consequence.
Frank wrote of the new domestic arrangements as follows:
He fixed his abode at Southampton making one family with his mothers and sisters a plan equally suited to his love of domestic society and the extent of his income which was somewhat restricted
(See: A Family Record, Le Faye p 153)
This is a detailed map of the areas surrounding Southampton circa 1803:
This is a map of the town centre made in 1791 by T. Milne. If you enlarge it you can clearly see the castle -a circular structure in the lower part of the map.
The Marquis of Landsdown for a very short time before his death in 1809 , lived at Southampton in this Gothic style castle. The Castle was put up for sale in 1816 but no buyer was found and it was demolished in 1818. Jane Austen’s house was in the square surrounding the castle:
Our Dressing-Table is constructing on the spot, out of a large Kitchen Table belonging to the House, for doing which we have the permission of Mr Husket Lord Lansdown’s Painter, -domestic Painter I should call him, for he lives in the Castle-Domestic Chaplains have given way to this more necessary office, & I suppose whenever the Walls want no touching up, he is employed about my Lady’s face.
(see Letter to Cassandra dated 8th February,1807)
The Castle and the Square around it no longer exist, but here is a description of it:
THE CASTLE, &C.
This stands near the middle of the south part of the town. From the High-street, the approach to it is up Castle-lane. The area of the castle seems to be of a semicircular form, of which the town wall to the sea, formed the diameter. The keep stood on a very high artificial mount, and from its ruins a small round tower has been constructed, from the leads of which there is a delightful bird’s-eye view of Southampton, and of the environs, lying like a map before the eye of the spectator.
” The high mount, and circular form of the keep,” says Sir H. Englefield,” indicate an Antiquity much higher than the time of Richard II. who probably only repaired and strengthened the castle.” This ingenious and learned antiquary seems to think it of Saxon origin.
In Porter’s-lane, at the bottom of the High-street, he discovered a building, which he conjectures was originally a palace. It is evidently of great antiquity, and was probably inhabited by the Saxon or Danish kings, who occasionally made Southampton their residence.
Here are two views of the High Street in the early 19th century:
The Southampton Guide of 1805 stated:
Many of the shops rival those of the metropolis…the shopkeepers are equally strenuous to excel in the elegance of their shops and displays of heir goods. Strangers in general are exceedingly struck at the size and the very superior appearance of the shops as in this town nor are they less so on viewing the abundant stocks of goods with which they are stocked
The town was full of antiquities: this is the Bar Gate as it looked in 1802:
This was singled out in many of the Guidebooks to the town as a “truly beautiful specimen of medieval military architecture”
(See A Walk Through Southampton by Sir Henry Englefield, Bart (1801), page 8.
But look at this description from John Feltham’s Guide(1803) and spot the Austen-esque names:
The principal and formerly the only approach by land is a splendid remain of the fortifications of this place. The north front which is supposed to have been erected in the reign of Edward III is semi-octagonal, flanked with two lower semi-circular turrets.
The arch of entrance which is long and deep is highly pointed and adorned with a profusion of mouldings. Above the arch on a row of sunk pannels alternatively square and oblog, is a shield in relief charged with the arms of England, Scotland, Paulet, Tylney, Abdy, Noel, Mill, Wyndham etc. These arms however are not of ancient date and from a minute inspection of the compnent parts of this curious gate Sir Henry Englefield is of the opinion that the internal centre must have been erected in the early Norman time or even before then.
The front towards the High-street, is modern, plain, and uninteresting, except that in a central niche is contains a whole-length statue of Queen Anne, still and formal enough.
Over the arches of the two foot and carriageways, is a spacious TOWN-HALL, fifty-two feet by twenty-one, with which a room for the grand jury communicates. The windows in these apartments, withinside, bear marks of antiquity.
From the leads, the whole of this noble gate may be traced, and great part of site town may be seen. Two lions serjant, cast in lead, guard the entrance of Bargate, and on this side there are likewise portrayed two gigantic figures, representing Ascupart and Sir Bevios, of Southampton his redoubted conqueror, according to the following couplet:
“Bevois conquer’d Ascupart, and after slew the boare,
And then he cross’d beyond the seas to combat with the More.”
I’m sure this and the castle appealed to Jane Austen’s sense of the Gothick, if not to inspire names of characters in Northanger Abbey and Emma… Southampton had many of the amenities necessary for the amusement of its visitors. In addition to a riding school…
it also possessed chaylebeate springs, baths, public rooms owned by a Mr Martin( complete with a full set of Assembly Room regulations) and winter assemblies were held at the Dolphin Inn
( now sadly closed due to the effects of the current credit crunch)and a theatre:
Jane Austen attended the French Street Theatre while living there .
It also had a multiplicity of circulating libraries:
BAKER’s LIBRARY, in the High-street, contains a well-chosen collection of more than 7000 volumes, in every branch of learning, and in every department of composition Jewellery, stationary, &c. are likewise sold at this shop.
Messrs. Baker have also a printing-office, from which books have issued that would do no discredit to the London presses. The good sense, information, and civility of that family, which is large and respectable, render their acquaintance desirable to every visitor of the place.
Skelton’s Library, standing nearly opposite, is likewise well filled with valuable and entertaining books, and much frequented.
He has likewise a printing-office, and a subscription News-room, which is open from nine in the morning to nine in the evening, on reasonable terms.
If superior industry, understanding, and a zeal to oblige, are claims to patronage, Byles will not be forgotten, though his establishment is comparatively new.
There are some other libraries in Southampton,which possess their appropriate merits, and are ad mired by their respective customers.
(see The Guide to all the Watering Places etc (1803) by John Feltham.)
Jane Austen also attended All Saints Church, which was built in 1792-3 and was designed by William Revesley. Frank’s daughter, Mary Jane, born in April 1807 was christened here.
The beach was a tree-lined walk made around 1769 on the old causeway from the Platform to the Cross House
And it was here -on flooded meadows that froze -that Frank skated :
We did not take our walk on Friday, it was too dirty, nor have we yet done it; we may perhaps do something like it to-day, as after seeing Frank skate, which he hopes to do in the meadows by the beach, we are to treat ourselves with a passage over the ferry. It is one of the pleasantest frosts I ever knew, so very quiet. I hope it will last some time longer for Frank’s sake, who is quite anxious to get some skating; he tried yesterday, but it would not do.
(See Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 7th January 1807)
And here is a picture of a contemporary couple skating circa 1805…it won’t be long before braver souls than I can attempt that here in darkest Lincolnshire….
Jane Austen possessed some Wedgwood china : let’s read this extract from her letter to Cassandra Austen of the 6th June 1811,wherein she articulates many feelings common to modern mail-order purchasers :
On Monday I had the pleasure of receiving, unpacking and approving our Wedgwood ware. It all came very safely and upon the whole is a good match, tho’ I think they might have allowed us rather larger leaves, especially in such a year of fine foliage as this. One is apt to suppose that the Woods about Birmingham must be blighted.
There was no bill with the Goods-but that shall not screen them from being paid. I mean to ask Martha to settle the account. It will be quite in her way for she is just now sending my Mother a Breakfast set, from the same place. I hope it will come by the Waggon tomorrow; it is certainly what we want and I long to know what it is like: and as I am sure Martha has great pleasure in making the present,I will not have any regrets..
Such a sort passage for one letter: but such a lot of points to consider.
First to the showroom. This a print above is from my copy of Ackerman’s Repository of Arts for February 1809. I love this print. It gives us such a lot of detail about Wedgwood’s tempting wares and his method of selling them.
Let’s consider some of the detail;
Here is the manager showing his customer the ware….The manager of the Wedgwood showroom in Bath was of course Mrs Radcliffe’s father ,and her uncles was Wedgwood’s business partner, Thomas Bentley…..
In 1771-2 Ann Ward stayed with her uncle Thomas Bentley in Turnham Green while her parents prepared for their removal to Bath, where her father was to manage the Wedgwood showroom, a position obtained for him by Bentley, who was Wedgwood’s partner and a man of refined taste.
.(see Mistress of Udolpho:The Life of Ann Radcliffe by Rictor Norton)
In the showroom are some well-behaved children…
Tables laden with wares….
and a rather fagged lady wanting to go home and drink tea from the wares and not to have to look at any more cups and pots.
The showroom where Martha Lloyd placed her order, was just off St James’s Square in London, in York Street. This was a very fashionable and smart address being not far from St James’s Palace where the court of the King (and the Prince Regent) held all its official levees etc.Wedgwood clearly wanted to appeal to the highest classes of society.
This is a description of the showrooms from my copy of A Picture of London (1809), one of the early guidebooks to the Metropolis:
Upon the north side and near the middle of Pall Mall is St James Square, having a circular bason inclosed within an octagonal railing, in its centre; the houses surrounding this square are chiefly inhabited by nobility. The town residence of the bishops of London a large inelegant pile of brick building occupies along with its neighbour Norfolk House in which our present sovereign was born, all that portion of the eastern side of the square, intercepted between Charles Street and Pall Mall. At the corner of York Street an avenue leading from this street to Jermyn Street is the large house and manufactory of Mr Wedgwood in whose exertions much of the late reformations of public taste is to be ascribed. This house has been originally the habitation of the Spanish Ambassador to which was attached the adjoining chapel,which, upon his quitting this place was used as a place of worship by sundry sectarians and is at present in the possession of a Mr Proud one of the adherents to the singular tenets of an eccentric Swedish Baron Emanuel Swedenborough for an account of whose doctrine we must refer our readers to Evans’s useful comprehensive yet concise account of the various denominations of Christians.
Of course the wares would not be made in London: they were only retailed there. They were created in Staffordshire, which is where Jane Austen’s knowledge of geography is shown to be slightly lacking in the letter I quote from above. She is confusing Birmingham in Warwickshire with Burslem in Staffordshire where Josiah Wedgwood and his descendant had their factory.
She might be doing so because the Wedgwoods were famously a radical family and were part of the Lunar Society group based primarily in Birmingham-along with Richard Lovell Edgeworth( father of Maria) and Matthew Bouton, Joseph Priestly etc. But who knows for certain?
This is a picture of the Wedgwood works at Etruria as they appeared in the late 18th century. The pottery industry was of vital importance to the Staffordshire economy in the late 18th /early 19th centuries as this extract from England Described etc (1818) by John Aikin M.D. explains:
Staffordshire has long been noted, and is now particularly famous, for its potteries, the chief seat of which is near Newcastle, in a line of villages extending about ten miles. The neighbourhood affords abundance of the most bulky materials for this business, namely fire-clay and coals; but their finer clays are brought from Purbeck in Dorsetshire and other parts of that coast; and flints from the chalk pits near Gravesend, with some from Wales and Ireland. For the conveyance of these articles they have the benefit of water-carriage, either from Hull or Gainsborough, by means of the Trent which communicates with the southern extremity of the Staffordshire Grand Trunk Canal; or from Liverpool by means of the Mersey, and the duke of Bridgwater’s navigation, to the northern extremity of the same canal. The manufactured goods are sent away by the same conveyances. The perfection to which this manufacture has been brought, and the great elegance of the useful and ornamental articles of which it consists, have rendered it a very important object of commerce, both foreign and domestic.
Burslum was the site of Wedgewood’s Etruria Works,a name inspired by the classical vases, particularly those illustrated by Sir William Hamilton in his book “Etruscan Vases’, upon which Josiah Wedgwood based his neoclassical designs. Look at this extract, again from England Described, and note that the whole area became known as The Potteries,a name that is still applied today even though the manufacture of pottery is sadly in decline there:
The principal place in the Potteries is Bruslem, lately raised to the priviledge of a market town,and supplying the wants of a very populous neighbourhood, the inhabitants which have been drawn together by this demand are very numerous and are employed chiefly in various branches of manufacture.
Jane Austen tells us how these delicate and precious gods were transported to her in Hampshire: by Waggon. The waggon system of transporting goods and livestock was operated by private contractors all over the country. Nearly every small town possessed a company which supplied waggons travelling to and from London,and delivering parcels of goods to their area.
While Jane Austen was living at Chawton the waggon services available in Alton, her nearest market town were as follows:
Coaches,Waggons etc. Collier’s Alton Coach from the Bell Savage Ludgate Hill, 3 times a week. A Southampton coach passes daily Sundays excepted to and from the same inn; also a Gosport dilligence daily to the White Horse Fetter-lane. Knight’s waggons leaves the New Inn, Old Bailey every Tuesday and Friday morning and arrives at Alton every Thursday and Saturday evening. Falkner and Lamport’s Farnham and Alton waggon leaves the George, Snows-hill every Tuesday and Friday and other waggons pass through the town almost every day.
(See the entry for Alton, Hampshire in Crosby’s Complete Pocket Gazetteer of England and Wales (1807). NOTE : this was the same firm of publishers, owned by Benjamin Crosby, who bought the copyright of Northanger Abbey, then known by the title “Susan”, in 1803 for £10 but never published it. Jane Austen eventually purchased the manuscript back from them . The correspondence between them included her famous letter of April 5, 1809 which she wrote under the pseudonym of Mrs Ashton Dennis thus enabling her to end the letter with the following phrase, I AM GENTLEMEN, MAD.)
Jane Austen and her mother were not the only fans of Wedgwood’s wares in the Austen family. Still extant at The Jane Austen House Museum is the set of Wedgwood ware that Edward Knight, Jane’s brother ordered, exactly as Jane Austen described it : The pattern is a small Lozenge in purple,between lines of narrow Gold ; & it is to have the (Knight) crest
And so, there you have a little explanation of that small mention of Wedgwood ware in Jane Austen’s letter. We have seen the showroom in London, learnt about where the wares were made and just how Jane Austen would have received them form London via waggon.
I trust you have enjoyed this little excursion into the retail world of the early 19th century, and that your own excursions in the realms of 21st century Christmas shopping is as pleasant and satisfactory as were Jane Austen’s goods from The Potteries and St James’s.
We are very familiar with the sites in Hampshire and the south of England associated with Jane Austen: Steventon,Chawton, Lyme…But not many people realise that there is a very interesting site in Lincolnshire, open to the public and easily accessible via the A1, which has a very interesting connection to Jane Austen’s aunt, Jane Leigh-Perrot.
The family who own this estate are named Cholmeley and Jane Austen’s aunt was a part of this family. Though Jane Leigh Perrot was born in Barbados in the West Indies, her maiden name was Cholmeley, and she was a niece of the baronet, Sir Monatague Cholmeley who was then in posession of the estate.
Jane Cholmeley was the daughter of Robert Cholmeley who owned land in Barbados.
(Lincolnshire from Cary’s Traveller’s Companion or a Delineation of the Turnpike Roads of England and Wales etc.(1812) by John Cary)
.She was sent to England and was educated there at a boarding school. Because of the rigours of travelling to the West Indies-as recounted accurately by Jane Austen in Mansfield Park-she did not return to Barbadoes during school holidays but instead spent much of her time here at Easton with her uncle and his family.
She married James Leigh-Perrot, who was Mrs George Austen’s brother, on the 9th October 1764 . Jane Austen’s aunt was of course infamous for being charged with grand larceny an attempt, seemingly at blackmail, by some Bath haberdashers meant that in 1799 she was accused of stealing a quantity of lace. Go here for an essay on her trial by Albert Borowitz. If found guilty she would no doubt have been transported to Botany Bay in Australia for 14 years- a virtual death sentence for a woman of her age.
When she was incarcerated in Ilchester Gaol awaiting trial at Taunton, Montague Cholmeley of Easton wrote her a series of kind letters to her to help maintain her spirits. Here is an extract from one commenting on Mrs Austen’s generous but slightly deranged offer to have Jane and Cassandra accompany their aunt in the gaol( in reality Jane Leigh-Perrot lived together with her husband in the squalid but humane lodgings with the Gaol Keeper and his family and not in a jail cell). Mrs Leigh Perrot declined the offer, recoiling in horror at the thought of the Austen girls having to spend time there writing to her cousin ,Sir Montague Cholmeley the then owner of Easton, as follows :
One of my greatest Miseries here ( indeed my very first) is the seeing what my dearest Husband is daily going through-Vulgarity, Dirt, Noise from Morning till Night. The People not conscious that this can be Objectionable to anybody, fancy we are very Happy and to do them justice they mean to make us quite so…this Room joins to a Room where the Children all lie, and not Bedlam itself can be half so noisy, besides which, as not one particle of Smoke goes up the Chimney, except you leave the door or window open, I leave you to judge of the Comfort I can enjoy in such a Room…No! my Good Cousin, I cannot subject even a Servant to the suffering we daily experience…My dearest Perrot with his sweet composure adds to my Philosophy; to be sure he bids fair to have his patience tried in every way he can. Cleanliness has ever been his greatest delight and yet he sees the greasy toast laid by the dirty children on his knees and feels the small Beer trickle down his sleeves on its way across the table unmoved…Mss Scadding’s Knife well licked to clean it from the fried onions helps me now and then-you may believe how the Mess I am helped to is disposed of-here are two dogs and three Cats always full as hungry as myself.
Sir Montague appeared to have agreed with her decision:
You tell me that your good sister Austen has offered you one or both of her Daughters to continue with you during your stay at that vile place, but you decline the kind offer as you cannot procure them Accommodation in the House with you and you cannot let those Elegant Young Women be your Inmates in a Prison nor be subject to the inconveniences which you are obliged to put up with….
Jane Leigh Perrot was eventually found not guilty after the long and infamous trial.
The estate is a very interesting place to visit. Here is a link to its website. The current owners have embarked on a very laudable and brave project to restore the gardens: the site as you can see from these photographs which I took on a recent visit is spectacular, spanning the River Witham :
.The stables are the only part of the massive structure that survive: the main house was sadly demolished in the 1950s. This is all that remains :
The buildings that do survive are fascinating…
..all emblazoned with the Cholmeley crest of a wheat-sheaf in different forms:
And the gardens are bewitching:
Here is a link to the history of the house from Easton Walled Gardens current website:
…and here are some photographs from the family’s archive as to show the hall as it looked before it was demolished.
I do have to sincerely thank Lady Cholmeley, the present chatelaine, for her generosity in allowing me to reproduce them here .
Walking about the grounds, imagining the splendours of the place in Jane Leigh Perrot’s youth is a very interesting experience, and give some idea of her background and possibly explains her imperious attitude, ending her life playing games with the possible inheritors of her wealth-as she was childless and had inherited all her husbands property on his death she knew she had power to wield.
And I’m not sure that Jane Austen had much affection for her aunt, certainly from the evidence of her letters, but in any event, viewing the place where Jane’s aunt spent her early summers was an interesting way to spend a summer’s afternoon, speculating on her character while wandering around.
And I find the prospect of these gardens being fully restored bewitching: but even in their present state , much akin to a half-finished archaeological dig-they exert a certain charm , and evoke memories of eras long gone. I highly recommend a visit