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Characteristically, Jane Austen is sparse in her description of Barton Park, the home of the affable Sir John and the sadly less than pleasant Lady Middleton in Sense and Sensibility:
Barton Park was about half a mile from the cottage. The ladies had passed near it in their way along the valley, but it was screened from their view at home by the projection of an hill. The house was large and handsome; and the Middletons lived in a style of equal hospitality and elegance.
Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 7
However, for many people it has been considered that Pynes, a fine William and Mary house in Devon, just outside Exeter and pictured above, was Jane Austen’s model for Barton Park, and further that she most probably visited it when she was holidaying in Devon with her family either in 1801 and 1802.
This is my copy of the acquaint of Pynes that appeared in Ackermann’s Repository of the Arts etc., in February 1825;
In her book In the Steps of Jane Austen, Anne -Marie Edwards has this to say in support of her contention that Pynes was the inspiration for Barton Park:
Although there is no written evidence to support my belief I have planned this part of the walk to explore what I think is the part of the Exe valley which Jane calls Barton in Sense and Senibility….Jane always wrote about places she knew, and she must have and a specific large estate in mind. I feel sure her “Barton Park” is Pynes still, as in the novel, a “large and handsome house”. Then as now , it was the home of the Northcote family. The Dowager Countess of Iddesleigh(a title taken by the Northcotes) told me that traditionally Pynes has alwasy been linked with the novel and her view was confirmed by other local people. It seems likely that Jane and her family , while they were on holiday in Devon, were invited to stay there. They would probably have stayed at Pynes several days and Jane would have and time to enjoy some of the beautiful country walks that are undertaken by the equally energetic Elinor and Marianne in the novel. The village of “Barton” on the hill side, close to Barton Park, corresponds exactly with Upton Lyne. I tis more difficult to place “Barton Cottage: which we are told is about half a mile from Barton Park. No site seemed to me to fit all the clues given in the novel. However as I explored the area I concluded that Jane possibly imagined the cottage to be near the farm at Woodrow Barton-a suggestion that was first made to me by Mrs E .M.Cornall who lives locally….
( page 102)
This is a section from my 1812 copy of John Cary’s map of Devon which has been annotated to show the approximate situation of Upton Pyne ( indicated by the black arrow) in relation to Exeter and Crediton:
This is all very plausible, isn’t it? Save for the fact that we know that Jane Austen did indeed write about places she had never visited, and in fact the grater part of Mansfield Park is set in a county she had never visited once! However, for those of you who tend to the view that Pynes was the model for Barton Park, then, listen! A rare opportunity presents itself, for you now have the chance to purchase the house and 37 acres of parkland surrounding it.
The house is also currently being restored, and the current owner, Simon Robshaw, has very kindly consented to allow me to reproduce some of his photographs of the house so that you can see what it looks like today.
Situated 3 miles from the centre of Exeter, the house has six reception rooms, 10 attic rooms and a 37-acre park.
Pynes was originally the mansion for the Pynes Estate, which surrounds and protects the house principally to the north.
These views of the house show that it has not changed substantially since the Ackermann engraving at the top of this post was made nearly 200 years ago…
and the parkland is also very similar, with stunningly beautiful views of the Exe valley.
This is a view of the very grand Entrance Hall being restored…
This is the marvellous stained glass window in the Staircase Hall
Here we have a view of the Drawing Room…
and below of the Dining Room, which does seem large enough to satisfy such a determined party giver as Sir John.
And here is the Billiard Room.
The house is no for sale with Savills estate agents: go here to see. And whatever your thoughts on it being Barton Park or not, I think you have to agree it is a most pretty and desirable place to live.