Before I post about Sydney Place, I thought it might be useful to see the quandary the Austens had to face when they moved to Bath in 1801…Where, oh where to live in fashionable and expensive Bath on not a particularly large income , while still maintaining some semblance of status and happiness?
Jane’s letter to Cassandra Austenof the 3rd January 1801 details all the places she thought might or might not suit.
Here is the 1803 plan of Bath from The Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places by John Feltham annotated with the locations she mentions in the letter:
And here is the extract from the letter:
There are three parts of Bath which we have thought of as likely to have houses in them — Westgate Buildings,(A)
and some of the short streets leading from Laura Place (C)
or Pulteney Street (D).
Westgate Buildings,(A) though quite in the lower part of the town, are not badly situated themselves. The street is broad, and has rather a good appearance.
Charles Street, however, I think, is preferable. The buildings are new, and its nearness to Kingsmead Fields
would be a pleasant circumstance. Perhaps you may remember, or perhaps you may forget, that Charles Street(B) leads from the Queen Square Chapel (F)
to the two Green Park Streets (G).
The houses in the streets near Laura Place (C) I should expect to be above our price.
Gay Street (L) would be too high,
except only the lower house on the left-hand side as you ascend. Towards that my mother has no disinclination; it used to be lower rented than any other house in the row, from some inferiority in the apartments.
But above all others her wishes are at present fixed on the corner house in Chapel Row (H) , which opens into Prince’s Street (I).
Her knowledge of it, however, is confined only to the outside, and therefore she is equally uncertain of its being really desirable as of its being to be had. In the meantime she assures you that she will do everything in her power to avoid Trim Street,(J)
although you have not expressed the fearful presentiment of it which was rather expected.
We know that Mrs. Perrot will want to get us into Axford Buildings,(K)
but we all unite in particular dislike of that part of the town, and therefore hope to escape. Upon all these different situations you and Edward may confer together, and your opinion of each will be expected with eagerness.
You can cleary see Jane Austen’s preferences are for places that have the opportunity of open views…making her feel that she is not too far from the countryside, and importantly, with access to the hills for walking…The expense involved also weighs heavily on her mind. She also opts for those locations that were not so close to the Leigh Perrots to be uncomfortable. They were inevitably going to be part of their social circle in Bath, and no doubt were a very keen attraction for Mrs Austen to be retired near to her brother and his wife, but for Jane Austen I think, paraphrasing Elizabeth Bennet, it was possible for a woman to be settled too near her family….