You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2010.

I thought you might like to take a look at the e-catalogues for the Chatsworth and Ashdown Attic sales, both houses having connections to Jane Austen as I explained in my posts here (Chatsworth) and here (Ashdown),  and which are now available to view online at the Sotheby’s website.

The Chatsworth e-catalogue is available here

and the Ashdown House e-catalogue is available here.

There has been tremendous press interest in the Chatsworth sale recently;  it has been featured in magazines, newspapers and TV news programmes. The sale will take place next week and I promise to broadcast some of the results here.

Be warned, you can lose many, many hours on-line gazing at the marvellous and varied contents. My imaginary bid list is getting longer by the day…

So, on the presumption that you  done all your duties for today and have  either  queued up at the Estate Office to  pay your rent to your landlord, or have settled with the agent that you are to take Netherfield after all, depending on your whim…’s time for a little catching up re Amanda Vickery’s doings.

Throughout the summer she has been entertaining us on Twitter with snippets of information of the filming of Behind Closed Doors for the BBC, which has now been completed (above is the clapper board which was given to Amanda by the film crew as a present at the end of filming).Those of us who follow her on Twitter have virtually followed her to Ditcheley Park, designed by James Gibbs in the 1720s, shown below….

(© Adam Middleton and The Ditchely Foundation)

…where a lot of the filming has taken place, and also at

less grand surroundings such as houses in Spitalfields, above, and

the  Almshouses at the Geffreye Museum;as Professor Vickery noted, it was neat but frugal.

We have also met some of the actors playing the real life characters in the book, and discovered that, for actresses playing period women’s roles, The Gentleman’s Daughter also written by Professor Vickery has become an essential part of their research,a handbook to explain the lives their characters would have led in the late 18th /early 19th century. I’m glad about this as for years I have described it as required reading for anyone who wants to know more about  the background to the female characters in Jane Austen’s works. It’s nice to know that professional actresses agree!

Professor Vickery and I have been jealously coveting some of the hats on display…….

Do look at this fabulous creation worn by “Lady Margaret Stanley” seen with Professor Vickery in modern garb, above……It’s been great fun keeping up with it all. So do join Professor Vickery on Twitter  for as the broadcasting date nears there will be more snippets of information being bandied about I’m sure. At the moment there is a  debate at the production company as to want to call the series; Behind Close Doors sounds fine to me but an official alternative suggestion has been put forward , The Georgians An Intimate History…I confess I’m not keen on that one. Why not let Professor Vickery have your thoughts on the subject via Twitter?  No dates as yet from Professor Vickery as to when the series is to be broadcast but I promise to let you know the moment I’m made aware of them.

On to publishing.

Yale, whose London office are shown above, in a photograph taken by Professor Vickery while filming Behind Closed Doors, -and I would like to thank her for permission to use all these images- have now issued a paperback edition of  Behind Closed Doors in the UK (the USA paperback edition is to follow soon I understand)

This is a bargain. If you were wary of buying the full price hardback book, then  please do buy this version. It is a great read as well as being very informative. My review  accessible here might persuade you if you are wavering.

Professor Vickery is also to give the 2010 Royal Historical Society/Gresham College Annual Lecture on 11th November at Gresham College in London, entitled, What Did Eighteenth Century Men Want?, which promises to be fascinating. It may be made available as a podcast, and if so I will of course alert you all. In the meantime, here is another of Professor Vickery’s talks and this is one which IS available as a podcast now: go here to download her talking about  the role of the home in the long 18th century. Her talk is entitled Out of the Closet: Love, Power and Houses in Eighteenth Century England. You will enjoy it I’m sure.

I’ll post again when details of the broadcasting times for Behind Closed Doors are available and I will also be  reporting back soon from the exhibition curated by Professor John Styles, Professor Vickery’s husband, entitled Threads of Feeling which will open soon at the Foundling Hospital Museum in London.

As Jane Austen knew well, a house in town (London)  was the “pineapple of perfection”,   “Everything that is charming!” to quote Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, a distinctive social marker of the most financially secure of her male characters and the highest social aspiration for  many of her female characters( though I always feel that Austen herself preferred the safety and security of country society to that of town, that Scene of  Dissipation of Vice). As Professor Edward Copeland writes in The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, in the chapter on Money:

In terms of consumer show any income over £4000 a year is characterised  by its ability to provide a house in London for the social season, the beguiling consumer temptation that brings romantic disaster to both Mary Crawford and Maria Bertram.

After the devastation of old London in the fire of 1666, the development of the fashionable west end of London- Mayfair and its surrounding districts-far away from the fire devastated City- saw a major period of building of grand town house, squares and crescents, with which we visitors to, or inhabitants of London are now totally familiar.  This building gradually spread northwards from the streets around St James’s Palace in the first decades of the eighteenth century, and by the mid 17690s there were extensive developments built to the west and north of Cavendish Square in Marylebone, in the streets bounded by Oxford Street, the New Road (which is now known as the Euston Road)to the north and Portland Place to the east. At the same time, the Bedford Estate was being developed with the establishment of the squares and streets of Bloomsbury, and there were other isolated developments, such as the Adelphi, south of the Strand near the river Thames, that were attracting fashionable tenants.

(Adam House Adam Street Adelphi,London a survivor of the ill-fated development designed by Robert and James Adam, circa 1770,and which the eaged -eyed amongst you will recognise as the location used for Mr and Mrs john Dashwood’s town house in the film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility 1995)

Much of the land was owned outright by aristocratic families –The Russell’s of the Bedford estates, the Grosvenors of Mayfair etc.,etc.,- and was therefore entailed and could not be sold, or it was in the hands of corporate landowners who developed it to provide a long-term steady income: a result of this prime ownership was that most houses were held on leases and building was large-scale and uniform, despite the occasional individual house built for a very rich patron.

Rachel Stewart’s book, The Town House in Georgian London addresses the development of this  phenomenon from the view of the architect and his patrons, male and female. She explains with wonderful clarity the role of these houses, and why the  location, planning,  furnishing and  finish of a house was of vital importance, something with contributed seriously to the image of the owners/lesees.

The finances involved in buying and affording  a house in the West End is one of the most revealing and informative chapters in the book, and the financial crises of George III’s reign make for uncomfortable reading bearing in mind our current troubled times. She also includes fascinating chapters on 18th century architectural design and practices , explaining the use of pattern books and  the development of the design of the town house as an architectural entity in its own right, complete with is own characteristics and formulae:

The typical town house in practice was never the country house built small, but many pattern book designs for town houses  seem more or less interchangeable with those for country houses of equivalent size, both in external appearance and planning….A five bay house calculated for a large family town situation could  easily be taken for a modest country house with its pedimented central section and balanced disposition of rooms either side of a corridor running backwards a form the central entrance…Where authors suggest that the  same design can be used for a house in town or country, this interchangeability is often questionable.

The book is wonderfully produced by Yale Publishing and illustrated beautifully, generously and very appropriately. There are  enough reproductions of plans of houses to satisfy even me.

(Ground and first floor plans of Wynn House 20 St James’s Square designed by Robert Adam, 1771-4)

This is a readable and enjoyable book, full of interesting detail, and for those of us who have ever wondered  what Darcy’s house in town looked like, reading this book will enable our speculation to have some sound basis in fact. I highly recommend 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 Cape of Good Hope

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.

I thought you all might enjoy seeing this video about the items on at Chatsworth…Go here to view it.

Ashdown House is an exquisite 17th century house, situate in Berkshire, not far from the border of Berkshire with Oxfordshire. The house was designed for William, 1st Earl of Craven, most possibly by the Dutch-born architect Capt William Winde, in 1663. The Earl of Craven had  intended it to be used by  the object of his admiration, Elizabeth of Bohemia-  The Winter Queen– who was the then impoverished sister of King Charles I,  He knew of her desire to live in quiet in England, after living for many years in exile at the Hague in Holland. Sadly, it was not to be and before the house was completed Elizabeth died suddenly in February 1662, while visiting her nephew King Charles II in London.

The Craven family lived in Ashdown House until it was donated to the National Trust by Cornelia, Countess of Craven in 1956. The public has restricted access to the house: namely to the magnificent staircase which runs the height of the building and is rather like a magnificent picture gallery, and then up onto the leads and cupola from which spectacular views of the surrounding Berkshire countryside can be viewed. The rest of the house is leased from the National Trust,and recently the lease has changed hands, and has been sold to the musician, Pete Townsend of The Who. The contents of the house assembled by its old tenant are to be sold by Sotheby’s in another attic sale, to be held at their Bond Street premises on the 27th October this year.

So why should this interest us? Merely  because  Jane Austen’s family had some albeit distant contact with this chap.  Lord Craven(the 1st Earl of the second creation) was a kinsman and patron of the Fowle family of Kintbury: and it was on the ill-fated expedition to the West Indies in 1795, when he accompanied Lord Craven as his chaplain, that Tom Fowle, Cassandra Austen’s then fiance, tragically died.  Lord Craven also was a source of gossip for the neighbourhood, and this is evident in Jane Austen’s letter to Cassandra Austen of the 8th January, 1801:

Eliza has seen Lord Craven at Barton & probably by this time at Kintbury, where he was expected for one day this week.- She found his manners very pleasing indeed.- The little flaw of having a Mistress now living with him at Ashdown Park seems tobe the ony unpleasing circumstance about him…

At this time, by my calculations, Lord Craven,was involved with the very famous courtesan, Harriette Wilson.

She does not mention living with him at Ashdown Park in her memoirs  but what she does say about him is calculatedly cutting and rather dismissive:

I shall not say why and how I became, at the age of fifteen, the mistress of the Earl of Craven. Whether it was love, or the severity of my father, the depravity of my own heart, or the winning arts of the noble Lord, which induced me to leave my paternal roof and place myself under his protection, does not now much signify: or if it does, I am not in the humour to gratify curiosity in this matter…

I resided on the Marine Parade, at Brighton; and I remember that Lord Craven used to draw cocoa trees, and his fellows, as he called them, on the best vellum paper, for my amusement. Here stood the enemy, he would say; and here, my love, are my fellows: there the cocoa trees, etc. It was, in fact, a dead bore. All these cocoa trees and fellows, at past eleven o’clock at night, could have no peculiar interest for a child like myself; so lately in the habit of retiring early to rest. One night, I recollect, I fell asleep; and, as I often dream, I said, yawning, and half awake, “Oh, Lord! oh, Lord! Craven has got me into the West Indies again.” In short, I soon found that I had made a bad speculation by going from my father to Lord Craven. I was even more afraid of the latter than I had been of the former; not that there was any particular harm in the man, beyond his cocoa trees; but we never suited nor understood each other.

See: The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson Written by Herself, Volume 1, Chapter 1, Page 5).

Harriette was born on 22nd February 1786: she would therefore have been 15 years old in 1801. So it was most probably her to whom Jane Austen alluded in her letter, residing in immoral splendour at Ashdown Park. Lord Craven of course knew much about cocoa trees , I should imagine, as he had had first hand experience of them. He had visited the West Indies, as we know, in 1795 as Colonel to the 3rd Foot Regiment- The Buffs. He was sent to the islands as part of the convoy commanded by Admiral Hugh Christian escorting General Sir Ralph Abercromby’s 19,00 strong force to subdue French interference in the islands. Poor Lord Craven was obviously explaining to the bored Harriette of his battles on the islands She, a little like Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, seems only to have heard and understood one word in ten of his conversations. And  she wasn’t bored for long: she soon ran away from Lord Craven’s delights and his tales of cocoa trees to the protection of Frederick Lamb (1782-1853), later 3rd Viscount Melbourne.

Happily, Lord Craven eventually found his soul-mate:

In 1805 Lord Craven saw Louisa Brunton (?1785-186o), daughter of John Brunton (a greengrocer turned actor and theatre manager in Norwich), and now making a name for herself as a Shakespearean actress at Drury Lane-her principal parts included Celia in As You Like It, Anne Boleyn in Henry VIII, and Lady Anne in Richard III… Fanny Kemble’s mother remembered Louisa Brunton as ‘a very eccentric as well as attractive and charming woman, who contrived, too, to be a very charming actress, in spite of a prosaical dislike to her business, which used to take the peculiar and rather alarming turn of suddenly, in the midst of a scene, saying aside to her fellow-actors, “What nonsense all this is! Suppose we don’t go on with it.” This singular expostulation my mother said she always expected to see followed up by the sudden exit of her lively companion, in the middle of her part. Miss Brunton, however, had self-command enough to go on acting till she became Countess of Craven, and left off the nonsense of the stage for the earnestness of high life.”Miss Brunton, at the beginning of December 1807, with characteristic modesty, made her final curtsey on the stage’- and married Lord Craven in December his town house in London. Later gossip-writers recalled her as ‘tall and commanding and of the most perfect symmetry, and her face the perfection of sweetness and expression’.

(See  Jane Austen’s Letters, edited by Deirdre Le Faye,  page 512)

And this woman is the same Lady Craven whose opinion of Emma was collected by Jane Austen  in 1816.  She admired Emma very much, but did not think it equal to P&P. Don’t you find it interesting to think of the many characters who lived at Ashdown Park, in that beautiful House…I know I do, and I’m sure yet again the allure of such a house and its associations will add to the pieces of the lots of this sale. Time will tell and I’ll report back after the sale takes place on October 27.

The exterior shots of Mr Collins’ church in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice were shot not at St Peter Brooke, in Rutland which provided the interiors shots, but some 20 miles away in Northamptonshire at the village of Weekly, which is to be found just outside the town of Kettering. This village is part of the Boughton Estate which is owned by the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensbury.

The parish church at Weekly, St Mary’s shown above, was used for the exterior of Mr Collins’ church.

It was appropriate that this village was chosen ( and if this choice was intentional or not, I’m not sure) because we know from our old post that St Peter Brooke is interesting as it is a rare relict, an Anglican church of the Elizabethan era. The building that served as  Hunsford Rectory ties in with the 17th century theme, as it was built in 1631 to serve as a set of almshouses.

Known as Montague’s Hospital-named after the  member of the Montague family (the owners of Boughton) who founded it-  was  a place where poor old people could be housed and cared for in their dotage.

(Do remember you can enlarge all the illustrations here by clicking on them: do enlarge the photograph above as it is fascinating to see the painted detail and the stonework on the entrance to the building)

In the Northamptonshire edition of The Beauties of England and Wales by John Britton and Edward Waylake Bailey (1802) the following description of the village is given:

Weekly Church,about half a mile north-east of Warkton in the hundred of Orlingbury, contains a few old monuments to the Montagues of Boughton. At the east end of the north aisle is an altar tomb, with two stone effigies of Sir Edward Montague, Knight who died Jan.26 16021; and Elizabeth his wife, who died May 10th 1618. Another tomb, with a marble statue is raised to the memory of Edward Montague who died in 1556. Other slabs and flat stones contain inscriptions, some much mutilated, to other persons of the Montague family. Near the south side of the church is an hospital for seven poor men;and at the extremity of the village are traces of a moat &c, where an old cassellated manor-house is supposed to have formerly stood. In this parish is a spring of petrifying water, from which an incrusted skull has been taken and is preserved as a curiosity in Sydney College, Cambridge.

Here we see Lizzie Bennet (Kiera Knightly) arriving at Hunsford Rectory with the church in the background,and Charlotte waiting to greet her.

In reality, she has not come from  the road from Westerham, but from the rear of the Hunsford Rectory itself. The building is now a private residence leased from the Boughton estate, so we can’t see the lovely simple internal corridor with it’s still life of apples

but we can see the room- which has windows on two sides, which was Charlotte’s sitting room and the rom where Lizzie had various meetings with Mr Darcy

The classical obelisk seen in the film, in front of the church,  was in fact….

the village war memorial, cleverly disguised.

This would not have been in situ in the early 19th century, most British war memorials date from the 20th century. Hence the disguise, which worked well, I think.

You can see last year’s Poppy Wreath, laid there on Memorial Sunday ,the Sunday nearest 11th November…

The gates just to the right of the church lead to Weekly Park which in turn leads to Boughton House…

..the English Versailles. It is magnificent and well worth a visit ( but do check before you go:  it is opened very rarely and usually only during the month of August) And though it wasn’t included in the film, I’m writing about it here because the garden is a rare survivor: an example of a mid 18th century formal landscape garden, of the type that disappeared during the latter part of the 18th century.

When you wander round the magnificent 18th century landscape garden,which is being restored, you catch glimpses of Weekly church , though the trees.

Long avenues of lime trees dominate, as do great formal stretches of water…canals and ponds….and all are being restored to their marvellous 18th century formality, as designed probably by Charles Bridgeman for the 2nd Duke of Montague in the 1720s. Here is the plan of the garden as it was in the 1740s

(© The Boughton Estate)

The plans, as you can see, included a monumental Mount (restored in 2007) from which to oversee the rest of the formal gardens, and rejoice in the patterns it created.  A fantastic modern addition to the garden,a tribute to the formal style, has been made recently. Called Orpheus and completed in 2009, it is an inverted mount dug into the landscape with a reflecting pool at  the bottom.

In this picture, you can see the 18th century Mount behind it, and the sloping path that leads to the pool at the bottom of the earth work designed by Kim Wilkie.

This is the view from the bottom to the top: the scale is difficult to gauge by these photographs,but it takes a good five minute, steady walk to reach the pool at the bottom! It truly is monumental-and breathtakingly beautiful in its severity.

I do hope you have enjoyed this jaunt around Weekly and the diversion to Boughton with all its treasures.

Sophie Croft in Persuasion is one of my favourite of all Jane Austen’s characters. Intelligent, kind, humorous, a woman of sense, in love with her husband the Admiral, she is widely travelled and has an admirably positive attitude to life:

“And I do assure you, ma’am,” pursued Mrs. Croft, “that nothing can exceed the accommodations of a man-of-war; I speak, you know, of the higher rates. When you come to a frigate, of course, you are more confined; though any reasonable woman may be perfectly happy in one of them; and I can safely say, that the happiest part of my life has been spent on board a ship. While we were together, you know, there was nothing to be feared. Thank God! I have always been blessed with excellent health, and no climate disagrees with me. A little disordered always the first twenty-four hours of going to sea, but never knew what sickness was afterwards. The only time that I ever really suffered in body or mind, the only time that I ever fancied myself unwell, or had any ideas of danger, was the winter that I passed by myself at Deal, when the Admiral (Captain Croft then) was in the North Seas. I lived in perpetual fright at that time, and had all manner of imaginary complaints from not knowing what to do with myself, or when I should hear from him next; but as long as we could be together, nothing ever ailed me, and I never met with the smallest inconvenience.”

Did women like Sophie Croft really  exist? Well, yes, they did….

(©Bath Spa University)

Elizabeth “Besty“ Fremantle nee Wynne (pictured above) was a real life Mrs Croft. For some years now, I have been advocating  that people read her diaries to understand what life was like for an elite woman, married to an officer, on board a ship of Nelson’s navy  while on active service.

Though now out of print, above is the frontispiece of the 1935 edition of Betsey’s diaries- which combined extracts from Betsey’s diaries with those written by Betsey’s sister Eugenia, shown below- edited by Anne Fremantle, are a fascinating read and you can still find secondhand copies easily enough.

( Source: Andy Boddington at on 17.9.10)

The daughter of a Lincolnshire squire, Richard Wynne of Folkingham,( see below for a picture of the parish church)

Betsey began her diary writing habit at the age of 11 ,and continued until her death in 1857.  A Catholic family, the Wynnes lived mostly in Europe, visiting England only briefly partially due to pressing money troubles- Betsey’s father sold his Lincolnshire estate in 1786. Betsey was born in Venice, brought up mainly on the continent, and her family moved in courtly circles. She vividly describes  her  life amongst the glitterati of the Naples court and her diaries are full if very detailed information. Which makes them a delight to read.

(Source: Andy Boddington at on 17.9.10)

She met her husband, Captain Thomas Fremantle, shown above, when she was evacuated from Naples in 1796. Her marriage ceremony was arranged with the help of Emma Hamilton and she began life as an officer’s wife on board HMS Inconstant in 1797. Here are some extracts from her diaries (complete with her idiosyncratic spelling) to give you an idea of what she experienced:

Monday January 15th 1797 ( the day after her marriage to Captain Fremantle-jfw):

We sailed last night , had fair weather and pretty good wind all day. I find it quite odd to be alone here. I dare not think on those I left at Naples for it makes my heart swell with anguish , however I can make no complaints for I am as happy in my situation as it is possible to be. Freemantle is all attention and kindness.I have got a comfortable little cabin where I can do what I like.The Vice Roy and Colonel drinkwater are pleasant society for us.

Sunday 22nd January 1797:

We had a long and tedious passage. Very blowing weather …it did not affect me, it increased my appetite and I laughed at everybody else. We only came to anchor this morning at three o’ clock. I begin to get accustomed to the life I lead and find myself comfortable and happy….I spent the evening alone and amused myself very well with my Harpsichord and books.

Friday 27th January 1797:

I was quite miserable all the morning as the three Mariners were punished and flogged along side of every ship, some men flogged likewise on board.

Tuesday March 21st 1797:

We took a prize in the night a small Spanish ship with 9000 dollars who was going to Cicely (Sicily-jfw) for corn.

Eventually, Betsey’s life on board  became rather more serious: she had to nurse both her husband and Nelson who had both been wounded in the  disastrous Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Nelson had his arm partially amputated, and caring for him and her husband while returning to England  on HMS Seahorse- Captain Fremantle appears from her entries in the diary , in my opinion, to have been suffering from what we would now term shell shock- could not have been an easy task for the newly pregnant  Betsey. Her characteristically frank entry in her diary for 24th August 1797 indicates her feelings:

A foul wind which make the Admiral fret. He is a very bad patient

They returned to England where eventually Fremantle recovered. Betsey ran their estate while he was at sea-he served at Trafalgar and produced a family of children. Keeping her diary all the time.

And now to some very interesting news. Dr Elaine Chalus of Bath Spa University has recently been awarded a grant of £100,000 to write Betsey’s biography. She has,as I understand it, been granted access to Betsey’s papers by her descendants. I simply can’t wait . The original diary is wonderful to have and to hold but was crying out for  more detailed annotation and furthermore, rather frustratingly ends in 1820.  Betsey’s life as wife, on board ship and on land,  as a mother, capably managing the family estate, and  then after the wars as a well-connected elite woman of the early 19th century is  fascinating and deserves to be explained and brought to a wider audience.  I’m so pleased that Dr Chalus-whose interest in Betsey was sparked when she found a second-hand paperback copy of her diaries at  a village fair- has the funding needed to provide us with a full and detailed biography of one of my favourite diarists of this era.

I shall keep an eye on publication dates etc and will of course review the book here when it is available. But in the meantime, do try and get hold of a copy of the out of print diaries: fans of Persuasion and Mrs Croft will not regret it.

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….

Goodnestone, Kent

Rowling, Kent

Winchester College, Hampshire


The Vyne, Hampshire.

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…

(The College as seen from the Water Meadows, from Ackerman’s History of Winchester College 1815)

Jane Austen’s association with Winchester College, one of the oldest educational institutions in England, was through her nephews: Edward Austen Knight’s sons and  James Edward Austen Leigh, son of James Austen and Jane’s first true biographer, were all educated there. She was living in Southampton, with Mrs Austen, Cassandra and Martha Lloyd when young Edward Knight first began his studies at the college and they were pleased to be close to him (Winchester being just over 13 miles away):

(A section from John Cary’s Map of Hampshire (1805) showing the route from Southampton to Winchester, which can be enlarged if you click on it))

We shall rejoice in being so near Winchester when Edward belongs to it & can never have our spare bed filled more to our satisfaction than by him….

(See Letter to Cassandra Austen, dated February 8th 1807)

Their closeness geographically and emotionally was a boon when unexpectedly Elizabeth, Edward Knight’s wife, died a year later  in 1808. By this time young Edward  had been joined at the school by his younger brother George and on first receiving the news of their mother’s death they had been removed from the school to Steventon to be with James Austen and his family for a period of compassionate leave. Jane Austen appears to have found this decision very difficult and in  letters written to Cassandra, who was at Godmersham helping with Edward Knight senior’s grief-stricken family, she made her feelings known:

You will know that the poor boys are at Steventon, perhaps it is best for them ,as they will have more means of exercise and amusement there than they could have with us,but I am myself disappointed by the arrangement;-I should have loved to have them with me at such a time….

(Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 13th October 1808)

Eventually, and for what reason it is uncertain, the boys were sent from Steventon to Southampton to Jane and Mrs Austen and she was able to look after them as she wished, and I want to quote extensively from the letter she wrote to Cassandra at this time as it is such an important one, demonstrating that she could indeed love children,despite the criticism often levelled at her that she often felt to a contrary feeling towards them:

Edward and George came to us soon after seven on Saturday, very well, but very cold, having by choice travelled on the outside, and with no great coat but what Mr. Wise, the coachman, good-naturedly spared them of his, as they sat by his side. They were so much chilled when they arrived, that I was afraid they must have taken cold; but it does not seem at all the case; I never saw them looking better.

They behave extremely well in every respect, showing quite as much feeling as one wishes to see, and on every occasion speaking of their father with the liveliest affection. His letter was read over by each of them yesterday, and with many tears; George sobbed aloud, Edward’s tears do not flow so easily; but as far as I can judge they are both very properly impressed by what has happened. Miss Lloyd, who is a more impartial judge than I can be, is exceedingly pleased with them. George is almost a new acquaintance to me, and I find him in a different way as engaging as Edward.  We do not want amusement: bilbocatch, at which George is indefatigable; spillikins, paper ships, riddles, conundrums, and cards, with watching the flow and ebb of the river, and now and then a stroll out, keep us well employed; and we mean to avail ourselves of our kind papa’s consideration, by not returning to Winchester till quite the evening of Wednesday.  Mrs. J. A. had not time to get them more than one suit of clothes; their others are making here, and though I do not believe Southampton is famous for tailoring, I hope it will prove itself better than Basingstoke. Edward has an old black coat, which will save his having a second new one; but I find that black pantaloons are considered by them as necessary, and of course one would not have them made uncomfortable by the want of what is usual on such occasions…

I hope your sorrowing party were at church yesterday, and have no longer that to dread. Martha was kept at home by a cold, but I went with my two nephews, and I saw Edward was much affected by the sermon, which, indeed, I could have supposed purposely addressed to the afflicted, if the text had not naturally come in the course of Dr. Mant’s observations on the Litany: “All that are in danger, necessity, or tribulation,” was the subject of it. The weather did not allow us afterwards to get farther than the quay, where George was very happy as long as we could stay, flying about from one side to the other, and skipping on board a collier immediately. In the evening we had the Psalms and Lessons, and a sermon at home, to which they were very attentive; but you will not expect to hear that they did not return to conundrums the moment it was over. Their aunt has written pleasantly of them, which was more than I hoped. While I write now, George is most industriously making and naming paper ships, at which he afterwards shoots with horse-chestnuts brought from Steventon on purpose; and Edward equally intent over the “Lake of Killarney,” twisting himself about in one of our great chairs.

The day began cheerfully, but it is not likely to continue what it should, for them or for us. We had a little water party yesterday; I and my two nephews went from the Itchen Ferry up to Northam, where we landed, looked into the 74, and walked home, and it was so much enjoyed that I had intended to take them to Netley to-day; the tide is just right for our going immediately after noonshine, but I am afraid there will be rain; if we cannot get so far, however, we may perhaps go round from the ferry to the quay. I had not proposed doing more than cross the Itchen yesterday, but it proved so pleasant, and so much to the satisfaction of all, that when we reached the middle of the stream we agreed to be rowed up the river; both the boys rowed great part of the way, and their questions and remarks, as well as their enjoyment, were very amusing; George’s inquiries were endless, and his eagerness in everything reminds me often of his Uncle Henry. Our evening was equally agreeable in its way: I introduced speculation, and it was so much approved that we hardly knew how to leave off. Your idea of an early dinner to-morrow is exactly what we propose, for, after writing the first part of this letter, it came into my head that at this time of year we have not summer evenings. We shall watch the light to-day, that we may not give them a dark drive to-morrow.

They send their best love to papa and everybody, with George’s thanks for the letter brought by this post. Martha begs my brother may be assured of her interest in everything relating to him and his family, and of her sincerely partaking our pleasure in the receipt of every good account from Godmersham.

This letter, I think, shows Jane Austen at her best. Careful and solicitous of the boy’s feelings. Anxious to do what was right and correct for them but also keen to entertain them as best she could. She was a truly loving aunt.

Life continued, and the boys returned to Winchester where they were  joined by cousins from the Deeds and Bridges part of their family and eventually James Edward Austen Leigh(though he had not the “Leigh ” part of his name at that time.)The Austen ladies and Martha Lloyd moved to Chawton  in 1809 and from their vantage point at Chawton Cottage were able to watch the coaches take the boys to and from Winchester.

We saw a countless number of Postchaises full of Boys pass by yesterday morning-full of future Heroes, Legislators, Fools and Vilains(sic)

(See Letter to James Edward Austen dated 15th July 1816)

Occasionally the Chawton ladies wer overrun by the boys on their way to school as this letter from Jane Austen to Martha Lloyd  ruefully records:

We are  going to be all alive from this forenoon to tomorrow afternoon: it will be all over when you recieve this & you may think me of as not sorry that it is so. George, Henry  and  William (Knight-JFW)will soon be here & are to stay the night-and tomorrow the two Deedes and Henry Bridges will be added to our party- we shall then have an early dinner and dispatch them all to Winchester…

(See Letter to Martha Lloyd, dated 16th February 1813)

(A section from John Cary’s Map of Hampshire (1805) showing the route from Chawton to Winchester)

The boys at while studying at Winchester would have worn this uniform, taken from Ackermann’s History of Winchester College (1815)

The history of the College is to be found in many different volumes but today we shall concentrate on one that was  contemporary with Jane Austen: A Short View of the History and Antiquities of Winchester etc by the Reverend Dr Milner (1812) extracted from his 4 volume work on the city, while the coloured illustrations below are all from Ackermann’s history of the college of 1815.

THIS (the College-JFW) was founded by that illustrious and beneficent prelate William of Wykeham at the close of the 14th century for

“A warden, 70 poor scholars to be instructed in grammatical training, 10 secular priests, perpetual fellows, three priests chaplins, three clerks and 6 choristers and a schoolmaster and undermaster for the instruction of the scholars”.

Possession was taken of it March 28th 1393 and it was calculated by its founder to be a nursery for New College Oxon which he had just before completed in order to furnish his clergy with the highest branches of ecclesiastical learning.

There is a lofty tower to the street in which stands a large statue of the patroness, The Blessed virgin Mary. The same figure, with those of the angel Gabriel and of the founder upon his knees is seen on both sides of the second or middle tower.

The first court is intersected by a modern-built house for the use of the warden. The second court is bounded to the south by a magnificent Gothic chapel, ornamented by a rich and curious tower. The inside of the chapel is not less striking than the outside of it , being remarkable for its bold and lofty vaulting, enriched with beautiful tracery, for  its large painted windows, for its beautiful and appropriate altar piece and for the ancient monuments and epitaphs of its warden and other members  which occur in what is called the ante –chapel. A great number of these, equally curious with the former, are to be seen in the Cloisters, which are spacious and elegant. In the area of the Cloisters stand the Library, which is a neat Gothic structure having been originally built for a chantry or chapel in which prayers used to be offered for the surrounding dead.

The school is a noble modern building, adorned on the outside with the statue of bishop Wykeham; and in the inside, with suitable inscriptions and emblems. Besides the arts of the College already mentioned, the Refectory or Eating–hall, likewise the Kitchen and an allegorical figure of a Trusty Servant near it are generally shewn to strangers. A the close of the scholastic year the students break up with the solemn performance of the well known ode or song “Dulce Domum”. Adjoining to the College is a spacious modern building for the residence of the gentlemen commoners who live their under the inspection of the head-master and frequent the public school.

Jane Austen could joke with James Edward Austen of his record  at school once he had left in 1816:

I give you Joy of having left Winchester. Now you may own how miserable you were there; now, it will gradually all come out-Your Crime and your Miseries-how often you went up by the Mail to London and threw away Fifty Guineas at a Tavern and how often you were on the point of hanging yourself-restrained only as some ill-natured aspersion upon old Winton(Winchester-JFW) has by the want of a Tree within some miles the City.

(See Letter to James Edward Austen dated 16th December 1816)

Jane Austen’s final connection with the college was that she died within sight of it. The house in College street where she lived during her last illness is next door to the Warden, or Headmaster’s House ,as you can see from the photograph below:

In her last letter to James Edward Austen dated 27th May 1817 ,written from that house,  Jane Austen gave a characteristically cheerful account of it and the view from it:

We have a neat little Drawing Room with a Bow Window over looking Dr Gabell’s garden.

Dr Gabell was the then headmaster of Winchester College (he was head from 1810 -1823). And this is a view of the Wardens (or Headmaster’s ) Garden again taken from Ackermann’s 1815 History of the college.

It is pleasant to think that  though she may not have had a view of the countryside in her last illness, Jane Austen could at least look out onto this garden, part of Winchester College.

Winchester College is open to the public, and I can highly recommend a tour to anyone visiting Winchester, due to the interesting Austen family connections. If you go here you can find all the necessary details.

The catalogue to the Chatsworth Attic sale ,which I wrote about previously here, and which is to be held at Sothebys in London on the 5th -7th October landed on my doormat with a satisfyingly heavy thump yesterday. And while I have only had  time to scan through its 512 pages(!), I thought you might like to see what I think are some of the more unusual items for sale. The scholarly catalogue is organised Duke by Duke time wise and my favourite items all hail from the times of the 5th Duke, husband to the famous Georgiana, and of the era of his son,The Bachelor Duke. Items from the now demolished  Devonshire House, the Cavendish family’s London mansion and Chiswick House are included in the sale and it will be an architectural antique dealers paradise, so many great architectural pieces included, having been saved from the houses when remodelling or demolition took place.

First,a lot to outrage Marianne Dashwood:  Lot 347, a George III mahogany, ebony and boxwood strung satinwood banded piano, which has been adapted to serve as a writing desk. Can you imagine the horror! Id quite like it,however…. It was made by the London piano makers, Broderip Wilkinson of 13 The Haymarket , and dates between1798-1807. it was included in the Chatsworth Inventory of 1818. There is also a Broadwood square piano circa 1815, Lot 568…. was it a gift from Frank Churchill?…No, it was brought by the 6th Duke and is estimated at £2000-3000.

Lot 365 is a delicious George III ebonised and parcel gilt work table circa 1800,probably owned by the Countess of Burlington at her home in Compton Place, Eastbourne. Estimate £500-1000. Below is a selection of lots of object of virtu-I  covet Lot 451, the seed pearl brooch in the shape of a lyre, circa 1820 which has an estimate of £250-350.

Lot 301 is a miraculous survivor: a collection of 14 18th century turned oak canon ramrods. Nine have their original canvas bags which protect the sheepskin covered heads,and four have wrought iron sprial finials.Estimate £2,000 to £3,000. I would love to bid for these for my military history obsessed husband….

Lot 303 is a set of eight triangular wooden carriage stops(essential in the hilly surroundings of the Peak  where Chatsworth is set).Estimate £30-50.

More quirky objects can be found in the ceramics that are for sale. Lot 765 is a collection of seven rare English creamware Bourdaloues, two marked “Wedgwood”. These were used by ladies in the 18th century to relieve themselves when in church  or at the theatre. Named rather unkindly after the French Jesuit preacher Louis Boudaloue who gave long interminable sermons. These are estimated at £400-600

This trout head stirrup cup made by the Derby porcelain factory is delicious and dates from 1800. It has an estimate of £800-£1200

If I coud buy something,then I’d like these: early 19th century theatre lights used, one presumes, in the Bachelor Duke’s theatre at Chatsworth. I adore them.

I’m sorry, I just lied to you. Barefacedly. Forgive me. What I’d really like from the sale is this magnificent sleigh, with wrought iron runners and upholstered in leather which was acquired by the 6th Duke possibly when he was ambassador to Russia in  1817 .It is only estimated at £20o0 -£3000

Im sure the Mitford, Cavendish,Chatsworth associations are, as in the Althrop sale, going to make these estimates look exceeding low…when the auction takes place I’ll report back to you.

Have you ever wondered what the great State Bed of Stoneleigh Abbey looked like, especially after reading Mrs. Austen’s atmospheric description of it contained  in her letter to her daughter in law, Mary Austen, wife of James? She wrote the letter during her stay at Stoneleigh( along with Jane and Cassandra) in the summer of 1806,and the letter  is dated Wednesday, August 13th 1806:

On the left hand of the hall is the best drawing room, within that a smaller; these rooms are rather gloomy brown wainscoat and dark crimson furniture; so we never use them but to walk thro’ them to the old picture gallery. Behind the smaller drawing room is the state bed chamber, with a high dark crimson velvet bed: an alarming apartment just fit for a heroine; the old gallery opens into it; behind the hall & parlours is a passage all across the house containing 3 staircases & two small back parlours.

I adore the way Mrs Austen  lets her fancy run away with her, imagining Gothic Horrors of the Catherine Morland variety for the occupant of the great bed in the

rather alarming apartment

That bed  no longer exists, so we are left to our own imagining. Would it look like this terrific creation, newly restored and returned to its original home at Boughton House, the Northamptonshire home of the Duke of Buccleuch?

Or this one, used as Mr Darcy’s bed at Pemberley in the BBC’s1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and which can still be found  at Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire, and is very stately as it was used by Queen Adelaide?

It certainly would not have resembled this one- used for Queen Victoria’s visit to Stoneleigh in 1858.

This room was not the State Bedchamber at Stoneleigh to which Mrs Austen referred: it was then the breakfast parlour and was frequently used by the party at Stoneleigh it was the only one of the rooms which afforded  wonderful views  down to the River Avon:

…on the right hand the dining parlour, within [that is, beyond the dining parlour-jfw] that the breakfast room, where we generally sit, and reason good ’tis the only room (except the chapel) that looks towards the river.

It may however have resembled one of these:

Queen Caroline’s State Bed of 1715 or this, below, the Raynham Hall State Bed which was acquired for Hampton Court Palace in 1993

And it has to be admitted that it  looks very similar, in construction, to the bed in the Blue Bedroom at Belton House, used also as Mr Darcy’s bed at Rosings in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation:

Both of these beds  -Queen Caroline’s and the Raynham bed- are written about in minute detail in  the book I am reviewing today, State Bed and Thorne Canopies: Care and Conservation by Val Davies (which to be honest could have been alternatively titled: Everything You Have Ever Wanted to Know about State Beds But Were Afraid to Ask).

I do realise that recommending this book might be a step too far for some of you. It is a very,VERY detailed and specialised book about the care and conversation of state beds and throne canopies -which are all installed at Hampton Court Palace or Kensington Palace. More of a care manual than anything else.  And of course not many of us have to care for these objects on a daily basis….But if you have ever seen one of these magnificent constructions and wondered how they are put together, how the sculpted head-boards covered with damasks, passementerie and feather are created, how the curtains and tassels are preserved and cleaned, then this book is for you.

Val Davies the author, worked in the Textile Conservation Studio at Hampton Court Palace for 20 years, and while there learnt how to care for the magnificent structures. And also how to restore them after  the fire at Hampton Court in 1986 damaged some of them in a rather desperate way.  The excellent text is clear, and the illustrations (particularly the line drawings in the glossary section) allow you to understand exactly how these beds were designed, made, dismantled and installed in the palaces.

A short history of the role of state beds in country homes and palaces is included but the majority of the book explains, example by example, and step by step, how the seven state beds and three throne canopies are made and how they can be preserved for the future. The photographs (which could have been a little larger-this is my only gripe about the book) are beautiful. And sometimes give you glimpse of the bed that only the occupant would have seen, as below, where we are shown a view of the inside of the tester in Queen Charlotte’s State Bed, which dates from 1772-78.

The factual basis to the fairy tale of The Princess and the Pea is finally revealed, with the revelation that many, many mattresses are used in these stately beds. This photograph from the book shows the four mattresses that  make up the sleeping area of Queen Charlotte’s State Bed.

Bed bugs ( a common complaint of the late 18th /early 19th century housewife if the evidence of the remedies to deter them in my cookery books of this era is any thing by which to judge) are also dealt with. We learn that the Royal Household in 1814 employed one Mr Tiffin as

“Bug Destroyer to his Majesty and her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales.”

That does take the gilt off the gingerbread slightly doesn’t it? Ah, well…To conclude, this is a very different book from the norm, but a fascinating one and one I would recommend to any of you who have been entranced by these magnificent constructions still to be found in many an English country house today. Reading it will allow you to indulge your fancy and envisage which of these amazing beds the State Bed of Stoneleigh Abbey would have resembled.

The Foundling Museum in Brunswick Square is to hold a fascinating exhibition entitled Threads of Feeling. The Foundling Museum was established as an independent organisation in 1998 by the childcare charity the Thomas Coram Foundation for Children, which is today known as Coram. Coram is the successor organisation of the original Foundling Hospital.

I confess I’m very excited to be going to see this exhibition and I will of course report back in late October, but I thought you would appreciate advance notice of what is to be on show.

Its curator is Professor John Styles who has written about the Coram Foundation’s collection of rare 18th century fabrics in his magisterial book, The Dress of the People which I reviewed here.

The exhibition will showcase some of the thousands of pieces of 18th century fabrics in the Coram Foundation’s collection and will also  put on show some garments specially made to recreate the type of garments from which these scraps were taken.


The story behind these scraps of fabrics is intriguing. When a mother left her baby in the care of the Foundling Hospital (see here for a little of its history) they often left a token with the baby, to be kept as an identifying record. In a few cases the babies- if they survived-were later claimed by their mothers and this identifying token assisted in the reunion process, especially if the mother was illiterate.

Sometimes the token was an object, such as these  also in the Coram Foundation’s collection:

But often it was a small piece of fabric taken from the clothing worn by mother of the child which was then affixed to the child’s registration form and was subsequently bound in ledger, as shown below

Flowered Cotton(©Coram)

Or the token could merely have been some ribbons which had once been attached to the mother’s dress, as in this example here:


As Professor Styles comments:

The process of giving over a baby to the hospital was anonymous. It was a form of adoption, whereby the hospital became the infant’s parent and its previous identity was effaced. The mother’s name was not recorded, but many left personal notes or letters exhorting the hospital to care for their child. Occasionally children were reclaimed. The pieces of fabric in the ledgers were kept, with the expectation that they could be used to identify the child if it was returned to its mother.

And  this where they have been preserved for over 200 years, and now form the largest surviving collection of textiles worn by the ordinary people of London in the 18th century. Historically they are very important, providing fascinating insights into the type of fabrics and clothing worn by ordinary people, clothes which rarely survived more than a few years before being recycled into children’s clothes, cleaning cloths and rags etc.

The exhibition will be held in the Foundling Hospital Museum which is in Brunswick Square. Which was the foundations original home and also note, the home of John and Isabella Knightley in Emma on account of its good air ( which was an important part of the decision in assessing the  location of the Foundling Hospital too) and was also the home from which the foundling Harriet Smith was reunited with Robert Martin.How appropriate.

The exhibition runs from the 14 October 2010 until the  6 March 2011, and I do hope some of you will be able to visit it.

Elizabeth Jenkins, the author and biographer has died aged 104. Her full obituary in The Daily Telegraph can be accessed here.

A founder member of the Jane Austen Society she also helped secure the purchase of Chawton Cottage, now the Jane Austen House Museum , in order to preserve it for ever. For that she ,and the other founder members of the JAS and the Jane Austen Memorial Trust will always have our thanks.

However, she will always be remembered by me as the writer of the best life of Jane Austen.

Hers was the first biography of Jane Austen that I read ( note my tatty fly cover, above,a result of much reading over the years!)  I had received a copy of it as a Christmas gift from my old English Mistress in 1970: it was in fact her own copy of the 1959 edition which she had received as a gift from the author herself (as you can see, she signed it on the title page, below).

I have always cherished this book, not only for its worth, but as a reminder of the woman who introduced me to Jane Austen- we read Pride and Prejudice in class- all those years ago and encouraged me to carry on in the habit of reading All Six Every Year as she did. She died five years ago and I still miss our conversations.

Let’s continue our clerical theme this week, shall we? As we noted in last week’s AustenOnly post accessible here, in the BBC’s 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice two churches were used, both for the exteior shots( no interior shots were included in the production) of Hunsford parish church.  In the 2o05 film version starring Keira Knightley, again two churches were used, one for the exterior and one for the interior. Today we shall concentrate on the church that provided the interior,the parish church of St Peter, Brooke, a tiny church in a tiny village near Oakham in Rutland.

St Peter, Brooke is a very special parish church, being a rare survivor. First built in the 13th century, it was virtually totally reconstructed during the latter years of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign,and most of the Elizabethan features have survived to this day- quite a feat considering the upheavals of  the English Civil War and the improving hands of the Victorians.

It has been estimated that the date of reconstruction is circa 1579, but it is clear, looking at the arches in the nave that divide the south and north aisles of the church,that some of the 13th century  bones of the building survived to have the Elizabethan structure built around them.

The reason why St Peter Brooke was built in this era, at a time when very little church design and building was being undertaken , was probably because its benefactor, Sir Andrew Noel,  had acquired a former monastic property in the village and using that as his starting point, was building Brooke House (sadly no longer in existence) as his home. He probably used the same building team that built the house to restore the village church.

The surviving Elizabethan features are to be found in the north and south chancel arches and the wooden furnishings in the church- the box pews, benches, pulpit and the balustraded screen that separates the nave from the chancel,seen above. The low level chancel floor- only two steps higher than the nave, as you can see above – is also an Elizabethan feature. When you stand within the chancel, and the screen door is closed you are standing in a rare church device: an Elizabethan Communion Room, totally separated by the screen from the preaching area of the nave that contains the pulpit.

And it is the nave that we first see in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, as Mr Collins’ rather bored and indeed somnolent congregation, with the honourable exception of the supportive Charlotte, is sitting listening to his sermon.

A child plays with a spinning top(  a rather noisy occupation to be secret in such a small church, silly child) before Mr Collins who is preaching, badly,  from the pulpit.

The Elizabethan pulpit is tiny. As you can see.

I often wonder if the diminutive actor Tom Hollander was chosen for the role because he would fit not that pulpit,and someone more in keeping with the build of the Reverend Collins as described in Jane Austen’s text, a Hugh Bonneville for example,  would not have managed it:

He was a tall, heavy-looking young man of five-and-twenty. His air was grave and stately, and his manners were very formal…

The chancel -the area behind the pulpit was used as a kind of family pew in the film.

As the place where Lady Catherine, Anne de Bourgh and Darcy sit

while Colonel Fitzwilliam tells Elizabeth Bennet

of Darcy’s awful interference in Bingley and Jane’s  love affair.

It is in fact an empty space, no seating normally stands there,

apart from the pews in which Lady Catherine’s family party sat.

The most flamboyant feature in this beautifully restrained and modest church (and which was not seen in the film) is the  tomb of Charles Noel, son of Andrew Noel, mentioned above, to be found in the side chapel next to the chancel

He is beautifully carved…

And the inscription to his tomb, written in latin,

translates as follows:

Charles, son of Andrew Noel, brave and high

his dust inhabits here his soul the sky

Mature and Worth, Valour and Wisdom too

in this one boy strove all their gifts to show.

Worth made him duteous: Nature a comley youth.

Mars to be brave: Bright Wisdom, loving truth.

Yet even he in youth’s fair Springtime pined

As Buds will perish in a bitter wind

He died in 1619 at the age of 28 years.R.I.P.

My poor photographs do not do justice to this tiny and peaceful place. If you ever do get the change to visit, then  do: the village and the surrounding countryside are perfect, though hard to access on public transport. Regular services are still held at St Peter, and it is very much a living church. I hope you have enjoyed this visit to a very special location.

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