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This is the third and final of our posts on Kirby Hall in Northamptonshire, which was used as the setting for Mansfield Park in Patricia Rozema’s 1999 adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel. Today we shall concentrate on the exteriors and the garden.

This is the magnificent main range of the house, on the south side of the courtyard.

This is how it appeared in the film. As you can see below, if you look carefull at the windows to the  left of the central entrance, you can see that this part of the range is now  ruined,but by artful use of glass and temporary glazing, the filmmakers disguised the wrecked nature of that part of the building.

The north side of the inner courtyard, which faces the entrance above, was used as the main entrance to Mansfield in the film.

This north side of the courtyard actually contains a loggia- an arcaded space- on the ground floor,which supported another long gallery on the first floor.

This has all  disappeared, and there is no roof or first floor actually remaining…just the ruined loggia beneath…

This shows the view through the entrance to the inner courtyard on to the forecourt…

The formal gardens, the West Gardens, have been extensively restored after years of careful excavations, and this is where ,in the film, Miss Crawford was given her infamous riding lesson.

We see part of this scene from a vantage point through a window on the first floor of the house.

The garden is extremely beautiful, and is a recreation of how it would have appeared in the mid 17th century.

The walk from the house to a formal “Mount”, a viewing point in the garden was also used

by Mary and Henry Crawford, walking along a gravel walk near to the parterre.

and this is a video of the site taken from that viewpoint..complete with strimming gardener sound effects….my apologies…

The magnificent bay windows also feature in the film, and they are as beautiful outside as in, giving the feel ,as Sacheverell Sitwell described them in 1945 as appearing like two galleons at anchor, side by side…

To the right of these windows is the service wing of the house…which is now in ruins…

And this site was used for one of the final scenes in the film, showing the remaining family at home at Mansfield.

And that concludes our tour of the buildings as used by the film. It is a most beautiful setting and I would recommend you to go and see it, as it has a unique atmosphere. And students of architecture would love it as in many places the bones of the building are laid bare…

But before we leave you may be interested to note that there is a genuine Jane Austen connection to Kirby Hall. During the late 18th/early 19th centuries the hall was owned by a neighbour of Edward Austen Knight’s in Kent: George Finch Hatton of Eastwell Park

Jane Austen found his wife to be trying company, as she was not a great conversationalist.

I have discovered that Lady Elizabeth, for a woman of her age and situation, has astonishingly little to say for herself, and that Miss Hatton has not much more. Her eloquence lies in her fingers; they were most fluently harmonious.

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 24th August 1805.

And I daresay Mrs Finch Hatton  had an interesting tale should she have wished to tell it, as she was the granddaughter of Lord Mansfield the judge,and was brought up by Mansfield and his wife in the company of her illegitimate cousin, Dido Elizabeth Belle. Here they are in the famous painting of them, once thought to be by Zoffany:

©The Earl of Mansfield

You can read more of her story here. No wonder Jane Austen was all astonishment at her silence. Convinced as I am that Jane Austen named her novel Mansfield Park as an abolitionist tribute to Lord Mansfield,who had presided in the famous Somerset Case, I wonder if the makers of the film knew of this connection between their choice of film location and Jane Austen’s political views? I do hope this wasn’t all accidental,but suspect it may have been….

 

In our last post we looked at some of the interiors of Kirby Hall which were used in the 1999 film adaptation of Mansfield Park, starring Jonny Lee Miller.

Let’s continue our tour with a look at  the rooms, some on the  on the upper floors which were very cleverly adapted for use in the film..

When Fanny first arrives at Mansfield we see a fleeting glance from a window in the Great Stair down into the ruins of what was the West Lodgings and the Long Gallery…

This is now a completely ruined space, the floors long gone….

We then see the room that becomes Fanny’s sanctuary….

Time passes and we next see the young Fanny transfigured into the feisty Fanny we all have difficulty recognising…

These scenes were filmed in the Bedchamber/Billiard room on the ground floor of the Hall, and this is one of the rooms in the Hall that has been recently restored to how it would have appeared in the late 18th century.

The bay windows of the rooms on the South Front of the house are a most wonderful architectural feature, both inside and out…

Sir Thomas’s study was a film set created within a room, and had sliding doors,a very unlikely feature in a 17th century house.

The room adapted for use by the production staff appears to have been the Great Chamber,which is to be found on the first floor of the Hall.

It is as you can see a very large space and is in a totally restored state.

As I understand it the set was a free standing room created within this room, rather like an inner skin, a technique also used for the formal drawing-room at Mansfield, see below.

The Secondary Stair was used for Fanny’s rencontres with Henry Crawford,and the distinctive carved handrail is still to be seen…

The formal drawing room was created by again making a room within a room, this time in another of the Bedchambers on the ground floor.

This was extremely cleverly done,  the columns were tromp l’oeil paint effects, and were painted onto the skin of the room…

The designers managed to incorporate the marble fireplace which is still extant in the room.

Though I did not enjoy the film, I have to say that the work of the production designers and staff was very cleverly done, not harming the fabric of the Hall at all, but by using certain architectural features within the Hall, they managed to crate a magnificent stage set, don’t you think?

Kirby Hall in Northamptonshire is a magnificent relict of a past age, owned and maintained by English Heritage. It is now half-ruined, having been abandoned by its owners in the early 18th century, and by the 19th it was in a ruinous state. This continued until 15 years ago when the gardens and some interiors were restored. It was used by Patricia Rozema in the 1999 film of Mansfield Park to represent the house owned by Sir Thomas Bertram that is so central to the book.

I ought to say, from the outset, that the 1999 version of Mansfield Park is not my favourite of any of the adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels.By a long way… It failed to hit its targets, and accordingly the film failed for me on so many levels. Fanny was depicted as a strange combination of the young Jane Austen and one of the Pankhursts, Sir Thomas was a depraved monster,Lady Bertram as a drug addict and  the slavery allusions were conveyed in a less than subtle manner….and, as ever, the multilayered meaning of the original novel was lost, and it all boiled down to a sort of strange love story.  For me the film never set alight  despite having  a rather stella cast.

And I never, ever imagined Mansfield itself as being ruined, as it was portrayed in the film. Nor being that old, for Mansfield is described as a

a spacious modern–built house,

in chapter 5 of the novel, by Mary Crawford, a woman who knew about these things. As you can clearly see from the plan below, Kirby would clearly not qualify on that score.

(Plan of Kirby Hall, ©English Heritage)

In fact the only thing that was correct about the choice of Kirby Hall as Mansfield was that it is to be found in Northamptonshire where  the novel was mainly set. But….as you can see, Kirby Hall is incomparably beautiful, and I thought you  might be interested to see it. Today  and in the next post I’ll deal with the interiors and finally I’ll write about the exteriors as used in the film.

First,  a little about the history of the Hall. It was rebuilt by Sir Humphrey  Stafford in 1570, but was completed by Sir Christopher Hatton, a favourite of Elizabeth I, in the hope she would visit so magnificent a mansion…sadly, she never came. For some years it was thought that the great Elizabethan architect, John Thorpe ( no, not that John Thorpe) was the architect of the Hall, due to an early plan of the house on which a John Thorpe has written

I layed  ye first stone AD 1570″

However, it has since been realised that John Thorpe was only then about 7 years old, and it was most probably his father,Thomas Thorpe a master mason who came from the nearby village of Kings Cliffe , who was most likely to be the man who oversaw the building of the mansion.  His son, John, most probably laid the foundation stone as  was a common practise during the Elizabethan era.

To the film….

The Great Hall was used as one of the main drawing rooms of the house.

Though we are not shown it, the east end of this room has a minstrels gallery, for the Great Hall was used as the main dining room for the grand Elizabethan household…

The ceiling is very beautiful…

And the door in the west wall leads to the Great Stair….

We first see The Great Stair when the young Fanny first arrives at Mansfield.

The Great Stair was meant to impress and leads upwards to the Grand State Rooms in the floors above

 

A feature of Kirby are the handrails of the staircases,which are carved from stone and set into the walls…

It is a rather wonderful space…bathed in the most beautiful light…

And the leaded lights throw interesting shadows onto the walls

And the very tactile handrails….In my next post I will describe the rooms used on the first floor. Do join me, even if this is not your favourite adaptation, as the rooms on the first floor are fascinating.

In our last post we discussed the life of Susannah Sackree, the nurse to Edward Knight’s children at his Godmersham home. We ought properly take this opportunity to consider what her role in the Knight household most probably entailed….so let’s take a look at the role of the Children’s Nurse in the early 19th century home.

The type of household that could expect to employ a children’s nurse, as opposed to the lesser incarnation of the Nursery-Maid, was one that had an income of at least £2-3000 per annum according to the Hints to the Formation of an Household given in The Complete Servant (1825) by Samuel and Sarah Adams.

The establishment would consist of at least:

Eight Female and eight Men–Servants; viz.- A Cook, Lady’s-Maid, two House-Maids, Nurse, Nursery-Maid, Kitchen-Maid, and Laundry –Maid; with a Butler, Valet, Coachman, Two Grooms A Footman and Two Gardeners.

According to the same source, a Children’s Nurse could expect to be paid between £10-25 per annum. And also had the right to expect to receive perquisites at the christenings of the children in her charge.

The Head Nurse should be expected to be, according to the same book, which was written by two experienced ex-servants,

…of a lively and cheerful disposition, perfectly good tempered, and clean and neat in her habits and person. She ought also to have been accustomed to the care and management of young children as all the junior branches of the family are entrusted to her care and superintendence, confiding in her skill, experience and attention. She usually takes the sole charge of the infant from it’s birth, when the parent suckles it; to assist her in the management of this and the other children in the nursery, she has under nurses assigned to her who are entirely under her control.

The Adams’ give detailed instructions for the day-to-day running of the nursery:

The youngest nurse , or nursery–maid, usually rises about six o’clock to light the fire, and so the household work of the nursery before the children are up, perhaps about seven o’clock, at which time the head nurse is dressed, and ready to bathe and wash them all over with a sponge and warm water; after which they are rubbed quite dry and dressed. This process, when there are several children usually occupies the nurse an hour and a half, when their breakfast is got ready and the children are placed at their meal in the most peaceful and orderly manner. After breakfast, if the weather be favourable, the children are taken out by the assistant nurse or nursery maid for air and exercise, and hour perhaps two, but not so long as to fatigue either of them. On their return, their hands and feet are washed, if damp or dirty, after which they attend to their lessons till dinner time. After dinner if it be fine weather, the children are again taken aboard for air and exercise and on their return again, after having their hands and feet washed, if necessary, they are in due time ,about eight o’clock, dressed and put to bed. The Head Nurse finds ample employment during the whole day in paying due attention to her infant charge in giving directions and in seeing that the whole business of the nursery is properly executed.

The Under-Nurse would attend to the older children in the family, whereas the Head Nurse was always expected to care for the babies:

The Under-Nurse is chiefly engaged in attending to the senior children,and is entirely under the control of the head nurse.She assists in getting them up in the morning, washing and dressing them; attends them at their meals and takes them out for air and exercise, and performs or assists in the performance of all the duties of the nursery, while the head nurse is chiefly engaged with the infant child.

Mrs Taylor, one of my favourite dispensers of advice, in her book,  Practical Hints to Young Females on the Duties of a Wife, A Mother and a Mistress of a Family (1816)

give this advice regarding the ordering of the nursery, which would hold good today:

It is an error very prevalent but much to be deplored, that the nursery of all places should be destitute of neatness. Order, cleanliness and regularity have the happiest influence on the human mind and contribute more to keep the temper placid and the head clear, than many people are aware of. “Let every thing be done decently and in order” is a precept that should be extended from our religious concerns to all the affairs of life; and where this invaluable principle is associated with the habits of childhood, it may reasonably be expected to pervade the subsequent conduct, and contribute largely to individual and domestic happiness. Children who are always accustomed to replace their toys when done with; to make no unnecessary dirt of litter; to be punctual in their observance of time and place; will even from the force of habit, practise the same regularity in the more important concerns, on which the prosperity of future families may depend

Interestingly, Mrs Taylor has this to say about the behaviour of employers to their good and faithful servants:

…let those who are possessed of such a treasure as a good servant, duly estimate their privilege, and be neither too rigid in their requirements, nor too sparing in their rewards. It is poor encouragement to a servant, if she is invariably blamed for what is wrong and never praised for what is right; and some respect should be paid to the feelings of human nature, which will not endure continual chiding, however deserving of it: both praises and rewards should be suitably dispensed; and if, when there is occasion to complain, appeals to reason were more frequent than they generally are, such reproof might have a gradual tendency to improve the character. The old domestic attached to a family, whose best days have been spent in faithful services is a lovely character, and entitled to every indulgence; and when an honest and tractable disposition is observed in the young, self-interest alone would dictate an endeavour to rear a servant of this description, by care and kindness by mingling patience and forbearance with instruction or reproof.

In Susannah Sackree , the Knights had a faithful and well-loved servant who gave service over a period of nearly 60 years. From the affectionate way in which she was written about by members of the family, she was truly, in the words of Mrs Taylor and Lady Catherine, a treasure.

The silhouette, showing Susannah Sackree most probably in the process of knitting socks for one of her many infant charges, if I rightly make out the presence of three knitting needles in her hands, is currently for sale at Hallidays Antiques for the quite modest sum,I suppose as Austen related items go, of £3750

The provenance is impeccable:

This silhouette came into the Rice Family on the marriage of Elizabeth Austen (1800-1884) the second daughter of Edward Austen (later Edward Knight) of Godmersham Park, Kent to Edward Rice of Dane Court, Dover, Kent in 1818 and has remained in the Rice family’s possession ever since.


This is a portrait of Susannah Sackree that currently hangs in the Jane Austen House Museum. Sackree was the much loved nursemaid to the children of Edward Knight and his wife, Elizabeth. She was  engaged by them for the birth of their first child, Fanny, in 1793. She stayed in the family’s employ  at Godmersham in Kent until she died in 1851. She had completed nearly 60 years faithful service by this time.

Lord Brabourne, Fanny Knight’s son and the first editor of Jane Austen’s letters, wrote about Sackree in The Letters of Jane Austen, because she is frequently mentioned by Jane Austen in letters sent to and from Godmersham, and generally , this is done in an affectionate manner:

The “Sackree” of whom such frequent mention is made in the letters from Godmersham was the old nurse of my grandfather’s children, an excellent woman and a great favourite. I remember some of her stories to this day, especially one of a country girl who, on being engaged by the housekeeper of a certain family, inquired if she might “sleep round.” “Sleep round?” was the reply. “Yes, of course; you may sleep round or square, whichever you please, for what I care!” However, after the lapse of a few days, the girl having been kept up for some work or other till ten o’clock, did not appear in the morning. After some delay, the housekeeper, fancying she must be ill, went up to her room about nine o’clock, and finding her fast asleep and snoring soundly, promptly woke her up, and began to scold her for an idle baggage. On this, the girl with an injured air, began to remonstrate, “Why ma’am, you told me yourself I might sleep round, and as I wasn’t in bed till ten o’clock last night, I a’nt a coming down till ten this morning.” Mrs. Sackree went by the familiar name of “Caky,” the origin of which I have been unable to trace, but which was perhaps given to her in the Godmersham nursery by the little ones, who were doing their best to pronounce her real name. She lived on at Godmersham, saw and played with many of the children of her nurslings, and died in March, 1851, in her ninetieth year. Mrs. Sayce was her niece, and my mother’s lady’s-maid, of whom I know no more than that she occupied that honourable position for twelve years, married a German in 1822, and died at Stuttgard in 1844. Sackree succeeded her as housekeeper when she left Godmersham.


Sackree once even managed to visit St James Palace, the scene of Sir William Lucas’s rise to the heady rank of Knight, as Jane Austen somewhat ruefully related to Cassandra Austen:

I told Sackree that you desired to be remembered to her, which pleased her; and she sends her duty, and wishes you to know that she has been into the great world. She went on to town after taking William to Eltham, and, as well as myself, saw the ladies go to Court on the 4th. She had the advantage indeed of me in being in the Palace.

(Letter to Cassandra Austen written from Godmersham, dated Wednesday June 15, 1808.)


Professor R .W. Chapman in his edition of Jane Austen’s letters speculates that Sackree may have gained entrance  into St James Palace due to the influence of Mrs Charles Fielding,who was W0man of the Bedchamber to Queen Charlotte and had apartments in St James Palace.Mrs Fielding was related by marriage to Elizabeth Knight’s family, the Bridges of Goodnestone, also in Kent.

A devout Christian, when she died Sackree was interred in the graveyard of the Godmersham estate’s parish church, the Church of St Lawrence the Martyr,and hee headstone was carved with passages that she requested:

“Flee from evil,and do the thing that is good

For the Lord loves the thing that is good”

“Keep Innocency and take heed the thing that is right; for that shall bring a man peace at the last”

“My dearest Friends I leave behind

Who were to me so good and kind

The Lord I hope will all them bless

And my poor soul will be at rest”

Here is a photograph of her prayer-book, which is also on show at the Jane Austen House Museum.


The Knight family had a tablet in remembrance of Sackree installed on the north buttress of the Chancel in St Lawrence’s,and it reads:

In

memory of

SUSANNAH SACKREE

the faithful servant and friend

for nearly 60 years

of Edward Knight Esquire of Godmersham Park

and the beloved nurse of all his children

She died deeply lamented on the 2nd March

A.D. 1851

in the ninetieth year of her age.

Those readers of Jane Austen who still persist in thinking that she and her class failed to make mention of  their servants, due perhaps to some form of snobbish neglect, might care to reconsider that after reading all the affectionate mentions  of this obviously much-loved family servant.

Last week we learnt a little of the life of Hugh Thomson, the Ulster born artist who was one of the most influential illustrators of Jane Austen’s works. In this year of the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility, I thought you might like to see all his illustrations for that book, and this is the first of  ten posts I will be writing about them.

All the illustrations have been taken from my copy of Sense and Sensibility – the cover of which is shown above – which was published by Macmillan in 1911. Hugh Thomson began his work on the series of illustrations of Jane Austen’s works for Macmillan in summer of 1895. It was first published, along with an edition of Emma also illustrated by Mr Thomson in 1896.

M. H. Spiellman who wrote the memoir of Hugh Thomson, Hugh Thomson: his art, his letters,his humour and his charm, with Walter Jerrold wrote of his preparation for illustrating the Austen novels:

For about two years the artist may be said to have lived in those social circles so delicately and humorously set forward by the novels( of Jane Austen,jfw)-and to have depicted them with a delicacy and a humour akin to her own.

The first illustration,which we have discussed before, is from Volume 1,Chapter 1, and is used as the illustration to the frontispiece of my edition of the novel.

This is the passage from Chapter One that it illustrates:

The old Gentleman died; his will was read, and like almost every other will, gave as much disappointment as pleasure. He was neither so unjust, nor so ungrateful, as to leave his estate from his nephew; but he left it to him on such terms as destroyed half the value of the bequest. Mr. Dashwood had wished for it more for the sake of his wife and daughters than for himself or his son; but to his son, and his son’s son, a child of four years old, it was secured, in such a way, as to leave to himself no power of providing for those who were most dear to him, and who most needed a provision, by any charge on the estate, or by any sale of its valuable woods. The whole was tied up for the benefit of this child, who, in occasional visits with his father and mother at Norland, had so far gained on the affections of his uncle, by such attractions as are by no means unusual in children of two or three years old: an imperfect articulation, an earnest desire of having his own way, many cunning tricks, and a great deal of noise, as to outweigh all the value of all the attention which, for years, he had received from his niece and her daughters. He meant not to be unkind however, and, as a mark of his affection for the three girls, he left them a thousand pounds a-piece.

Inserting the reflection of Fanny Dashwood, watching the Old Gentleman becoming very attached to her son, is a very clever little detail, in my view. It paves the way for the comic but truly dreadful exchange between Fanny and her husband John when they interpret exactly what  financial arrangements they were compelled to honour as a result of John’s deathbed promise to his father. Chapter 2 of the novel is almost wholly taken up with their reasoning away their responsibilities, and part of the debate  is illustrated here:

To be sure it will. Indeed, to say the truth, I am convinced within myself that your father had no idea of your giving them any money at all. The assistance he thought of, I dare say, was only such as might be reasonably expected of you; for instance, such as looking out for a comfortable small house for them, helping them to move their things, and sending them presents of fish and game, and so forth, whenever they are in season. I’ll lay my life that he meant nothing farther; indeed, it would be very strange and unreasonable if he did. Do but consider, my dear Mr. Dashwood, how excessively comfortable your mother-in-law and her daughters may live on the interest of seven thousand pounds, besides the thousand pounds belonging to each of the girls, which brings them in fifty pounds a-year a-piece, and, of course, they will pay their mother for their board out of it. Altogether, they will have five hundred a-year amongst them, and what on earth can four women want for more than that? They will live so cheap! Their housekeeping will be nothing at all. They will have no carriage, no horses, and hardly any servants; they will keep no company, and can have no expences of any kind! Only conceive how comfortable they will be! Five hundred a-year! I am sure I cannot imagine how they will spend half of it; and as to your giving them more, it is quite absurd to think of it. They will be much more able to give you something.”

And, of course, as a result of having no carriage, no horses, hardly any servants and being dependant on others for a home, Fanny very carefully fails to mention that the Dashwood ladies would have had to lead very constrained lives socially. Not excessively comfortable at all. She is a mistress of spin.

The third and last illustration for this week is from Chapter 6, showing the visit of the disappointingly cold Lady Middleton to the Dashwood ladies on the second day of their living at Barton Cottage :

Conversation however was not wanted, for Sir John was very chatty, and Lady Middleton had taken the wise precaution of bringing with her their eldest child, a fine little boy about six years old, by which means there was one subject always to be recurred to by the ladies in case of extremity, for they had to inquire his name and age, admire his beauty, and ask him questions, which his mother answered for him, while he hung about her and held down his head, to the great surprise of her ladyship, who wondered at his being so shy before company, as he could make noise enough at home. On every formal visit a child ought to be of the party, by way of provision for discourse. In the present case it took up ten minutes to determine whether the boy were most like his father or mother, and in what particular he resembled either; for of course every body differed, and every body was astonished at the opinion of the others.


 

The illustration gives a hint as to the deficiencies of Lady Middleton in her profession as A Mother, something we experience later in the novel when we meet the other members of her brood. The looks on the faces of Elinor and Marianne speak volumes, don’t you think?

 

Go here for a short video of Fairfax House Musuem in York, famous for its recreations of Georgian Christmases. Enjoy!

Chawton House Library have published ten pages of Jane Austen’s Sir Charles Grandison, the manuscript of which is in their collection, online for us all to share.

If you go here you can access the pages , enlarge them and read them to your heart’s content.

Sir Charles Grandison was of course one of Jane Austen’s favourite books,the original being written by Samuel Richardson. The late Brian Southern in the facsimile edition of Sir Charles Grandison produced in 1980 by the Clarendon Press, thought that her version a play written for home performance-was written by her as a small skit prior to 1801.

As you can see from the manuscript pages many additions were made throughout the ensuing years. It was thought at one time that Jane Austen’s niece, Anna Austen,was the author of this play but Brian Southern’s detective work disproved this- deducing that many of the scenes were written before Anna was born,and all the additions made when she could have been no older than seven years old.

The manuscript remained in the Lefroy branch of the Austen family after Jane Austen’s death in 1817, and a facsimile copy was produced in 1980. It is now in the collection at Chawton House Library.

Ii is a typical example of Austen’s humour: Richardson’s great work- which runs to seven volumes-is reduced to a small booklet, 52 pages long…..Enjoy;)

The first edition of the Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, edited by Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster, which was published in 1997, has for a long time lived in my essential pile of books. This pile contains  about 20 or so reference books I refer to constantly, and they sit in a slightly teetering pile on my desk in my study. They sometimes have to be replaced when they fall apart from overuse, as happened with my first copy of the Companion, which was held together with some pink  legal tape till I succumbed and bought another copy out of shame.

It was more than a starting point for further research, a collection of seriously but clearly written essays by leading Austen scholars,  which attempted  to put Austen’s works into context, critically and historically. It was a great success, coming as it did in 1997 on the crest of the wave of the Austen boom in popularity, caused in the main by the very successful adaptations of the early 1990s.

A new edition has been recently published, again edited by Copeland and McMaster, and, like the first edition, I can highly recommend it, and would encourage even those who have a copy of  the first edition to buy it, as there is so much new material within it to  think about and internalise.

Old essays which have been retained are The Chronology of Jane Austen’s Life by Deirdre Le Faye, The Professional Woman Writer by Jan Fergus,The Early Short Fiction by Margaret Anne Doody, The Letters by Carol Houlihan Flynn, Class by Juliet McMaster, Money by Edward Copeland(possibly my favourite chapter in the book), Jane Austen and Literary Tradition by Isobel Grundy and Austen Cults and Cultures by Claudia L. Johnson.

New essays which have been commissioned are Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility by Thomas Keymer, Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park by Jocelyn Harris, Emma and Persuasion by Penny Gay, Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon by Janet Todd, Making a Living by David Selwyn, Gender by E. J. Clery,  Sociability by Gillian Russell and a very intriguing essay Jane Austen on Screen by Katheryn Sutherland. The chapter on Further Reading originally written by Bruce Stovell has now been updated by Mary M Chan.

The Preface to the Companion has some interesting points, and it might be illuminating to consider them. One that did jump out at me and made me sit back in my chair with a little unease,  intimates that the audiences at which the book is aimed- academics and the Janeites, of which I suppose I am one- are often separated /divided despite a common love of the subject:

Those people who gather to talk about Jane Austen, for example, still divide loosely into two friendly groups seeking mutual conversation, but often sailing past one another-enegertic non-academics with avid feeling for Austen and limited tolerance for bookish harangues and academics also with great love for Austen but certainly bookish and with perhaps less enthusiasm of the Janeite kind..

Hmm..I do hate the way the word Janeite has become ever-so-slightly a disparaging term….

Students who first encounter her works and even old hands who read her novels annually all sense that Austen’s culture recedes at unsettling speed. Younger readers for example can find themselves puzzled by the insistent economics of Austen’s novels or by her subtle  class distinctions. They are startled to find that Austen’s works posses political resonance. The old Janeite enthusiasm “how do they make whip’t syllabub?” has altered almost universally to “why do they make whip’t syllabub”

Hmm…. I suppose here I show my amateur but lawerly colours and wonder if it isn’t better to ask both questions,and surely  the answer to the former informs the latter? How sad that there is considered to be  a great divide between the academic professional and serious amateur. I wonder what it says about us all….I have had little interaction with Austen academics, but I do have to say the divide between history academics and amateurs does not, in my opinion and personal experience, seem to be so marked or so jealously guarded. This does beg the question, what would Jane Austen make of it all ?

Enough of that.

Onto the new essays, my favourite being a very thoughtful chapter by Katheryn Sutherland on screen adaptations of Austen’s works. The proliferation of them in the mid 1990s is, of course, what prompted the rise in Austen’s recent popularity and was a prime reason the first companion was produced and, dare I say it, found a wide audience.

She makes the point that in the main, the adaptations do not reflect the subtlety of Jane Austen written world.When Jane Austen makes a point of mentioning a domestic object it is an alarm bell to the informed reader. Film cannot convey this. Also, modern adaptations tend to see the stories primarily as love stories, when obviously they are so much more than that. She also reviews the new packaging of Austen’s novels as modern chick lit and points out that while such books are more likely to be brought by younger Janeites, they will have first seen the adaptations, and do the adaptations  colour their views of the novels, instead of the other way around? They probably do. But what now can be done, that the collective genii are out of their respective film canisters?

Her criticism of the re-invention of Darcy by the 1995 BBC adaption is very interesting and is an opinion I have long shared. And I very much like her appreciation of the new attitdue-the dirty hem look- of the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice and of Persuasion from 1995. This adaptation, which is top among my favorites, gets special praise:

The sequence of mainly silent images suggestive of the turmoil of Anne Elliot’s inner life in the opening sequence of the 1995 Persuasion works so well because we are seduced into sympathy by Amanda Root’s reticent performance. There is no intrusive voice-over, no coy Hollywood style diary-writing or mirror-gazing to bring the viewer up to speed and when she looks camera-ward her gaze is inward.

The recent biographical TV film,  Miss Austen Regrets, also a favourite of mine, recieves a special mention:

Played with great assurance by Olivia Williams, this is a complicated controversially adult Austen:tart and barbed, amusing, desperately flirtatious, lonely, by turns intolerant, dependant and afraid, a complicated biographical portrait that works because film unlike words can trade effectively in since.

Of course to all this I would add the practical caveat that filmmakers, in my experience do not make films with the Austen academic  or Janeite in mind. They aim for a far wider audience, and this is all done, of course, to make a profit.

The second edition of the Companion is  a very useful book. It contains interesting articles, ones that provoke thought and some that inform opinion. Like the first, it tries it educate so that a better understanding of Austen is acquired. Because of the major additions to this second edition, this is now a book  Janeites( ought I use that term?) should strive to read or buy. Very good value. I wonder if I will have to purchase another due to overuse in a few years time…?

I thought you might enjoy a serendipitous collaboration between the BBC and the National Trust.

The National Trust has created a city skyline walk around Bath, and this week the BBC Radio 4 Programme Ramblings, now presented by the amiable Stuart Maconie, recorded him walking along the route in the company of some local police officers. The area covered in the walk is indicated in the section from John Cary’s map of Bath and its Environs (1812) above. It covers Claverton Down, Widecombe,and passes by Ralph Allen’s Prior Park: the landscape garden there is also a National Trust property.

The walk is a circular one of about 6 miles in length,and has marvellous views across the city, and if you are in Bath you might consider doing it for yourself.

However, wherever you are in the world,  if you have a look at the National Trust’s map-which you can see here -while listening to the programme, you can easily follow the route and  imagine the views that Jane Austen took on her walks to Widecombe and Beechen Cliff while she lived in Bath.

It’s a jolly programme, –accessible here– and is only 23 minutes long.  I’m sure,with the additional aid of the map, you will have a great idea of the terrain as they walk the path.


There have been many illustrators of Jane Austen’s works. Some have been more successful than others. My joint favourite, with Joan Hassall who illustrated the complete works for the Folio Society, is Hugh Thompson. I thought you might like to know a little about him, his life and works.

Hugh Thomson was born in Kingsgate Street, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry, shown below, on 1 June 1860

I should like to thank the Ulster History Circle for permission to use these two images, the one below showing in detail the blue plaque they affixed to the building to celebrate Mr Thomson’s life and work.

He was first employed in the Ulster linen industry, for which Coleraine was justly famed, as a clerical worker for E. Gribbon and Son.He was however a keen and very talented amateur artist and as a child was noted by members of his family to have been constantly drawing. In 1877, when he was 16, Hugh Thomson produced an illuminated address for the retiring headmaster of Coleraine Model School, James Bresland, see below:

As a result of its beauty he was offered a job in the firm of Marcus Ward and Co of Belfast who were art printers. His work for the firm was so successful that in 1884 he was offered a job at the English Illustrated Magazine,which was published by Macmillan and Co, and which necessitated him moving to London.

He married-above is a picture of Mr Thomson with his father and son- and became a very succesful illustrator for Macmillan, producing illustrations for the Addison and Steele Spectator papers, Days with Sir Roger de Coverley,  Coaching Days and Coaching Ways, by W. Outram Tristram in 1887-8, published in book form in 1878. His biggest hit was illustrating Mrs Gaskell’s Cranford, and this led to him being asked by a different publisher,George Allen and Co., to produce a series of illustrations for Pride and Prejudice in 1893. As he wrote:

This book I am to get £500 for and a royalty of 7d a copy on every copy sold after 10,000.

Work on Pride and Prejudice began in 1893, and despite a debilitating attack of influenza, the 160 drawings  were completed and then published by October 1894. Mr  Thomson seems to have been a very modest and unassuming man of great charm, as is illustrated by this extract form one of his letters:

I saw in the column ‘Books Received ‘that Alllen has sent forth ‘Pride and Prejudice’…I have given up hope of artistic successes now but feel that at my time of life (thirty-four!) I may count myself lucky if one can do good business. In the ardent hope that the golden shekels may roll in I have found refuge.

It was indeed a hit- 11,605 copies were sold in 1894-5 and by 1907 no fewer than 25,000 copies of this edition had been printed.

In 1895 he was ill yet again,but he was then commissioned by his old firm, Macmillan, to work on the other five of Jane Austen’s novels: Emma (1896), Sense and Sensibility (1896), Mansfield Park (1897), Northanger Abbey and Persuasion (1898).

I love the tiny details that Hugh Thompson was able to include in his profuse illustrations for these books. Two of my favourites are below…..The moment when Mrs Elton appears at church in Emma….

And quite possibly my favourite of them all..the moment Mrs Bennet hears from her daughter Elizabeth that she is to marry Mr Darcy. Struck dumb for probably the first time in her life……

she sits, unable to utter a syllable..

From the early 1890s Thomson’s drawings were exhibited on several occasions, beginning with a joint exhibition with Kate Greenaway at the Fine Art Society in 1891. He was able to take advantage of the improvements in publishing technology and  his illustrations for last two volumes in the Cranford series included colour plates, as did many of his later commissions, which included works by Shakespeare, Sheridan, Goldsmith, and Hawthorne, and the popular plays of J. M. Barrie.

J. M. Barrie was a great admirer of Hugh Thomson and his works. Writing to M. H. Spiellman who wrote the memoir of Hugh Thomson, Hugh Thomson: his art, his letters,his humour and his charm, with Walter Jerrold in 1931 he noted:

He was a man who drew affection at first sight, so unworldly , so diffident, you smile over him and love him as if he were one of his own delicious pictures.What the man was came out in his face and in all his attractive ways; it might be said of him that he was himself the best picture he ever made. His heart was the gentlest,the most humourous and so was he….

This observation by Barrie is interesting,because Thomson was said to be the illustrator who revived the humour in Jane Austen’s novels:

I am writing your publisher a testimonial that no sufferer or invalid should neglect a course of Hugh Thompson’s marvellous tonic-the restorative effects on impaired vitality.,etc found in your illustrations to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and no household should be without a case-I mean a bookcase full. You have revivifed(sic)  the gently humourous Jane and given her a new lease of life….

(Letter from Joseph Grego quoted in Hugh Thomson :his art, his letters,his humour and his charm,page 98)

His books had a very special feature: he designed sumptuous covers for them. This is my copy of his Pride and Prejudice (1894) with the famous peacock-tail cover. I’ve had this for years and am frightened to even touch it these days so astronomical is the price it now fetches on the open market….

This is his equally sumptuous cover for Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer

Here are his working sketches for the cover of Sheridan’s School for Scandal, so that you can see how he worked around a continuing theme of  fans….

And here is his finished article. Do note all these illustrations  can be enlarged by clicking on them so you can see all the delicious detail.

Hugh Thomson struggled through the First World War,suffering from il health and decreasing commissions.He eventually died of heart disease in 1920.But he left a vibrant and loved legacy in his illustrations, particularly those he completed for the editions of Jane Austen’s novels.

One of my favourite books is a very tactile edition of Sense and Sensibility published in 1912.

Covered in a sort of suede embellished in gold leaf it is one of my favourite editions of all Jane Austen’s books that I own. Thomson’s illustrations for this book are clever and ingenious. Look at this illustration below, showing how subtle he could be in illustrating this tiny passage from Chapter 1;

….but to his son, and his son’s son, a child of four years old, it was secured, in such a way, as to leave to himself no power of providing for those who were most dear to him, and who most needed a provision, by any charge on the estate, or by any sale of its valuable woods. The whole was tied up for the benefit of this child, who, in occasional visits with his father and mother at Norland, had so far gained on the affections of his uncle, by such attractions as are by no means unusual in children of two or three years old: an imperfect articulation, an earnest desire of having his own way, many cunning tricks, and a great deal of noise, as to outweigh all the value of all the attention which, for years, he had received from his niece and her daughters.

Note the reflection in the looking-glass showing Fanny Dashwood coldly and calculatingly watching the Old Gentleman becoming ever more enamoured of her son…hmmmmm…..

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility I’m going to post a few of these illustrations each week, putting them in context and hopefully adding some interesting comments to them. I find the art of book illustration absolutely fascinating I wanted to be a book illustrator as a young girl,but then I took a completely different career turn! – and I hope you will enjoy some of these posts in the next few weeks.

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.

The path leads to the ancient gatehouse, which thankfully appealed to Repton and was kept as the original entrance to the abbey.

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.

And with one last glimpse of the Abbey from the rear entrance to the house by the Stables, this ends our current trip around the grounds.

I do hope you have enjoyed it.

A new exhibition which promises to be full of interest for us opens today in Brighton. Entitled Dress for Excess: Fashion in Regency England, it opens on the 200th anniversary of the passing into law of the Regency Act, which passed de facto powers of ruling Britain and its Empire from George III,who was suffering from the effects of porphyria, to his eldest son, Geroge.

The exhibition will be open for a year, and celebrates the life of George IV as Prince, Regent and King, through the fashions of the late Georgian period. It is organised by the Royal Pavilion & Museums, part of Brighton & Hove City Council, and will  provide an insight into the way these fashions from the late 18th and early 19th century have helped to influence the clothes we wear today.

The Press Release and photographs which the Museum was so kind to send to me yesterday, gives some very tempting descriptions of what is on show, and I quote from it below:

“George loved fashion and design – the more opulent and extravagant the better – and the exotic, oriental design of the Royal Pavilion, which was his seaside residence, bears testament to this.

His coronation was the most expensive in British history and his huge coronation robe is going on public display for the first time in 30 years.

The silk velvet robe, which is trimmed with ermine, measures more than five metres (16 feet) long and needed eight bearers rather than the usual six to carry it at the coronation.

(Gresham Blake, the renowned and acclaimed tailor, takes a closer look at the King George IV’s spectacular 16 foot long coronation robe which forms the centrepiece of the Dress for Excess exhibition. ©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, photographer Jim Holden)

Alongside his coronation robe will be two costumes worn in his coronation procession.

The exhibition will include men and women’s fashions, from a tailored dandy’s costume and military uniform worn at the Battle of Waterloo to elegant high-waisted cotton muslin gowns and beautiful silk garments, highlighting style influences from the period and themes from George’s life. The costumes are displayed across a number of rooms, set against the grand backdrop of the Royal Pavilion.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, photographer Jim Holden)

A new exhibition space, the Prince Regent Gallery, is dedicated to George himself. On display will be items of his clothes, including a beautifully printed banyan (an early form of indoor coat or dressing gown) from the 1770s, shown below,

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, photographer Jim Holden)

and huge breeches that George wore towards the end of his life as his waistline expanded.

((L to R) Martin Pel, Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Royal Pavilion and Museums, Cllr David Smith, Brighton & Hove City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Recreation and Tourism, and designer tailor Gresham Blake in the new Prince Regent Gallery at the Royal Pavilion. They are shown with a huge pair of George IV’s breeches which were worn towards the end of his life as his waistline expanded. ©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, photographer Jim Holden)

To complement the costumes there will be popular images of George: caricatures will take a satirical look at his life from his many mistresses, his continual descent into debt, and his love of Brighton. These caricatures are taken from the Baker Collection, which was recently acquired by the museum.

These will be contrasted with official portraits of George, showing him as he wished to be seen; as a monarch in his garter robes to military leader in hussar uniform. These paintings are taken from Brighton Museum’s collection.

The exhibition marks the 200th anniversary of the Regency Act, which was passed on February 5 1811, passing the powers of the monarchy to George as his father was ill.

It is only the second time a fashion exhibition has been held in the Royal Pavilion and the building’s rich collections of furniture, textiles and decorative arts provide the perfect setting to bring the pieces to life.

(Gresham Blake and Cllr David Smith with a hand painted Chinese silk robe and petticoat dating from 1760-65 (on loan from Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery) and a gold silk-satin coat, breeches and vest dating from 1780-85, which is part of the Royal Pavilion and Museum’s collection.©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, photographer Jim Holden)

Smith, Brighton & Hove City Council’s cabinet member for Culture, Recreation and Tourism, said: “George IV really put Brighton on the map as a fashionable seaside destination and this exhibition, in the amazing surroundings of his holiday home, will provide a fascinating insight into both his life and the fashions of the time.”

Martin Pel, Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Royal Pavilion and Museums, said: “More than any other monarch, George knew the power of dress. Whether it was the dandy fashions of his youth or the military uniforms he wore as an adult, as he sought a role for himself while waiting nearly 60 years to be crowned king. His love of fashion was not merely an expensive indulgence, but a significant part in creating who George was.”

He added: “The Regency period really was the beginning of modern fashion for both men and women. In men’s fashion trousers became the norm, rather than breeches, as did sober colours and hard wearing fabrics such as wool. Women too began to wear simpler styles in practical cotton fabrics. Unlike men’s fashion this wasn’t to last for women and they would soon revert back to clothes which displayed wealth. Interestingly though, when ‘modern’ fashion re-appeared for women in the early twentieth century it was based on the styles of the Regency period.”

The Museum have been kind enough to invite me to view the exhibition,and to write about it here, so in a few weeks time  look out for what I hope will be some very interesting posts about it. Jane Austen was not a fan of the Prince Regent, not at all: but he did, of course, ask her to dedicate “Emma” to him, and his daughter Princess Charlotte was very fond of Miss Austen’s novels, so I’m sure she will forgive me for writing about it here. ( To mis-quote Lydia Bennet in the 1995 adaptation of Pride and PrejudiceI AM going to Brighton!

The Threads of Feeling exhibiton which has been so deservedly successful  and which is nearing the end ff its run at the Foundling Hospital, is now available to view online. My review of the exhibit can be accessed here.

If you go here you will be taken to a slide show, accompanied by a soundtrack of 18th century ballads which helps put the contents of the slides  into context. Each slide shows in great detail a piece of ribbon or fabric, one of the tokens which were kept in the Billet Books of the Foundling Museum and which were deposited by the mothers of the babies, just in case they were ever in a position to be able to return to retrieve their child and needed to identify it. Details of the fabric are also listed.

The quality of the photographs is stunning and every detail of the fabric can be seen. Do access it, especially if you have no hope of going to see the exhibit before it closes on the 6th March

In the dark days of winter it is sometimes pleasant to look back on summer travels. Last August I was lucky enough to make another trip to Stoneleigh Abbey, in Warwickshire, the ancestral home of the Leigh family. Continuing the Jacobite theme begun by Sunday’s post on Charles I, I thought it was the opportune time to share some of my photographs with you.

Stoneleigh Abbey is a magnificent building, still surrounded by a park and grand gardens, some part of which would still be familiar to Jane Austen should she visit today.It is no longer the home of the Leighs, and is, in fact, now made up of a series of very smart ,multi-occupancy dwellings.

I propose not to go into much of Stoneleigh’s  history here-I’ll explore that in another post- but today and in the next post I thought we could take a tour of the grounds in the company of Mrs Austen.

When Jane Cassandra and Mrs Austen visited Stoneleigh in 1806 it was to accompany Mrs Austen cousin, the reverend  Thomas Leigh to claim his mighty and slightly unexpected inheritance of the Stoneleigh estate. The Austen ladies had been visiting him at his home at the Rectory at Adlestrop in Gloucestershire when he heard he ought to go and stake his claim to the estate on the death of Mary, sister to Edward, the fifth  Lord Leigh, who had died in 1786. As Jane and Cassandra Austen were travelling together, no letters passed between them, so we cannot read their impression of the visit. But there is still in existence a rather marvellous letter from Mrs Austen to her daughter-in-law, Mary,James Austen’s wife, that is full of lively detail .I’m going to quote relevant parts of the letter as we virtually stroll around the grounds.

On approaching Stoneleigh from the Coventry  to Warwick Road, you first see the two low built, Grecian style lodges at the entrance to the Stoneleigh estate, below. They were not built when Jane Austen visited: they were later additions to the estate in 1814. Thomas Leigh commissioned Humphrey Repton to improve Stoneleigh as he had done at Adlestrop along with his nephew James Leigh, and there is one of Repton’s famous Red Books still in existence there, complete with all his beautiful plans, though some were not carried out-the subject of another post.

The approach from the lodges leads to a very elegant bridge which was designed by Repton and again would not have been known to Jane Austen.

A magnificent avenue of trees leads to the medieval gate house.

The gatehouse is a relic of the Abbeys origins. As you have probably guessed from its name Stoneleigh was originally an abbey, inhabited by an order of Cistercian monks.More on this fascinating building in the next post…

Mrs Austen seems to have been quite taken aback by the size and grandeur of her cousin’s new surroundings:

The house is larger than I could have supposed. We can now find our way about it, I mean the best part; as to the offices (which were the old Abbey) Mr Leigh almost despairs of ever finding his way about them. I have proposed his setting up ‘directing posts’ at the Angles…

This is the famous West Front of the house,which was designed by the equally famous architect, Francis Smith of Warwick. No wonder Mrs Austen was suitably impressed.

This is an odd sort of letter. I write just as things come into my head. I will now give you some idea of the inside of this vast house, first premising that there are 45 windows in front (which is quite strait with a flat roof) 15 in a row.

You go up a considerable flight of steps (some offices are under the house) into a large hall…

I expected to find everything about the place very fine and all that, but I had no idea of its being so beautiful. I had figured to myself long avenues dark rookeries and dismal yew trees, but here are no such melancholy things.

No indeed…….

The first two tall windows on the first storey on the left of the house above are now in the State Bedroom where Queen Victoria was entertained later in the 19th century, but this was the room most favoured by the Austens when they were staying there because of the view it afforded down to the river Avon.

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

The Avon runs near the house amidst green meadows bounded by large and beautiful woods, full of delightful walks.

The elegant stone balustrades facing the river were not in existence when Jane Austen visited….

The view to the other , the facing bank shows some of the plantations,and how they were cleared by Repton to create interesting viewpoints.

Here is a video of the sweep from the river up to the house, showing the water meadow on the facing bank. It was rather windy when  I visited- you are forewarned

The Avon winds though the grounds….

and it is indeed very pleasant to walk through the shade of the trees on the riverside…

Here is another video of this part of the river side, again it was terribly windy so I do apologise in advance for the noise …

We walk a great deal, for the woods are impenetrable to the sun even in the middle of an August day.

The boathouse is a Victorian addition and would not have been at Stoneleigh when Jane Austen visited…and it is badly in need of repair….

If you leave the river and return towards the house and the Walled Kitchen Garden you come to one of Humphrey Repton’s garden buildings. It is of a rustic style,with a thatched roof,and was being repaired last summer…

The pattern of the tracery of the internal ceiling made from twigs and branches carefully cut and placed is very pleasing…

It boasts  a very rustic bench running along the internal wall…..

Behind the rustic garden building are the walls of the kitchen garden….

Which we will consider in more detail in the next post…..

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