Would you like to purchase a little piece of Austen related history? The Dean Gate Inn is now for sale. If you go here you can see all the purchase details published by the estate agents, Drake and Company.
The Dean Gate Inn is an old coaching inn and postal receiving house on the road that still leads from Basingstoke to Andover, and is now known as the B3400.
Here is a section from John Cary’s Map of Hampshire of 1797, which shows its position, marked red with the arrow numbered “1”
The position of the Steventon Rectory is marked by the arrow marked with number “3” and the position of the Ashe Rectory, home of Jane Austen’s great friend, Mrs Lefroy, is marked by the arrow numbered “2”.
Jane Austen mentions Dean Gate in her letter to Cassandra Austen, her sister, written on the 9th January 1796:
We left Warren at Dean Gate in our way home last night and he is now on his road to town.
Warren, was John Willing Warren (1771-1831) who was one of the Reverend George Austen’s pupils at Steventon Rectory. He was a life long friend of the Austens and Deirdre le Faye describes him in her book, Jane Austen: A Family Record as follows:
When Jane and Cassandra returned home from school in the autumn of 1786 their daily companions were therefore…the good natured, ugly John Willing Warren, son of Mr Peter Warren of Mildred Court, Cornhill, London who had come some time in the 1780s and who also went up to Oxford in 1786 ,remained a friend for life and is mentioned in several of Jane’s letters.
He became a barrister and a Charity Commissioner and interestingly, was one of the contributors to James Austen’s magazine which was compiled while they were both at Oxford University, The Loiterer.
So, as a place to catch and be dropped off by coaches, this inn would have been a very familiar place for the Austens, travelling to family, university, and naval college. Their pupils, friends and family would have used it on the way to and from Steventon, and no doubt the Austens used it too. Jane Austen almost certainly used it when she travelled to Andover to meet with Mrs Poore and her mother, the wife of Phillip Henry Poore, the apothecary, surgeon and man-midwife, while changing coaches on the way to visit Martha Lloyd at Ibthrope:
My Journey was safe and not unpleasant. I spent an hour at Andover of which Messrs Painter and Redding had the larger part; twenty minutes however fell to the lot of Mrs Poore and her mother, whom I was glad to see in good looks and spirits.
(See Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 30th November 1800)
Constance Hill in her book, Jane Austen Her Homes and her Friends, published in 1923, describes her joy at being able to stay at the Dean Gate Inn on her first excursion into what she termed “Austenland”:
After a short halt we again resumed our journey, and finally, as darkness was closing in, we drew up triumphantly at the solitary inn of Clarken Green. But our triumph was of short duration. Within doors all was confusion – rooms dismantled, packing-cases choking up the entries, and furniture piled up against the walls. The innkeeper and his family, we found, were on the eve of a departure. It was impossible, he said, to receive us, but he offered us the use of a chaise and a fresh horse to take us on to Deane – a place a few miles farther west – where he thought it possible we might find shelter in a small inn. The name struck our ears, for Deane has its associations with the Austen family. There Jane’s father and mother spent the first seven years of their married life. By all means let us go to Deane! So bidding farewell to our charioteer, the blacksmith’s wife, as she led her sturdy pony into the stable, we drove off cheerily along the darkening roads. Before long a light appeared between the trees, and in a few minutes we were stopping in front of a low, rambling, whitewashed building – the small wayside inn of Deane Gate.
Our troubles were now over, and much we enjoyed our cosy supper, which we ate in a tiny parlour of spotless cleanliness. A chat with our landlady gave us the welcome intelligence that we were within two miles of Steventon. Our small tavern and Gatehouse (as it was formerly) stood, she said, where the lane for Steventon joins the main road to the west. This, no doubt, would give it importance for the Austens and their country neighbours; and we recalled the words of Jane in one of her letters, when speaking of a drive from Basingstoke to Steventon she says: “We left Warren at Dean Gate on our way home.” So we fell asleep that night with the happy consciousness that we were really in Austen-land.
This is the illustration of the inn from Constance Hill’s book, and you can see that, apart from the presence of the chickens and the different inn sign, not much has changed. The frequency of the traffic certainly has- it is a rather fast and busy road and those chickens would not last long today….
I do hope someone buys it, Steventon is only 1 1/4 miles away, along a lane.
I will keep an eye on developments for you, and if it reopens I will certainly pay a visit ;)