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The Wheatsheaf Inn ©Austenonly

The Wheatsheaf Inn ©Austenonly

In our last post we looked at the place where Jane Austen often used to collect the Austen family’s post when they lived at Steventon in Hampshire: the Wheatsheaf Inn, Popham Lane, shown above.

Its existence, however useful it was to the Austens and their communications, may, in my humble opinion, have played a part in forming Jane Austen’s opinion of the Prince Regent, later George IV, which was none too high. You will recall that she was reluctant to dedicate “Emma” to him and voiced her disapproval of the way he treated his wife in a letter to her friend, Martha Lloyd, dated 16th February, 1813:

I suppose all the World is sitting in Judgement upon the Princess of Wales’s Letter. Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman, & because I hate her Husband — but I can hardly forgive her for calling herself  ‘attached & affectionate” to a Man whom she must detest — & the intimacy said to subsist between her & Lady Oxford is bad — I do not know what to do about it; but if I must give up the Princess, I am resolved at least always to think that she would have been respectable, if the Prince had behaved only tolerably by her at first. 

Few people realise that the first part in that tragic-comic marriage- referred to by Jane Austen in her letter, above- was played out within 6 miles of Steventon while the Austens were resident there, and that the Wheatsheaf Inn was very much a part of the Prince’s social scene. For, from 1788 to 1795 the Prince of Wales leased Kempshott Park, a beautiful house and estate, now sadly demolished to make way for the M3 motorway, as a base from which to indulge in that most fashionable and expensive of 18th century sports,  hunting. Kempshott was, at that time, a small settlement south west of Basingstoke, not far from Steventon. It is not marked on my Cary’s map of Hampshire but I have estimated its position on the section, below so you can have some idea of just how close the Prince’s establishment was to Steventon (and therefore to the young Jane Austen)

©Austenonly

©Austenonly

Arrow One denotes the estimated position of Kempshott Park, Arrow Two show you the position of The Wheatsheaf and Arrow 3 shows the position of Steventon Rectory.

Here is a description of Kempshott taken from my copy of  The Beauties of England and Wales; or, Delineations Topographical , Historical and Descriptive, Volume VI by Edward Wedlake Brayley and John Britton

Between three and four miles south east from Basingstoke is the Manor and park of KEMPSHOT, the ancient seat of the Pink family, of whom Robert PInk, who attained celebrity for his acquaintance with philosophy and divinity, was born here in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. He afterwards became Warden of New College Oxford, of which he had been admitted perpetual Fellow in 1596; and on his death in 1647 was buried there in the outer Chapel.The last of his family sold Kempshot about forty years ago and it has since passed through various hands to J. C. Cooke esq. The house is a large and handsome brick building.

The Prince Regent from "The Life of Princess Charlotte"

The Prince Regent from “The Life of Princess Charlotte”©Austenonly

There is a very succinct but interesting account of the Prince’s time in the Basingstoke area of Hampshire, and of the Kempshot Hunt,  in Sporting Reminiscences of Hampshire, from 1745 to 1862 by “Aesop” (1864):

In 1788 the Prince of Wales lived at Kempshot, which was before this occupied by Mr J. C. Crook, and while there had a pack of stag-hounds… Mr Terry says that the stables at Kempshot were full go high-priced horses, but the stables management was bad and they never appeared in condition…At this time William IV was a middy( midshipman-jfw) at Portsmouth and occasionally came up to Kempshot,but he could not ride at all to hounds.

During the French revolution in 1791, Kempshot was crammed with emigrants, and the hospitable welcome they received from the prince must have been some consolation to them. For their amusement a grand stag-hunt was got up, and as the royal stables could not mount them all, ten post-horses were sent for from Demery’s at Hartford Bridge. The foreigners grotesque appearance astounded the Hampshire men, as they were equipped with long horns over their shoulders in the regular French style. Prince William turned out on a pony and soon fathomed a deep ditch. A hind that was not expected to run straight was selected in order that the foreigners might have a better chance of nicking in. At least five hundred horsemen were present.The hind was uncharted at Kempshot Park and very soon after the foreigners  were seen sprawling all over the country and out of the whole number that started scarcely fifty got to the end…

At this time the prince was a very hard liver and suffered much from gout.  Nanny Stevens of Dummer, a stout strong woman was his nurse and even helped him in and out of his bath, while his lazy valet did nothing but brush his clothes and look on.

Mrs Fitzherbert from an illustration in La Belle Assemblee ©Austenonly

Mrs. Fitzherbert, the Prince of Wales Mistress and morganatic wife, from an illustration in” La Belle Assemblée” ©Austenonly

Mrs. Fitzherbert visited the prince at Kempshot and while she was there Mr. Ridge’s hounds with Joe Hall and Phil Gosling came over from Kilmiston. Lady Jersey, lady Cunningham and Mesdames Hodges and Sturt, in hunting costume, joined the field and Charles James Fox was at the breakfast, booted and spurred, but he was so gouty that he could neither walk nor ride. In February 1793 the Prince’s establishment underwent an alteration.They hunted stag no more but took to fox instead.The prince submitted the entire direction of the hounds to Mr Poyntz of Midgham who gave up his Hampshire country to his royal  highness.

The Princess of Wales from "The Life of Princess Charlotte"

The Princess of Wales from “The Life of Princess Charlotte”©Austenonly

George IV kept his honeymoon with Queen Caroline, April 1795, at Kempshot. In this month the prince was in treaty for Penton lodge, near Andover; but in October he went to the Grange and paid £5000 for the stock and fixtures.The beer alone was estimated at £500 so large a stock had Mr Drummond in his cellar. Lord Dorchester succeeded the prince at Kenpshot; and often no doubt amid the domestic troubles on his after days, did the prince look back on the privacy and tranquil enjoyments of the sojourn at the Grange…

The Mr Poyntz mentioned in the text was William Poyntz. The Mr. Terry mentioned in the text was Stephen Terry of Dummer, friend of the Austen family. James Austen, Jane Austen’s oldest brother was very keen on hunting, and often rode out with The Vyne Hunt founded by his friends and patrons The Chutes when he was rector of Sherbourne St John. But in 1789 he was appointed to the curacy of Overton, which as you can see from the map above, was the nearest small town to Steventon, and what is interesting to me is that while he lived there James “went out” with the Kempshot pack.  According to Deirdre Le Faye’s Jane Austen: A Family Record

Here he (James Austen-jfw) lived in the “very small vicarage house” and indulged in his love of hunting by going out with the Kempshot pack under the mastership of Mr. William Poyntz. At this date Kempshot Park was leased by the Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent and George IV) and Mr Poyntz’s diary shows several occasions when James went out in the field alongside the Prince and his courtiers.

Back to the inn. The Wheatsheaf was a very popular haunt of the hunting fraternity, and was the venue for many post-hunt dinners held by the Hampshire Hunt. Mr Vernon, the proprietor of the Inn, and someone with whom Jane Austen would, no doubt, have been familiar, kept a fine cellar of port wine at the inn, which was reserved  for the Hampshire Hunt’s use. Charles Powlett, who was the illegitimate son of the third Duke of Bolton, the Rector of Itchen Abbas attended  the Hampshire Hunt’s dinners at the Wheatsheaf. Known as the “poet of the Hampshire Hunt ” he immortalised the inn’s role in a song which he composed and which was sung at their monthly dinners:  here are the lyrics to the first verse and the last verse:

Draw near, ye frail mortals of every degree,
Who heartily sigh and complain,
We’ll find you a medicine, without any fee,
Shall quickly alleviate your pain.
Would you drive away care,
To the Wheatsheaf repair,
Where mirth and good humour embrace,
Our Hampshire Hunt join,
While young mirth and old wine,
Enliven the joys of the chase!
…………..
On tithes and obligations no longer intent,
The parson came hobbling along,
To forward the sport ever anxiously bent,
Though feeble and last in teh throng,
his weak muse and his horse,
Have alike run their course,
Long hacknay’d, exhausted, and lame,
Yet the veteran entreats,
In return for past feats,
Your favour he humbly may claim.
Then, to drive away care,
He’ll to Vernon’s repair,
Where wit and good humour embrace,
The Hampshire Hunt join,
With young mirth and old wine
Enliven the joys of the chase.
See:Sporting Reminiscences of Hampshire, from 1745 to 1862 by “Aesop” (1864)pages 6-7

The Kempshot Hunt also held many celebratory dinners at the Wheatsheaf: did James Austen attend any of these, do we suppose? The Kempshot hunt ceased to exist in 1793 due to the Prince’s debt crisis. Retrenching all round meant that the Prince left the area and gave up his interest in the hunt, which folded.  It is interesting to note that after 1795, when the Prince had ceased to visit the area for hunting that poor Mr Vernon, the proprietor of the Wheatsheaf was bankrupted:

Up to February 1784 it (the Hampshire Hunt-jfw)was called the Kilmiston Hunt and it will be seen in the “Hants Chronicle” of that year that , under that name, meetings were advertised tone held at the White Hart,Winchester; the Swan Inn, Alresford; and at Mr Vernon’s at the Wheatsheaf,Popham-lane; at this last place the club possessed a very fine cellar of port wine; the proprietor, however,became bankrupt, and it was seized by his creditors and sold…

See: page 6, Sporting Reminiscences of Hampshire, from 1745 to 1862 by “Aesop” (1864)

Did the extravagances of the Prince and his hunting fraternity play any part in  the financial demise of Mr Vernon? This needs more investigation but it might be linked. These goings on of the profligate and, in the eyes of Jane Austen, I am sure, immoral  Prince and his circle, must have caused a tremendous buzz of gossip and speculation in the Steventon neighbourhood.  Jane Austen’s brother James rode out with the Prince and his cronies, and no doubt talked about the goings on at the Steventon Rectory. Stephen Terry of Dummer was also involved. The Nanny Stevens who bathed the Prince under the eyes of his lazy valet may have been linked to the family of Stevens who lived in Steventon at the time and one of them was employed by the Austens as a cleaner at the Steventon Rectory:

John Steeven’s(sic) wife undertakes our Purification:She does not look as if anything she touched would ever be clean, but who knows?

(See: letter to Cassandra Austen dated 27th October 1798)

I have no doubt that the scandalous high life goings-on of the Kempshott circle were talked about with gusto in the Austen family home at Steventon. The fate of Mr .Vernon of the Wheatsheaf was also very probably a topic of debate. Is it too much to speculate that Jane Austen’s dislike for the Prince of Wales may have begun at this time?

2012-09-14 14.36.46

The Wheatsheaf Inn, Popham Lane ©Austenonly

I should imagine that few visitors to the Wheatsheaf Inn today – which is now a Chef and Brewer Pub and part of a modern Premier Inn-  imagine that it played a very important part in Jane Austen’s early life, and that it had spectacular royal connections.

The Wheatsheaf Inn was and is set on what was, in Jane Austen’s life time, the busy  London to Winchester and Poole road, on the route which went via Basingstoke. The road is now the very busy A30, and is  not far from the equally busy M3 motorway. Here is an extract from my copy of Cary’s Itinerary for 1802 which shows that the Inn was positioned 5 miles 6 furlongs form Basingstoke on the junction of  Popham Lane and the road from London to Winchester:

Extract from John Cary's "New Itinerary, or, An Accurate Delineation of teh Great Roads both Direct and Cross throughout England and Wales etc" (1802) ©Austenonly

Extract from John Cary’s “New Itinerary, or, An Accurate Delineation of the Great Roads both Direct and Cross throughout England and Wales etc” (1802) ©Austenonly

Here, below,  is an annotated section from my copy of Cary’s map of Hampshire for 1797 showing the relative positions of the Wheatsheaf (No.2), clearly marked on the map, and Steventon (No.1)You can see the church at Steventon, and the old Rectory was on land just to the left of the junction with the lane leading to the church and the road that led to Waltham.

Popham

©Austenonly

The reason this inn would have been familiar to Jane Austen was that she often visited it, not to partake of the ales there (Goodness, no!) but to collect the family’s post. In addition to being an important posting inn, where travellers could hire horses and carriages to take them on their journeys, the inn was also a  postal receiving house, where post was received from the mail coaches and then kept until it could be could be collected.

The "Wheatsheaf" above the entrance to the Inn ©Austenonly

The “Wheatsheaf” above the entrance to the Inn ©Austenonly

The walk from Stevetnon to the Inn is quite an interesting one. It takes you from the low-lying territory of the site of the old Steventon Rectory to the inn, through the village of Waltham (now North Waltham)  and then on to quite high ground toward the site of the inn. I’ve not walked it, but have driven along the route many times.  Google Maps tell me that it involves a distance of approximately 2.7 miles and it estimates the journey would take  56 minutes on foot, one way. It would have taken Jane Austen, therefore over 2 hours to collect her family’s post from the inn and return home. It is entirely  fortunate then that she considered herself ( together with her friend, Martha Lloyd) a desperate walker. I wonder if this walk provided her with valuable ‘thinking” time, away from the hurly-burly of life at the Stevetnon rectory, filled with family and Mr Austen’s boarders?

Next, the Wheatsheaf’s royal connections….

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.

(Page 56)

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 ;)

I’m going to interrupt our series on the Brighton Pavilion for a moment, because today I’ve been made aware, via my alert conveyancing solicitor of a husband, that a property which has strong associations with Jane Austen is currently for sale.

This house, above, in Ibthorpe Hampshire,  was the home of the Lloyds, who were, of course, great friends with the Austen family.  Mrs Lloyd, the widowed mother of Mary Lloyd, James Austen’s second wife and of Martha Lloyd, who was Jane and Cassandra Austen’s great friend, all lived there from 1792 until the death of Mrs Lloyd in 1805.  The house is now for sale with the agents, Frank Knight, at a guide price of £3.5 million.Go here to see all the details.

The house has many, many associations with Jane Austen.When she lived at Steventon she would often visit the Lloyds at Ibthorpe, travelling sometimes on her own via the nearby town of Andover, and it is mentioned in many of her letters. The Lloyd’s lodger , Mrs Stent, poor deaf Mrs Stent,  was often remarked upon too.

“Poor Mrs. Stent! it has been her lot to be always in the way; but we must be merciful, for perhaps in time we may come to be Mrs. Stents ourselves, unequal to anything & unwelcome by everybody”

And of course it was from Ibthorpe that a young Jane Austen made her debut into society in 1792.  She was staying at Ibthorpe with the Lloyds when she attended her first dance as an adult at Enham House near Andover.

I was lucky enough to visit this house in 2006,and have lunch there in the company of friends, all courtesy of the house’s most generous present owner, Sabina ffrench Blake. Mrs. ffrenchBlake was very proud of her home’s association with Jane Austen and was very welcoming and gracious to others who had a genuine interest in seeing  a place with such happy associations with our favourite author.

She was convinced that it was in the quiet of Ibthorpe, away from the hurly burly of life at the rectory at Steventon, with all the Austen family and their troop of live- in scholars, that Jane Austen would find the peace she needed to compose her early works. Mrs. ffrench Blake would show the dining room, below, which in Jane Austen’s time served as the sitting room,

and, of course the bedroom, seen below, where Jane Austen stayed while she visited the Lloyds.

The house has other literary associations, notably with the Bloomsbury set. The artist, Dora Carrington lived there before the first World War and used this tiny garden building, below in one of my photographs, as her studio.

She lived there with the writer, Lytton Strachey and was often visited by other writers associated with the Bloomsbury set, notably Vita Sackville West and Virginia Woolf. Mrs. ffrench Blake related to me an interesting anecdote told to her by Nigel Nicholson, who was the son of  Vita and Harold Nicholson. While visiting Dora there with his mother, aged about 8, he had been interrogated by Virginia Woolf and Dora Carrington as to what he was going to do with his life.  He coud hardly think of any profession, so formidable were the women asking him the questions!

Yet another property I wish I could buy…Ah, well….let’s hope the next owner is just as  welcoming to Jane Austen aficionados.

The Tourist Office at Winchester have produced a new Jane Austen Trail leaflet and website to celebrate this years 200th Anniversary of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility.  They are both very interesting and will be very useful for visitors to Hampshire this summer who want to visit the main Jane Austen sites, for not only does the trail and website give historical data but much-needed travel information: this will be invaluable to Austen-tourists not familiar with the area.

The trail  plots the Jane Austen’s life in Hampshire chronologically, and includes information on Chawton Cottage, her family home from 1809 until 1817 and now the Jane Austen House Museum, which was of course where she composed and revised her six marvellous adult novels, and her final, unfinished work, Sandition.

I might quibble with about the veracity of a few of the statements in the leaflet, but then that’s just me being über picky ;) It is in fact generally very helpful, and I do like that it includes detail not only on the well-known Jane related sites such as Steventon, Chawton and Winchester, but also Southampton and Portsmouth (However, sadly I note that the Coastal Jaunts part of the website is not accessible to me : too many redirects)

The website is accessible here and the leaflet can be downloaded as a pdf. document here.

Occasionally , on reading Jane Austen’s novels or letters, a reference jumps out at you …and you are puzzled. You simply have no idea what she is referring to… It niggles and niggles away …You have sleepless nights wondering what she was meant…You follow the paper trail and read copious books and manuscripts trying to find out what it was…then, sometimes, just sometimes, it comes a-right. The Holy Grail is discovered and explained.

This happened to me with the Merlin Swing in the Sydney Gardens, and I still remember the joy I felt when I discovered exactly what it was, though not how it looked ( go here to read about it ). The same with the tea board in Mansfield Park, and when I finally found an illustration of one (in a portrait of a rather self-satisfied West Indian merchant M.P.)another enigma was lopped from The Niggling List with relish.

And this passage from one of Jane Austen letters to Cassandra Austen has set me (and many others) on another hunt:

I am not to wear my white satin cap to-night. after all; I am to wear a mamaluc cap instead, which Charles Fowle sent to Mary, and which she lends me. It is all the fashion now; worn at the opera, and by Lady Mildmays at Hackwood balls. I hate describing such things, and I dare say you will be able to guess what it is like.

( Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 8th January 1799)

Well, no actually Miss Jane, I cannot guess what it is like…and so the hunt begins.

First, shall we see what Hackwood Park looked like and why it was a hotbed of up-to-date fashion?

This is a print of Hackwood which appeared in Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions and Manufacture etc in September 1825. Below is a section from my copy of John Cary’s 1797 map of Hampshire which shows the estate’s position and dominance in the society centered around Basingstoke at the time Jane Austen was living near there at Steventon.  The estate appears on the map as the large green lozenge shape to the right of the section, and I have annotated the map so that you can see its position clearly.( You can also enlarge the map, and all the other illustrations in this post, simply by clicking on it)

This is the description from Ackermann’s Respository:

Hackwood is a contraction of Hacking Wood the original name of this place. It was the sporting retreat and occasional residence of the Pawlet family and their numerous relatives, when Basing-House was demolished in 1645 after a long and remarkable resistance. A lodge was then built for the residence of John the fifth Marquis of Winchester. Charles’s son, first Duke of Bolton, erected a splendid mansion in 1688; considerable alterations and improvements have been added since. The present carriage front on the north side is adorned in the centre with a noble Ionic portico, ascended by a flight of steps,and bearing in the tympanum of the pediment the arms and supporters of the family. An equestrian statue of George I mounted on a lofty pedestal and presented to that monarch to the family, stands at a small distance in front. It is this view of the mansions which we present to our readers. The south front was executed by the present nobleman from designs by Lewis Wyatt Esq. The rooms are spacious and magnificent and peculiarly adapted for comfort as well as display. In the saloon is a superb piece of carving by Gibbons. The family portraits are numerous…there are likewise two fine views of the Colosseum and ruins at Rome by Pannini.

The pleasure grounds are extensive and beautiful particularly on the south. Within these few years great improvements have been and are still in progress under the direction of the present Lady Bolton,whose taste in landscape gardening is generally admired, and is strikingly manifested in these grounds. The wood is wild and luxuriant in appearance. In its centre is a space of about four acres called the Amphitheatre, bounded by elms closely planted,  extending their branches over the sides and ends of the area, at the upper end of which are the ruins of a rotunda. The park is well stocked with deer.

At the time Jane Austen was writing about it, the house was owned by Lord and Lady Botlon.  Lady Bolton, Jane Mary Powlett , was the illegitimate daughter and eventual magnificently rich heiress of Charles Powlett, the 5th Duke of Bolton. Her husband  Thomas Orde-Powlett, took her name when she inherited the estate and others from the Duke. The Duke had failed to produce a son to inherit his title, and while the title could not be inherited by Jane due to her illegitimacy and sex, she could inherit the non entailed estates. She eventually inherited most of the Bolton estates on the death of her uncle,the 6th Duke who died without any legitimate male issue. Her husband was elevated to the peerage on 20th October 1797 by George III. He took the name of Baron Bolton of Bolton Castle in honour of his wife’s family. So I think we can assume that the latest fashions would have been worn at the virtual ducal home…

Which leads us to the conundrum in question…what exactly did Jane Austen’s mamalouc cap look like?

Constance Hill in her book,  Jane Austen, Her homes and Her Friends (1923) made the first  attempt at deciphering the riddle:

The word Mamalouc is given as Mamalone in Lord Brabourne’s “Letters of Jane Austen,” which is evidently a clerical error; the letters uc in the MS. having been mistaken for ne. The battle of the Nile, fought in the preceding August, had set the fashion in ladies’ dress for everything suggestive of Egypt and of the hero of Aboukir. In the fashion-plates of the day we find Mamalouc cloaks and Mamalouc robes of flowing red cloth. Ladies wear toupées, somewhat resembling a fez, which we recognise as the “Mamalouc cap.” Their hats are adorned with the “Nelson rose feather,” and their dainty feet encased in “green morocco slippers bound with yellow and laced with crocodile-coloured ribbon. (See page 76)

This was the explanation accepted by Dierdre le Faye in her edition of Jane Austen’s letters. However, in A Frivolous Distinction, a 1979 booklet about fashion in Jane Austen’s novels and letters, a slightly diffident description of the cap is given by its author, Penelope Byrde, who was the Curator of the Museum of Costume and Fashion Research Centre in Bath:

Caps worn in the evening could be quite elaborately trimmed like the one Jane Austen was altering in december 1798:

‘I still venture to retain the narrow silver round it, put twice round without any bow, and instead of the black military feather shall put in the coquelicot one as being smarter, and besides coquelicot is to be all the fashion this winter. After the ball I shall probably make it entirely black’.But a little later she adds, “I have changed my mind & changed the trimmings of my Cap this morning; they are now such as you suggested- I felt as if I should not prosper if I strayed from your directions”

Another cap familiar to us from her letters was a Mamalouc cap she was lent on one occasion and which she said in January 1799 ‘is all the fashion now’. The vogue for Mamalouc ( or Makeluk) caps robes and cloaks had appeared after the battle of the Nile in 1798. A fashion plate of 1804 illustrating a Mameluck cap shows a white satin turban trimmed with a white ostrich feather….

(Page 7).

This doesn’t help us resolve the mystery does it? In fact it rather muddies the waters. As Marsha Huff, the past president of JASNA remarked in her review of the reissue of Penelope Byrde’s book, now in hardback and entitled Jane Austen Fashion:


I read “Jane Austen Fashion” hoping to learn more about the famous Mamalouc cap. I was, however, unable to reconcile Byrde’s description of a satin turban, trimmed with an ostrich feather, with that of Constance Hill (quoted by Deirdre Le Faye in the notes to her edition of Austen’s Letters), who wrote that a Mamalouc cap was a toupee, somewhat resembling a fez. Since Austen chose not to describe the cap she wore that January night in 1799, a fashion mystery remains.

I so sympathise with Ms. Huff’s frustration….But, perhaps the answer  now presents itself to us. I have tracked down a reproduction of the fashion plate to which Penelope Byrde refers. It was published in the Costume Society’s report of their 1970 Spring Conference, on The So-Called Age of Elegance.

In an article, The Costume of Jane Austen and her Characters, written by Anne Buck, who was creator and the Keeper of the Gallery of English Costume at Platt Hall, part of the  Manchester Art Galleries, and author of such influential books such as Dress in Eighteenth Century England, the mystery is finally resolved. In a note to the letter by Jane Austen  which inspired our quest she writes:

The original of this letter, first published by Lord Brabourne was not traced by the editor who in a note to the letter gives Miss C Hill’s suggestion of mamlouc, one of the contemporary spellings of mameluke.This is no doubt what Jane Austen wrote.

And then, praise be, she included this illustration of a mameluke turban which appeared in The Fashions of London and Paris, in February 1804:

As you can see, the cap is a combination of two types of “oriental” headgear:  the part of the hat immediately surrounding the face resembles a turban, and  the crown of the hat is reminiscent of the conical shape of the fez, as referred to by Constance Hill.

So, finally we have it. The Mamalouc cap as worn by Jane Austen and by ladies of fashion at the Opera and at Hackwood Park.  Another niggle is crossed off the list.


The lovely portrait of Edward Knight, shown above, which was thought to have been commissioned in Italy and painted in Rome  in early 1790 while he was completing his  Grand Tour of Europe, has hung for many years in the the Jane Austen House Museum. It is a familiar and lovely sight, the fashionably dressed Edward standing among classical ruins, in a leafy glade compete with grotto, a sight that would surely have pleased both Henry Tilney and Catherine Moreland.

The portrait has now been restored and conserved and is going to return on loan to Chawton House,  which is now the Chawton House Library and the Centre for the Study of Early Women’s Writing, and, of course, was once Edward Knight’s Hampshire home.

.

The portrait  used to hang in the dining room of Chawton Great House but it was sold in the 1950s and was eventually purchased by the Jane Austen Society and put on show to the public  at Jane Austen’s House. That cottage also once formed part of Edward’s estate and was the home he offered to Jane, Cassandra and Mrs Austen and where they lived, with Martha Lloyd, from 1809.

The portrait has been restored and conserved and  will be officially unveiled in December in the week that commemorates the 235th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Birth. How lovely and appropriate.

All this information has been brought to my attention by reading the latest copy of The Female Spectator which is the quarterly published newsletter of the Chawton House Library. I love receiving my newsletters and have been in receipt of them since the first edition, published in autumn 1995…I really need to have them bound…

This quarter’s edition, as ever, has some fascinating articles: a comparison between the writings of the philosopher Mary Astell and Jane Austen, and how girls learnt musical skills in Jane Austen’s era, in addition to fascinating news of developments on the Chawton estate-the article on the restoration of the Rose Garden is great ( but is much too short!)

You can subscribe to the Female Spectator on-line here or can receive it if you become a Friend of Chawton in the UK or a Friend in the US . The Chawton House project is admirable: the house has been restored magnificently and  the library is well established. I’ve been lucky enough to visit it many times,and have seen it “rise from the ashes ” of its restoration in 2002 to its wonderfully restored state.  I am always impressed with the house and the grounds and of course the contents of the magnificent library, and the dedication of the staff. It’s a worthy cause so very closely associated with Jane Austen’s life, happiness and family, so if you can join, do;)

(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 Shop at the Jane Austen’s House Museum has to be one of the best places a committed Janiete can spend  money. I  love to go there and buy some difficult to find books, and get my treasured “Bought at  Jane Austen’s House” sticker to put in them , as a reminder of yet  another happy visit.

The shop will still provide a mail order service for those Janeites who are unable to visit in person, but it has recently opened an online shop for ease of ordering from a distance, in conjunction with Trail Publishing.

There are some gems to be found in the new online emporium. I loved the Jane Austen novels mouse mat…

The book spine mug…

and the reasonably priced Jane Austen Chawton Bi- Centenary shopper.

And I have to admit my first online order was larger than I  had planned but that is always the way with this particular museum’s carefully chosen merchandise.

As all profits from both shops go towards keeping Jane’s cherished Chawton home in good  heart, I’m sure you will  all be keen to help the economy (!) and it by spending a little there ;-).


A new month- a new site…..

I would like to introduce you all to a new project, one I have been working on for years- a Jane Austen Gazetteer.

The aim of the site is to allow you  to virtually visit all the places associated with Jane Austen and her family. Though we can still visit many of those places to day, they have changed irrevocably in the intervening 200 years. Looking at them via the medium of  maps, engravings and descriptions all contemporary with Jane Austen brings us closer to the places as she knew them.

At present only the main locations associated with Jane Austen have been completed, but in time I hope the site will grow to become a comprehensive guide to Jane Austen’s world as she would have known it.

Each page on the site gives details of a one particular location, and will usually  contain a contemporary description, a map and possibly an engraving. In addition external links to current websites are provided where appropriate, together with details of all Jane Austen’s references to those places, for example details of  all her letters which document that particular place,etc.

I do hope you will enjoy exploring the site, a glimpse into Jane Austen’s world .

Enjoy!

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