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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 ;)

Today, taking off from where we left, in our last post in this series, we now enter the church, which was very important in Jane Austen’s early life until she left Steventon for Bath in 1801. This simple church was the site of her baptism, where she and her family worshipped,and where for many years, members of her family were rectors.

This is the view from the rear of the Nave toward the Chancel and the East window. We will talk about the Nave and its contents in our next post in this series, and so today we shall concentrate on the Chancel, which you can see, below:

The East Window is decorated with some Victorian Stained glass, which was  designed by Meyer and Co of Munich and was installed in 1883.

Jane Austen would not have known this window. Nor would she have known the altar, below, which again is Victorian.

But in the Chancel are some very important Austen family memorials. The first, next to the organ on the south wall…

is dedicated to James Austen, Jane’s oldest brother . He was the Rector at Steventon from 1805 until his death in 1819, having taken over the family living on the death of his father in 1805. Please do note that you can enlarge all these photographs by clicking on them to see the details.

It is surmounted with the Austen family crest and motto, which you can see in the photograph below:

The inscription reads:

To the Memory of 

The Revd. James Austen,

who succeeded his father, the Revd George Austen

as Rector of this Parish

and died Dec  13th 1819 aged 53 years,

this monument and the Stone which covers his grave in the churchyard

were erected by his widow and children

There midst the flock his fond attention fed

Teh village pastor rests his weary head

Till called to join, from sin and suffering freed

That Heavenly flock which Christ himself shall feed:

For long and well he bore the chastening rod

Long, marked for death the vale of life he trod;

For talents honoured, though to fees displayed,

And virtues brightening through dejections shade

Simple yet wise, most free from guile or pride,

He daily lived to God and daily died.

Best earliest friend for thee whose cares are o’re

Dear as thy presence was, we grieve no more;

Well taught by thee, our heart scan heavenward rise;

We dare not sorrow where a Christian lies

Also in the Chancel is this elegant monument dedicated to James first wife, Anne Mathew, who was the granddaughter of the 2nd  Duke of Ancaster of Grimsthorpe.

The beautiful and elegant  inscription reads:

Sacred to the Memory of

Anne Austen

Wife of the Revd. James Austen Vicar of Sherbourne St John in this County

Daughter to Lt General Mathew Governor of Grenada

who exchanged this life for a far better on the 3rd May 1795

in the 37th year of her Age.

as the Innocency of her Heart,

Simplicity of her Manners

And amiable unspotted Tenour of her Life, in every Relation,

Will render her Memory ever dear to her surviving Friends;

So the humble and pious Resignation

Eminently manifested at that trying Period

When parting with what was most dear on Earth

Will always be considered by them

As an Example


Christian Fortitude

which, though they can scarcely hope to Equal

They will yet endeavour 

to imitate

The memorial is decorated with her coat of arms. James’ second wife, Mary, who was the sister to Jane Austen’s great friend, Martha Lloyd, also has her memorial here.

Her inscription reads:


Wife of the Revd. Jame Austen

Late Rector of this Parish

and Daughter of

The Revd . Noyes Lloyd


Rector of Enbourne near Newbury 

Died at Speen Berks

3rd August 1843

aged 73

and was buried here in the adjoining churchyard

her son and Daughter with sorrow 

inscribe this stone

To the honoured Memory of

Their Good and affectionate Mother

Whose loss they will Long lament

together with two verse from the Bible.

Also in the Chancel is the memorial to the Reverend William Knight, Edward Knight’s son who was also Rector at Steventon,

but who lived in the new Rectory now known as Steventon House, built for him by his father, and not the in one in which Jane Austen was born, which has now been demolished. There is also a very moving memorial, affixed to the wall underneath it, dedicated to his three daughters who died in June 1848 of scarlet fever, aged 3,  4 and 5 years respectively  :

And on that rather somber note, we shall leave the Chancel to look, next time, at the Nave.

featured last night on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow programme.

This was the second programme filmed in Winchester Cathedral, and of course, it is in Winchester Cathedral that Jane Austen is buried.

Last night the programme’s presenter, Fiona Bruce, made mention of the pilgrimages that centre on Winchester. People still flock to the cathedral to see the shrines of ancient kings and saints,

but also to pay special literary pilgrimages to Jane Austen’s memorial plaque and window, above, and her tomb, below.

She gave a brief overview of Jane Austen’s life and works and then led us to the house in College Street, just outside the cathedral close…

where Jane Austen died in 1817.

Unexpectedly, we were then taken inside the house, to the room on the first floor where Jane Austen died.

This is the first time I have seen inside this house and it quite took me aback, I freely confess.

It is of course a private house at the moment and is not open to the public, so this was an extraordinary thing to have seen.

During the programme, Louise West, Curator of the Jane Austen’s House Museum bought Martha Lloyd’s cookery book to the Roadshow for an expert, in this case, Justin Croft, to appreciate and to value. Martha Lloyd was, of course, a lifelong friend of the Austen ladies and was sister to James Austen’s second wife, Mary. She eventually married Jane Austen’s brother, Frank Austen, in 1828.

We were shown some glimpses of some of the pages in the book..The Table of Contents with recipes for Pound Cake and White Custard,

and A Good Salve for Sore Lips

Louise pointed out that while it was not written by Jane Austen, its association could not have been closer , for these were the recipes she ate nearly every day at Chawton Cottage, during the last eight years of he life, and while Martha was in the kitchen making ink from this recipe in her book, below,

Jane was using it, writing and revising her books in the dining room of the same house, on the writing table we can still see there today.

The book was eventually valued at between £15-20,000 but as Louise rightly pointed out, it was priceless to the Museum and would never be sold. Oh, for a facsimile edition!

The programme is available to view for the next six days on the BBC I Player, or  if you go here. I do hope you enjoy this fascinating part of the programme.

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.

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.

This is the final part of my series of posts on a Christmas visit to Jane Austen’s House, her beloved Chawton Home. We have already seen inside, downstairs and upstairs and so now let have a look at the garden in winter and the outbuildings.

This is the view of the rear of the house. You can clearly see its basic “L’ shape , plus all the other additions made to the structure over the years.

The building that could be clearly seen from Jane Austen and Cassandra’s bedroom was the Bakehouse, a very important part of the Chawton Cottage domain.

Just outside the bake house was the well….which was needed to provide copious amounts of water

for the laundry,which was done in the Bakehouse too. This is the ‘copper’ :the bricks house a copper container. A fire would be lit underneath and the cottons boiled in the upper compartment, now covered with a wooden lid. I remember my grandmother -who had a similar room  in her domestic offices- having her laundry done in this way by a team of people .As a tiny child I was allowed to watch the complex operation of boiling, mangling and starching. Seems a million years ago now…..

The baking for the Austen household took place here too…..

And the proximity of the well and the copper made the Bakehouse the perfectly practical place for boiling water  for scalding the skins of slaughtered pigs. 18th century self sufficiency sounds delightful but having salted a pig once I can confirm it’s not something I’d like to do on a regular basis. Nor indeed is the time tyranny of always producing bread for a household something I’d like to revert to(I tried that once by hand for a few weeks and gave up:then I bought a bread maker!)

The other occupant of the Bakehouse is Mrs Austen’s donkey carriage which I have written about here in a previous post. Its interesting to note that Jane Austen in her final illness didn’t relish driving the cart, which would accommodate two not very large people. She had a saddle made for the donkey and prefered to use this as a sort of Georgian mobility scooter, and this enabled her to still walk with Cassandra around the lanes she loved so well, being a confessed “desperate walker”.

To the rear of the Bakehouse are new additions to the museum complex. New rooms where lectures and receptions can be held. The museum has been in need of these facilities for years and I am so glad that they now have a splendid space in which to raise funds and educate.

If we go under the great yew tree at the side of the house we then arrive at the garden proper…..

…past the entrance to the house and the Gothic window…..

To look out onto the garden, covered in snow… looking towards the lane that leads to Chawton House.

And the lovely Regency- style tree seat…a pleasant spot in summer but chilly now….

If we turn back toward the house, this time we shall enter by the door on the left……

…into the newly refurbished kitchen……

With its restored range

…where the Austen’s meals would have been prepared…..

And where the laundry would have been ironed…..

And the griddle where scores would have been made

Some early 19th century pearlware in the “Two Trees” pattern..waiting for some Twinings tea……

This is the view from the kitchen towards the Bakehouse and the old barn which is now the entrance to the museum and a wonderfully stocked shop,where certain purchases were made for next year’s AO Great Anniversary Giveaway (D.V.)

The kitchen was restored with the help and excellent advice of Peter Brears,whose new book about jellies I reviewed here last week. And there are some wonderful early 19th century jelly moulds on show in the kitchen on a small sideboard…

Including a lovely pineapple…….

Martha Lloyd’s recipe book is of course one of the treasures of the museum. Her recipes must have been prepared in this room. It’s all rather wonderful to think that her recipes and the room are now all  in working order and available for us to see, food being such an important part of Jane Austen’s novels and letters.

If we leave the cosy kitchen and the garden we look out onto the road that now leads to the Selbourne road, with the Greyfriars pub on the right….

And we come to the front of the house ,where the Austen’s blocked up one of the windows in order to give them more privacy. And where there are now two plaques: one commemorating Mr Carpenter who gave the house to the Jane Austen Memorial Trust.

And this rather beautiful tablet with its apt wording:

Jane Austen

lived here from 1809-1817

and hence all her works

Were sent to the world

Her admirers in this country

and in America have united

to erect this tablet.

Such art as hers

Can never grow old

And that ends my Christmas jaunt around Jane Austen’s House Museum for this time. I thought you might like to see it in its winter and Christmas finery,a change from the summer pictures we see all the time. I am planning to go back next year,so there will be some more conventional images for you to see then ;)

Last week I was lucky enough to spend a few days at Chawton, staying in the village that was so important to Jane Austen and her development as a writer, so I thought I’d write about it today, to celebrate the anniversary of the snowy day when she was born in 1775.

And of course I couldn’t visit Chawton without paying  yet another visit ( can we ever get enough of this place?) to Jane Austen’s happy Chawton Home, the  cottage that from 1809 gave her security and peace and stability. And enabled her to have a productive freedom for eight years. During this period she revised Sense and Sensibility,  Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, totally created Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion, and wrote her last piece of  fiction, Sandition which was left unfinished at her untimely death in July 1817.

The Cottage was owned by her brother Edward Knight, who owned the Chawton estate. The house was built in the late 17th century, is “L”-shaped, modest in size, and had six bedrooms as well as attics for the staff and storage. It was originally an inn. Edward Knight spent £45 19 shilling on structural alterations to the cottage, and another £35, 6 shillings and 5 pence on plumbing works.

Here is  a section from Edward Mogg’s map of the village of Chawton dating from 1814, which shows the position of Jane Austen’s House on the junction of the roads

and here it is with the position of the house marked in blue. (Do note you can enlarge the maps by clicking on them in order to see the detail)

The position of the house on the junction of the roads leading to Winchester, Gosport, and Southampton made it a busy place in the early 19th century, with carriage traffic passing to and from Alton which was the nearest post town…So much so that the Austen ladies (Jane, Cassandra and their mother),and Martha Lloyd who lived with them, decided to  fill in one of the drawing room windows that looked out onto the road and added the delightful Gothic window, that you can see above and below.

Shall we go in?  Yes, lets…….

The first real room you enter is the drawing-room, one of the two “parlours” that the Austen ladies had. The new Gothic window gave them a view over the garden, which was set to the side of the house, and the Winchester Road which bordered the garden was screened by a high wooden fence to give them more privacy from prying eyes in coaches travelling to Winchester and beyond.

One of my favourite things about visiting the house is that the staff always have appropriate flower arrangements in the house: in spring and summer they have simple small posies of flowers from the garden on show but at this time of the year they always decorate the house as the Austen ladies may have done for Christmas, in common with many other Georgian families. As you can see the drawing-room fireplace is decked with boughs of evergreens, ivy and yew , and some oranges studded with cloves have been added( though the Austen ladies may have preferred not to use oranges this way but to make their store of expensive oranges into wine…)

There is a tremendous atmosphere in the house. It is a mixture of peace and happiness. I love being there and this time I had it all to myself save for the staff on duty. Who are always friendly and knowledgable, but realise you might want  just to be quiet and walk around drinking in the atmosphere. They are always very sensitive.

The house is decorated in a way to suggest life as it was lived there from 1809 onwards…..

With small pictures of family places  added in a sightly rickety manner on the walls…..

And pieces of costuming  often to be found, suggest that someone similarly dressed might have once stood in the room: this is a replica of a morning dress dating from 1810.

The Bookcase contains editions of Jane Austen’s works……I wonder what she would have thought, seeing them on show….

And there is a square piano.  Not the one Jane Austen owned, but one similar to it….. From the Drawing Room you pass into the Hallway, with a glimpse of the dining room ahead……

Edward Austen Knight’s Grand Tour Portrait lived in the house for many years but has now been returned to his Great House at Chawton(which is now the Chawton House Library.)During it’s restoration it was found to be much larger than originally thought as the edge had been folded to fit a frame.

Here we can see the restored Edward Knight in his new home, with Steve Lawrence, CEO of Chawton House Library, Sandy Lerner, Chairman of the Trustees, and Richard Knight, Trustee (Photograph by kind permission of Chawton House Library)

A print of the  now restored portrait hangs in the passage and it does look much brighter than is used to, and the beautiful detail of the background is clearly revealed, as you can see .

There are always treats to be seen in the display cases in this part of the house…this visit it was one of Jane Austen’s own manuscript music books….Her music notation is a thing of clarity and beauty….and of necessity.

But there is also a portrait of Edward Knight was a child hanging over the fireplace…….no wonder the childless Mr and Mrs Knight were taken with him…..

The Silhouette showing him being presented to them is also on show in this small space…..

Then you go into the cosy dining room……

Where Mrs Austen used to sit on sunny mornings watching the world go by …

and where Jane used to write, and revise and write…..her glorious works of art…

….on this humble and very small table……

An object  I always find to be a very touching and resonant relict…if only it could talk…..what tales it could tell…

I made a short video of the room…do click on it below…you can hear the upstairs floorboards creak, as one of the attendants had kindly left me on my own to soak up the atmosphere in this room…and then the downstairs boards creaked as I walked about…the silence, however, in this house is not unfriendly. And I think I can understand how Jane Austen loved this place so much, a place which afforded her  peace and a regularity  of life so that she could write….

The dining table is now denuded of the Wedgwood China that Jane helped Edward Austen choose at Wedgwood’ s showrooms in London…for the set was to be sold today, but failed to reach its auction estimate…I hope some of it makes it back to the house……

The educational elements are sympathetically done: you can see in the pictures the very discreet information boards which are attached to the walls in the rooms……And there is always something new and entertaining to see. This visit there  was an exhibition of Rex Whistler’s costume designs for the 1936  stage production of Pride and Prejudice written by Helen Jerome and starring Celia Johnson as Elizabeth Bennet

This is one of the designs for Lady Catherine (above)

And here is another of the designs made up and on display……

The room that used to be a very tiny but wonderfully stocked shop is now a lovely quiet area where you can sit and think….

and read lots of material about Jane Austen. ……and from this room leads to the staircase to the upstairs bedrooms…

…which we shall discover in part 2, in a few days time .

In the meantime, Happy Jane’s birthday to you, from an appropriately snowy Jane Austen’s House Museum.

(Frontispiece from Humphrey Repton’s Memoirs)

A treat for you all ( at least I hope it is accessible to all…..fingers crossed, but I am never quite sure of the vagaries of the workings /accessibility of the BBC iPlayer). Today on Radio 4 there was a delicious programme presented by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen on Humphrey Repton and the English countryside.

With thoughtful comments by Stephen Daniels of Nottingham University ( author of THE most authoritative book on Repton) and Jenny Uglow, this is a great 15 minute programme giving an over view of Repton and his attitude towards the countryside and his clients. Here, below, is one of Repton’s illustrations showing the before and after views from his own cottage from his book Fragments on the Theory and Practise of Landscape Gardening(1816)

Jane Austen is referenced: mainly because she referenced Repton in Mansfield Park, having second hand experience of Repton and his ways after he was instructed by the Leighs at Adlestrop in Gloucestershire,

and at Stoneleigh, in Warwickshire,  below, which I visited again this summer.

Luckily, in my opinion, his excessive schemes for Stoneleigh were not all executed, see the scheme from the  Red Book Repton prepared for the Leighs, below-do note the Gilpinesque grouping of cattle in the foreground to the left of the watercolour….

…but we shall return soon to Repton, Stoneleigh Abbey and Adlestrop as I think its very interesting to see exactly how he altered both places.

In the meantime, here is the link to the programme and I do hope you enjoy it. You have 7 days left in which to listen again :)

Over the past week the following pages have been added to A Jane Austen Gazetteer, Austenony’s siser site (Do click on the links to visit the different pages):


Charles Street, London

Covent Garden, London

Cork Street, London











The Temple, London

The Cape of Good Hope

The sharp-eyed amongst you will be sensing that these seemingly random names are, in fact, all related. Can you guess what unites them, yet? ( Ha!) Final trance of additions to be released next week….with the answer to the riddle, so do keep tuned.

Laurel of Austenprose has asked me to provide some background posts to her mammoth and laudable  Group Read of Pride and Prejudice Without Zombies. Today, I offer you my last contribution, a post about William Gilpin and Jane Austen, which I do hope you will enjoy and find informative.


Having read Henry Austen’s biographical notice of her, published in the posthumously printed first edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion and in subsequent editions, I knew, also from an early age, that Jane Austen was

enamoured of Gilpin on the Picturesque at a very early age…

so, when aged 15 or therabouts I found a copy of his Observations on the Mountains and Lakes of Cumberland in what was then one of my favourite haunts, a second-hand bookshop in Dr Johnson’s home city of Lichfield, I bought it  immediately…But now comes a confession…Prepare yourself for something very dreadful… I didn’t read it for another 20 years.

I thought it would be deadly boring.

How wrong I was.

I should have trusted Jane Austen’s taste and judgement, and realised exactly why she was enamoured of him…..but we are getting ahead of ourselves. Before we explore his books and the reasons why I think she adored him, we ought properly to learn a little about William Gilpin’s life to find out who he was….

William Gilpin was born on 4 June 1724  near Carlisle, in  Cumberland. He was the son of Captain John Bernard Gilpin and a Matilda Langstaffe . Captain Gilpin was considered to be one of the best amateur painters of the time, and this artistic talent seems to have passed through to the next generation, for William was obsessed with  the correct way to view both pictures and landscape, and his younger brother, Sawrey Gilpin, was to become a famous animal painter and, indeed, later contributed some illustrations to William’s books.

After a typically indifferent education at Queen’s College Oxford,  William Gilpin was ordained as a deacon in the Church of England in 1746, and was  subsequently appointed to the curacy of Irthington in Cumberland.

In 1747 he preached a sermon at Buckingham, and must while staying there have taken the opportunity  to visit Lord Cobham’s famous landscape gardens at Stowe.  For he then wrote, anonymously, the tract,  A Dialogue upon the Gardens of the Right Honourable the Lord Viscount Cobham at Stowe (1748) where, for the first time, he set out his theories on the distinctions to be made between beauty in natural scenery and in ruined buildings, theories which were to become the basis for all his later writings on the “Picturesque”.

In 1752 Gilpin married his first cousin, Margaret Gilpin, and by 1753 he had taken over the management of the  Cheam School for Boys, in Surrey, where for the past few  years he had been an occasional assistant teacher . He proved to be a very able teacher and an enlightened disciplinarian, replacing the school’s normal system of corporal punishment with a system of punishment dependant not on inflicting physical harm but on imposing detentions and monetary fines. Interestingly, the proceeds of the fines were put towards the maintenance and improvement of the school’s resources as well as to fund local charities.

In 1768 Gilpin published his book, Essay on Prints. It was published anonymously.  It received excellent reviews.

His aim, as the title-page of my copy of the second edition ,above, indicates, was to outline

the Principles of picturesque Beauty, the Different Kinds of Prints, and the Characters of the most noted Masters

The Essay defines ‘picturesque’ as

a term expressive of that peculiar kind of beauty, which is agreeable in a picture

He went on to expand on this theory in his series of books on the British countryside.  In 1777 Gilpin left Cheam to become vicar of Boldre in the New Forest in Hampshire. The living gave him the very respectable income of £600 a year and, probably more importantly, some leisure time during which he  began to write seriously on his ideas of the “Picturesque”, the meaning of which he expounded upon  in his Observations on the Western Parts of England

(Do note you can enlarge all the illustrations in this post merely by clicking on them)

Picturesque beauty is a phrase but little understood. We precisely mean by it that kind of beauty which would look well in a picture. Neither grounds laid out by art nor improved by agriculture are of this kind. The Isle of Wight is in fact, a large garden or rather a field which in every part has been disfigured by the spade ,the coulter and the harrow. It abounds much more in tillage than in pasturage; and of all species  of cultivation, cornfields are the most unpicturesque. The regularity of corn fields disgusts, and  is out of true with everything else….

Do note his tone..we will refer to it later on…

He began to work upon the sketches and copious notes that he had taken in his holidays during the period 1769-1776, in which he had made various tours throughout the British Isles. The books he subsequently produced were quite remarkable, influential and very popular.

As the entry for Gilpin in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography records:

That challenge (to define exactly what was meant by the term “picturesque-JFW) was met in the series of books published between 1782 and 1809, all of which bore the same title format: “Observations on [various regions of Britain] relative chiefly to picturesque beauty.” He travelled widely in Britain, with his notebook and sketching materials, in order to identify locations which offered that particular kind of beauty in landscape ‘which is agreeable in a picture’. Picturesque tourism constituted ‘a new object of pursuit’, as he wrote in the first of these books, Observations on the River Wye (1782): the practice recommended was ‘that of not merely describing; but of adapting the description of natural scenery to the principles of artificial landscape’ (Wye, 2). Further picturesque books, with aquatint reproductions of Gilpin’s pen-and-wash drawings, included Observations on Cumberland and Westmorland (2 vols., 1786), the Scottish highlands (2 vols., 1789), south-west England and the Isle of Wight (1798), and theEeastern counties of England and north Wales (1809). Remarks on Forest Scenery (1791), illustrated with etchings by his brother, Sawrey, concentrated on the New Forest, where he lived. Three Essays of a more analytical kind, on the nature of picturesque beauty, picturesque travel, and on the sketching of landscape, together with a poem on landscape painting, appeared in 1792. In 1804 Two Essays described his methods and principles in making his sketches.

These were the books that so enamored Jane Austen, and into which we will now delve. And I confess they have now completely enamored me and I have almost a complete set-I’m lacking only the Eastern Counties and Welsh volumes-still looking for them though…

Now, My Patient Reader, you will recall that  I began this post by admitting that I had avoided reading Gilpin because I thought he was going to be boring. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

He most certainly cannot be described in any way as  boring. He is a highly opinionated and vital writer; and such writers, like opinionated people, make for engaging companions, even if you don’t agree with their pronouncements or views. His opinions are expressed in such a forthright manner that you cannot but engage with him. Or be started. Or burst out laughing at the outrageousness of it all.

And I think it is this that captivated Jane Austen. His style is so terribly pompous and opinionated,  fixated on his search for the picturesque to the exclusion of everything else, even common sense: and that is why, to be brutal, some of his pronouncements(even when slightly modified )are of such monumental stupidity that they take your breath away.

Let me explain by quoting some examples. In his first Observations book,  Observations on the River Wye etc  he has this to say about Tintern Abbey in Monmouthshire -a romantic ruin of a place that has inspired poets and prose writers alike. Note, I have emboldened the important part of this quote :

(Gilpin’s view of Tintern Abbey)

No part of the ruins of Tintern is seen from the river except the abbey church. It has been an elegant Gothic pile; but it does not make that appearance as a distant object which we expected. Though the parts are beautiful, the whole is ill-shaped. No ruins of the tower are left, which might give form and contrast to the buttresses and walls. Instead of this a number of gable ends hurt the eye with their regularity, and disgust it by the vulgarity of their shape. A mallet judiciously used (but who durst use it?) might be of service in fracturing some of them; particularly those of the cross-aisles, which are both disagreeable in themselves, and confound the perspective.

Do you see? He seriously suggests (even in a qualified form) that  by taking a mallet to a ruin and judiciously using it , it could be made more picturesesque. (Alert Sir Roy Stong and Prince Charles immediately!) He is of the opinion that the appearance of the abbey could be improved by bashing some more holes in the ruined structure. Goodness.  Written in all seriousness without a hint of humour.

And this I feel is the key to Jane Austen’s enamourment of him. He was so serious and preposterous she simply could not resist taking  pot shots at him throughout her works. Henry Austen’s Biographical Notice was subtle. It meant ,I am sure to imply, that Jane Austen was a cultivated woman who through her reading of Gilpin was possessed of the refined accomplishment  of appreciating landscape and painting. But I think that interpretation leads us astray. What she truly delighted in, in my humble opinion, was not slavishly adhering to Gilpin’s every  dicktat, but to pricking his jlittle puffs of pomposity, which clearly delighted her sense of the ridiculous. And now if we read his books given this knowledge, we are suddenly let in on the meaning of many of her subtle jokes.

For example, in her History of England by a partial prejudiced and ignorant Historian, the 16 year old Jane Austen obviously poked fun at Goldmsith’s rather prejudiced partial and selective  history text and  much more besides, including  a serous swipe at Gilpin at his most ridiculous. In the chapter on Henry VII she writes:

(Cassandra Austen’s drawing of Henry VIII for JAne Austen’s History of England)

The Crimes and Cruelties of this Prince were too numerous to be mentioned…& nothing can be said in his vindication, but that of his abolishing Religious Houses and leaving them to the ruinous depredations of time has been of infinite use to the landscape of England in general, which probably was his principal motive for doing it, since otherwise why should a Man who was of no Religion be at so much trouble to abolish one  which had for ages been established in the Kingdom.

This is, in my opinion, a direct allusion and attack to the sentiments Gilpin expresses in this passage in his Observations on Cumberland and Westmorland when he is talking, quite seriously and not intending to be  satirical at all, about his birthplace,  Scaleby Castle near Carlisle:

(Gilpin’s view of Scaleby Castle, his birthplace)

At present one of the motes only remains. The other is filled up; but may still be traced. The castle is more perfect than such buildings commonly are. The walls are very intire; an great part of the tower which is square is till left. It was preserved its perfect form till the civil wars of the last century; when the castle, in too much  confidence of its strength, shut its gates against Cromwell ,then marching into Scotland; he made it a monument of his vengeance.

What share of picturesque genius Cromwell might have I know not. Certain however it is that no man since Henry the eight has contributed more to adorn this country with picturesque ruins. The difference between these two masters lay chiefly in the style of ruins, in which they composed. Henry adorned his landscape with the ruins of abbeys; Cromwell with those of castles. I have seen many pieces by this master executed in a very grand style; but seldom a fine monument to his masterly hand than this. He has rent the tower and demolished two of its sides; the edges of the other two he ash shattered into broken lines….

So here we have Gilpin seriously telling us we are to admire Cromwell for his artistic ability when destroying castles and that both he and Henry VIII adorned the landscape of England with ruins? As if they did this deliberately to create a  picturesque effect? That the English Civil War and the Dissolution of the Monasteries were contemplated merely for the decorative effect they would eventually bequeath the English countryside? “I think not ” I can hear the young Jane Austen say to herself as she  as she sharpened her pen….

Another example: in Northanger Abbey during Catherine Morland’s tour around Beechen Cliff near Bath  with the impeccably educated Tilneys,  Jane Austen cannot resist poking fun at these unthinking disciples of Gilpin.

They were viewing the country with the eyes of persons accustomed to drawing, and decided on its capability of being formed into pictures, with all the eagerness of real taste. Here Catherine was quite lost. She knew nothing of drawing — nothing of taste: and she listened to them with an attention which brought her little profit, for they talked in phrases which conveyed scarcely any idea to her. The little which she could understand, however, appeared to contradict the very few notions she had entertained on the matter before. It seemed as if a good view were no longer to be taken from the top of an high hill, and that a clear blue sky was no longer a proof of a fine day. She was heartily ashamed of her ignorance…

In the present instance, she confessed and lamented her want of knowledge, declared that she would give anything in the world to be able to draw; and a lecture on the picturesque immediately followed, in which his instructions were so clear that she soon began to see beauty in everything admired by him, and her attention was so earnest that he became perfectly satisfied of her having a great deal of natural taste. He talked of foregrounds, distances, and second distances — side–screens and perspectives — lights and shades; and Catherine was so hopeful a scholar that when they gained the top of Beechen Cliff, she voluntarily rejected the whole city of Bath as unworthy to make part of a landscape.

Northanger Abbey Chapter 14

Poor Catherine , going from ignorance to scholarly “erudition” in the space of one afternoon’s walk! So easily able to dismiss the  spectacular sight of Bath from the top of Beechen Hill: a sight which is surely “picturesque’ if any sight qualifies for that term.

Similarly  Marianne Dashwood’s preference for blasted trees in Sense and Sensibility is  surely based on Gilpin’s passages in his book, Remarks on Forest Scenery.

In this book he goes into the minutest detail of the picturesque nature of trees. His comments on the preference in the landscape for blasted trees ignore the practicalities required of the farmer or forestry men ,all in the name of the “picturesque”:

The blasted tree has often a fine effect both in natural and in artificial landscape. In some scenes it is almost essential. When the dreary heath is spread before the eye and ideas if wildness and desolation are required, what more suitable accompaniment can be imaged than the blasted oak, ragged, scathed and leafless; shooting its peeled white branches thwart the gathering blackness of some rising storm…..

No wonder Edward Ferrers, speaking with his creator’s voice perhaps, is able to demolish Marianne and Gipin’s fancy by the timely intervention of some sound practical principles:

“I am convinced,” said Edward, “that you really feel all the delight in a fine prospect which you profess to feel. But, in return, your sister must allow me to feel no more than I profess. I like a fine prospect, but not on picturesque principles. I do not like crooked, twisted, blasted trees. I admire them much more if they are tall, straight and flourishing. I do not like ruined, tattered cottages. I am not fond of nettles, or thistles, or heath blossoms. I have more pleasure in a snug farm-house than a watch-tower — and a troop of tidy, happy villagers please me better than the finest banditti in the world.”

Sense and Sensibility Chapter 18

Apart from these examples where Jane Austen was, in my opinion reveling in her ability to ridicule Gilpin, there are clearly many other allusion she made to his works but these were of a more practical nature, due to her limited personal experience of the geography many parts of the British isles.  She travelled extensively in the south of England and possibly into Tenby in South Wales, but ventured only as far north as Hamstall Ridware in Staffordshire on a visit in 1806.

In order to write about places she had never visited she needed a knowledgeable guide and she found an able one in Gilpin. For example the Juvenilia is peppered with references to places in Scotland –a country she certainly never visited-and I feel sure that  Jane Austen was able to use Scottish locations and references after reading his  Observations on the Highlands of Scotland

When it came to writing Pride and Prejudice, which ought really to be our focus here today, she again had to use Gilpin as a guide for I am quite certain that she never set foot in Derbyshire. The closest she may have go to it was viewing the country at a distance from Needwood Forest on her trip to her Cooper cousins in Staffordshire in 1806, as Mrs Caroline Lybbe Powys did in 1800.

In his Observations on the mountains an Lakes of Cumberland and Westmoreland Gilpin gives the reader an extremely detailed account of his trip though the county of Derbyshire and Jane Austen could by reference to his notes and observation describe the ideal  and imaginary  but definitely Derbyshire landscape of Pemberley:

Elizabeth’s mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view. They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 43

(Gilpin’s view of Dovedale,Derbyshire)

By studying his book, combined with  her own knowledge of Warwickshire gained on that summer trip in 1806, Jane Austen  could also follow the route the Gardiners took into Derbyshire-

It is not the object of this work to give a description of Derbyshire, nor of any of the remarkable places through which their route thither lay: Oxford, Blenheim, Warwick, Kenelworth, Birmingham, etc., are sufficiently known.

Chapter 42

(Warwick Castle by Gilpin)

-for that was also the well established tourist route that Gilpin described in his Observations of Cumberland and Westmorland, making many caustic remarks on the scenery and grand houses enroute.

I ought to remark that Jane Austen was not alone in finding Gilpin unintentionally amusing. He was ridiculed rather mercilessly  as Dr Syntax in a series of three books, Dr Syntax’s Three Tours: in Search of the Picturesque, Consolation and a Wife

These books were written by William Coombe and illustrated (without mercy) by Thomas Rowlandson. Here, for example, is the hapless Dr Syntax losing his money at the races at York….

And to bring this post to a close, let’s share one final Gilpin inspired joke with Jane Austen. In Chapter 10 of Pride and Prejudice, when out walking with Darcy, holding his arm, Caroline Bingley  rudely abuses Elizabeth and her connections. Mrs Hurst, arriving with Elizabeth, takes Darcy’s free arm, therby effectively and rudely separating Elizabeth from the “In-Crowd’ as the path “will not admit a fourth”:

At that moment they were met from another walk by Mrs. Hurst and Elizabeth herself.

“I did not know that you intended to walk,” said Miss Bingley, in some confusion, lest they had been overheard.

“You used us abominably ill,” answered Mrs. Hurst, “running away without telling us that you were coming out.”

Then, taking the disengaged arm of Mr. Darcy, she left Elizabeth to walk by herself. The path just admitted three. Mr. Darcy felt their rudeness and immediately said, —

“This walk is not wide enough for our party. We had better go into the avenue.”

But Elizabeth, who had not the least inclination to remain with them, laughingly answered, —

“No, no; stay where you are. You are charmingly grouped, and appear to uncommon advantage. The picturesque would be spoilt by admitting a fourth. Good-bye.”

She then ran gaily off, rejoicing, as she rambled about, in the hope of being at home again in a day or two. Jane was already so much recovered as to intend leaving her room for a couple of hours that evening.

Here we have Jane Austen her allowing her heroine an opportunity for getting her revenge on the Bingley sisters for their continued rudeness to her. Elizabeth is quite clearly referring to a passage from Gilpin’s Observations on Cumberland and  Westmorland. In Volume II Section XXXI  he waxes lyrical on the picturesque qualities of the  domesticated animals normally to be found in the  English countryside; that is, horses, sheep and cows. This is what he has to say about the grouping of cows:

Cattle are so large that when they ornament a foreground, a few are sufficient. Two cows will hardly combine Three make a good group- either united- or when one is a little removed from the other two. If you increase the group beyond three; one of more in proportion must necessarily be a little detached .This detachment prevents heaviness and adds variety…

As you can see from his illustration of this group of cows, three is the magic number as far as he was concerned. A fourth has to be some distance off otherwise it spoils the picturesque.

By allowing Elizabeth to make this one little, seemingly innocent  remark (and escape from Darcy and the Bingley sisters in the process) Jane Austen  demonstrates that despite the efforts of Mrs Bennet to hinder her education, Elizabeth has, by the  advantage of her extensive reading, more awareness of the principles of the picturesque than of the expensively educated ladies before her. As a man of taste and education Darcy is most probably aware of the source for her reference and cannot but be impressed by it. He also knew that she was referring to them as a group of three….cows.

Game set and match to Elizabeth Bennet walking swiftly in the opposite direction…..

So that’s my take on Jane Austen and William Giplin. She was, as Henry Austen would have us believe,  enamored of him, I am certain, but not necessarily for purely innocent reasons. Like her creation Elizabeth Bennet, she found that Gilpin’s follies, nonsense, whims and inconsistencies diverted her tremendously, and she could not help but gently poke fun of him whenever the opportunity arose.

He then asked her to walk into the house; but she declared herself not tired, and they stood together on the lawn. At such a time much might have been said, and silence was very awkward. She wanted to talk, but there seemed an embargo on every subject. At last she recollected that she had been travelling, and they talked of Matlock and Dovedale with great perseverance…

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 43.

Dovedale was and is a stunning part of the Peak district scenery. To curious travellers of the early 19th century it as one of the “must see” attractions. So, it was natural (and fortuitous!) that Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet were able to talk about it in to fill that dreadful silence on the lawn in front of Pemberley House.

John Cary’s Map of Derbyshire, 1812

But, of course, Jane Austen had no personal experience of this  part of England. She never made  any documented trip to Derbyshire. The most northerly part of England she visited was Hamstall Ridware , just north of Lichfield in Staffordshire, the home of her Cooper Cousins whom she visited in 1806. Those who contend that from there she could have made a trip into Derbyshire and to Chatsworth, are I think mistaken. It was at least 40 miles away from the Cooper’s village, and would have entailed at least 2 days on the road and at least one overnight stay at an inn. During Jane Austen’s only known visit there  in 1806 the Cooper children were unfortunately taken ill  with whooping-cough and therefore it seems unlikely, certainly to me, that such a  complicated and quite expensive trip  would have been taken at that time.

Cary’s Map of Staffordshire (1794)

(section from John Cary’s Map of Staffordshire (1794) showing the position of Hamstall Ridware)

Caroline, Mrs Phillip Lybbe Powys  who was Caroline Cooper’s mother does make one mention of Dovedale  in her diary when visiting the Coopers at Hamstall Ridwre in 1800. But as she was visiting Needwood Forest for a grand picnic at the time she saw it ,  it is clear that she was viewing not the Derbyshire Dovedale which is in fact near to Ashbourne but that from a distance she was viewing  the vale of the river Dove on the Staffordshire./Derbyshire border  which can be seen on the top right of the section of John Cary’s map of Staffordshire above:

When the gentlemen retir’d from the dinner-tables they were placed in a more shady situation for tea and coffee against  the return of the ladies from their walks, after which we again took a very long promenade to view the most picturesque scenes. From some parts we saw Dovedale and other parts of Derbyshire.

(Passages for the Diaries of Mrs Phillip Lybbe Powys, page 338.

So how did Jane Austen know of the  attractions that Dovedale held? The answer lies again in books, and William Gilpin one of her favourite writers. In his book Observations on the Mountains and Lakes of Cumberland and Westmoreland etc ( 1786)

he describes Dovedale in great detail,and for once. this irascible writer is genuinely impressed with the beautiful scenery  the vale has to offer:

From Ashurn, which is among the larger villages ,and stands sweetly, we made an excursion to Dove-Dale.

Dove-dale is the continuation of another familiar dale, which is sometimes called Bunster-dale; tho I believe both parts of the valley are known, except just on the spot, by the general name of Dove-dale.

Bunster-dale opens with a grand craggy mountain on the right. As you look up to the cliffs,which form the irregular sides of this precipice, your guide will not fail to tell you of the melancholy fate of a late dignitary of the church, who riding along the top of it with a young lady,a Miss Laroche, behind him, and pursuing a track, which happened to be only a sheep-path,and led him to a declivity; fell in attempting to turn his horse out of it. He was killed: but the young lady was caught by a bush, and saved – A dreadful story is an admirable introduction to an awful scene. It rouses the mind; and adds double terror to every impending rock.

(Do note all these illustrations can be enlarged merely by clicking on them)

The bare sides of these lofty craggs on the right , are contrasted by a woody mountain on the left. In the midst of the wood, a sort of rocky-wall rises perpendicular from the soil. These detached rocks are what chiefly characterize the scene- A little beyond them,we enter, what is properly called Dove-dale.

From the description given of Dove-dale, even by men of taste, we have conceived it to be a scene rather of curiosity, than of beauty. We supposed the rocks were formed into the most fantastic shapes; and expected to see a gigantic display of all the conic sections. But we were agreeably deceived. The whole composition is chaste and picturesquely beautiful in a high degree,

On the right you have a continuation of the same grand, craggy mountain, which ran along Bunster-dale; only the mountain in Dove-dale is higher, and the rocks still more majestic and more detached.

On the left, is a continuation also of the same hanging woods which began in Bunster-dale. In the midst of his woody scenery arises a grand solitary pointed rock, the characteristic feature of the whole scene; which by way of eminence is known by the name of Dove-dale-church. It consists of a large face of rock,with two or three little spiry heads and one very large one: and tho the form is rather peculiar, yet it is pleasing. It’s rising a single object among surrounding woods takes away the fantastic idea; and give it sublimity. It is the multiplicity of these spiry heads which makes them disgusting; as when we see several of them adorning the summits of alpine mountains. But a solitary rock tho spiry has often a good effect. A picturesque ornament of this kind marks a beautiful scene at a place called the New-Weir, on the banks of the Wye.

The colour of all these rocks is grey ; and harmonizes agreeably with the verdure, which runs in large patches down the channelled sides. Among all the picturesque accompaniments of rocks there is nothing which has a finer effect in painting than this variation and contrast of colour between the cold grey hue of a rocky surface and the rich tints of herbage.

The valley of Dove-dale is very narrow at the bottom consisting of little more than the channel of the Dove which is a considerable stream; and of a foot path along its banks. When the river rises, it swells over the whole area of the valley and has a fine effect. The grandeur of the river is then in harmony with the grandeur of its banks.

Dove-dale is a calm, sequestered scene; and yet not wholly the haunt of solitude and contemplation. It is too magnificent and too interesting a piece of scenery to leave the mind wholly disengaged.

The late Dr Brown comparing the scenery here with that of Keswick tells us that

“of the three circumferences beauty ,horror and immesity (by which last he means grandeur) of which Keswick consists the second alone is found in Dove-dale”.

In this description he seems in my opinion just to have inverted the truth. It is difficult to conceive why he should either rob this scene of beauty and grandeur; or fill it with horror. If beauty consist in a pleasing arrangement of pleasing parts, Dove-dale has certainly a great share of beauty. If grandeur consists in large parts, and large objects, it has certainly grandeur also.But if horror consist in the vastness, of those parts, it certainly predominates less here than in the regions of Keswick. The hills, the woods and the rocks of Dove-dale are sufficient to raise the idea of grandeur; but not to impress that of horror.

On the whole Dove-dale is perhaps one of the most pleasing pieces of scenery of the kind we any where meet with. It has something in it peculiarly characteristic. Its detatched, perpendicular rocks stamp it with an image intirely its own: and for that reason it affords the greater pleasure. For it is in scenery as in life ; we are so struck with the peculiarity of a original character; provided there is nothing offensive in it.

So,even if she did not visit it in life, with the aid of guides and contemporary prints, as above, Jane Austen coud easily have discerned the character of the place,and realised it a such a subject as  could occupy two awkward loves-to-be  who were desperately searching for some neutral topic of conversation.

Chawton House has just issued news of a new exhibition.

For three days only – October 7th 8th and 9th 2010-  there will be an opportunity to visit Godmersham House in Kent the home of Edward Knight, Jane Austen’s brother, to view a case of books  which were formerly part of Edward Knight’s library and which now are in the possession of Chawton House Library. The hand written catalogue of the library dating from 1818 will also be on show.

The tickets are priced at £5 each and include admission to the exhibition and a catalogue.

On Saturday the 9th October  between o’clock and  12 noon and then between 2pm and 4pm Gilliam Dow of Southampton University, Jennie Batchelor of the University of Kent,and Katie Halsey of the University of Stirling will be giving a short series of talks on Jane Austen and the Library at Godmersham, The Austens and their Pocket Books,and Jane Austen’s Readers.

Futher details can be had from Godmersham Park Heritage Centre, telephone 01227 732 272 or by emailing them  on

heritagecentre-at-btconnect.-dot -com

replacing the words with the usual punctuation.

I feel a trip to Kent coming on…….

Laurel at Austenprose has begun her mammoth Pride and Prejudice without Zombies Group Read, and has asked me to join in by contributing a couple of pieces on early 19th Century Tourism. So next week (the 25th June) I will be posting about Tourism and Pride and Prejudice in a rather general but hopefully interesting way, and then the following Friday (the 2nd July) I will be posting about William Gilpin and Jane Austen with  r particular reference to his influence on her writing of Pride and Prejudice.

So to ease us in to this theme, I’m going to be posting about a couple of grand houses with Jane Austen connections over the next week. And  both are still open to the public as they were in the early 19th century ( though now it is done on a rather more egalitarian and commercial basis) . In a few days I will be writing about Chatsworth but today I am writing about a much less well known but, in my opinion, equally spectacular country house, Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire.

Grimsthorpe is an ancient building, and has had a long association with the Bertie and Willoughby families. In 1516 it was given to William Willoughby, the 11th Baron Willoughby d’Eresby by Henry VIII on the occasion of his marriage to Maria de Salinas who was lady in Waiting to Queen Katherine of Aragon. In the early 18th century, the castle’s appearance was altered and it was given  a  fabulous  baroque north front  by Robert Bertie the 4th Earl of Lindsay who had become the first Duke of Ancaster in 1715.

The new front was commissioned to reflect his new ducal status. He employed  Vanbrugh the playwright/architect of amongst other housesCastle Howard and Blenheim, to undertake this work, which as you can see is fantastically overblown. I adore this style of architecture, even though it was short-lived in popularity. Indeed, by the time the front was finished in 1726 it was already out of fashion….

What is Jane Austen’s association with this beautiful place? The connection is made though her eldest brother James,

who while living in Overton,near to Steventon as curate to that parish, made the acquaintance of General Edward Matthew and his wife who also lived there.  The General’s wife was Lady Jane Bertie the daughter of the 2nd Duke and Duchess of Ancaster of Grimsthorpe.

(The 2nd Duke of Ancaster)

(the 2nd Duchess of Ancaster)

The Matthews had  three daughters and James married Anne the eldest, who was over 30 years of age when they married.

As Deirdre le Faye  shrewdly notes:

Anne Matthew must have seen in James Austen her last chance of matrimony, and he had a weakness for elegant aristocratic young women. The General and Lady Jane  “could not have  considered the young curate a good match for their daughter though as his uncle Mr Leigh Perrot had no children and he was his father’s eldest son, it was possible that he might some day have a comfortable income.” But for Anne’s sake they gave their consent to the marriage and made her an allowance of £100 a year.

(See: Jane Austen: A Family Record, pp71-2)

The sole issue from this marriage was, of course, Jane Austen’s niece, Anna Austen who was born on 15th April 1793,

and who arrived with a great deal of help from her indomitable grandmother Mrs Austen :

Mrs Austen rose from her bed in the middle of the night and walked by the light of a lantern a mile and a half of a muddy country lane to attend her [daughter in-law] and to usher into the world a new grand child.

Sometimes I can’t but admire Mrs Austen however exasperated I might be by her in general…..

Anna’s godparents were the 5th Duke and Duchess of Ancaster.

(Brownlow,the 5th Duke of Ancaster)

(The 5th Duchess)

Anna Austen remembered meeting the 5th Duke and Duchess , while visiting the Austens in Bath in February 1803:

I remember the last Duke and Duchess of Ancaster and being presented to the former (who was my God Father) in the Pump Room at Bath being then about 10 years of age. My Grandmother Austen with whom I was staying took upon herself the introduction, after which I was invited once or twice to spend the day in Great Pultney Street where the Duke had a house…This Duke and Duchess had had one child a Daughter who married a handsome agreeable but dissipated Irish Peer and died early leaving one Son. This child was brought up by the Ancasters . He was rather younger than myself but I well recollect spending a day with them at Bath and giving him his first lesson in dancing

(See A Family Record page 138)

Ah, that Mrs Austen…… back to Grimsthorpe…

The castle maintains its fabulously irregular Tudor South front,

which overlooks the topiary gardens

and the East front

which in turn overlooks very formal gardens

and a formal potager.

The west front over looks the lake

which was the place where  in 1778,the English Mozart, Thomas Linley

met his untimely death while he was staying at Grimsthorpe with the 3rd Duke and Duchess of Ancaster ( who were of course Anna Austen’s aunt and uncle).

The Bath Chronicle of 13th August reported the accidental death as follows:

Mr Linley and Mr Olivarez an Italian Master and anther person agreed to go on the lake in a sailing boat which Mr Linley said he could manage but a sudden squall of wind  sprung up an overset the boat; however they all hung by the masts and rigging for some time till Mr Linley said  he found it was in vain to wait for assistance and therefore though he had his boots and his great coat on, he was determined to swim to shore for which purpose he quitted his hold but he had not swam above 100 yards  before he sunk. Her Grace the Duchess of Ancaster  saw the whole from her dressing room window and immediately despatched several servants off to take another boat to their assistance but which unfortunately came only time  enough to take up Mr Olivarez, his companion not being able to find the  body of Mr Linley for more than 40 minutes.

The church where poor old Thomas Linley is buried was the parish church used by the Ancasters,  in the neighbouring village  of Edenham. You can just see its tower though the trees in this picture taken from the south front of the castle.

The parish church of  St Michaels and all Angels, is open to the public too

and contains many fine monuments to the Ancasters.

This is a picture of the 3rd Duchess. Poor lady, witnessing such a scene.

Here she is in masquerade dress, standing before the rotunda at Ranelagh, the great pleasure garden in London.

Back to Grimsthorpe.

The interiors of the castle are wonderfully intimate , on a very humane scale, unusual in this type of house. One of my favourite rooms is the magnificent chapel, begun by Vanburgh but thought to have been completed by his assistant, Nicholas Hawksmoor.

It is a pale, peaceful confection of a room, still used for services, and is such as would not have satisfied Fanny Price in Mansfield Park at all…

They entered. Fanny’s imagination had prepared her for something grander than a mere spacious, oblong room, fitted up for the purpose of devotion: with nothing more striking or more solemn than the profusion of mahogany, and the crimson velvet cushions appearing over the ledge of the family gallery above. “I am disappointed,” said she, in a low voice, to Edmund. “This is not my idea of a chapel. There is nothing awful here, nothing melancholy, nothing grand. Here are no aisles, no arches, no inscriptions, no banners. No banners, cousin, to be ‘blown by the night wind of heaven.’ No signs that a ‘Scottish monarch sleeps below.’”

“You forget, Fanny, how lately all this has been built, and for how confined a purpose, compared with the old chapels of castles and monasteries. It was only for the private use of the family. They have been buried, I suppose, in the parish church. There you must look for the banners and the achievements.”

“It was foolish of me not to think of all that; but I am disappointed.”

(Mansfield Park, Chapter 9)

Crimson cushions abound, however……

One feature of the interiors is that there are number of thrones kept in the castle, once used by various monarchs in the House of Lords. They are kept by the family as one of the “perks” of being hereditary Lord Chamberlain. This is George IV’s throne which he used at his Coronation Banquet.

So, there we have it: a marvellous and relatively unknown country house  with some interesting Jane Austen connections. I do hope you have enjoyed this short tour and that if you are in the vicinity you are able  to tour this fascinating house and estate.

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 .


Jane Austen appears to have had definite views about schools for girls. From the evidence of the text of Pride and Prejudice she seems to have  detested the expensive town seminaries that educated the likes of the Bingley sisters:

They were in fact very fine ladies; not deficient in good-humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of being agreeable where they chose it, but proud and conceited. They were rather handsome, had been educated in one of the first private seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of associating with people of rank, and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves, and meanly of others. They were of a respectable family in the north of England; a circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than that their brother’s fortune and their own had been acquired by trade.

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 4

Here is an advertisement for one such establishment in Chelsea in 1797. Do enlarge it (and all the other illustrations in this post, to examine the detail of all the subjects taught )

However for unpretentious schools like Mrs Goddard’s in Emma, Jane Austen appears to have had more respect and, even, some affection:

Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a School — not of a seminary, or an establishment, or any thing which professed, in long sentences of refined nonsense, to combine liberal acquirements with elegant morality upon new principles and new systems — and where young ladies for enormous pay might be screwed out of health and into vanity — but a real, honest, old-fashioned Boarding-school, where a reasonable quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price, and where girls might be sent to be out of the way and scramble themselves into a little education, without any danger of coming back prodigies. Mrs. Goddard’s school was in high repute — and very deservedly; for Highbury was reckoned a particularly healthy spot: she had an ample house and garden, gave the children plenty of wholesome food, let them run about a great deal in the summer, and in winter dressed their chilblains with her own hands. It was no wonder that a train of twenty young couple now walked after her to church. She was a plain, motherly kind of woman, who had worked hard in her youth, and now thought herself entitled to the occasional holiday of a tea-visit; and having formerly owed much to Mr. Woodhouse’s kindness, felt his particular claim on her to leave her neat parlour hung round with fancy-work whenever she could, and win or lose a few sixpences by his fireside.

Emma, Chapter 3

And indeed she may have held that affectionate view, because she personally experienced such a school. For a long time it has been believed that her view of Mrs Goodard’s school was based on her own experiences, in particular the short time  Jane and Cassandra Austen spent at the Reading Ladies Boarding School from July 1785-Decbember 1786.

(The school as it appeared in 1785 when Jane Austen was a student there)

Let’s find out some more about the school and its characters shall we?

Jane Austen and her elder sister Cassandra along with their cousin Jane Cooper had two periods of formal schooling away from home.

The first episode, under the care of Jane Cooper’s aunt Mrs Ann Crawley, took place between April and September 1783,first at Oxford then at Southampton. Mrs Crawley was not noted for her easy manners: she was regarded as a rather stiff  person,and was unfortunate in her unhappy marriage to Ralph Crawley, who left his widow childless and in debt, leaving her to turn to educating young girls as her only source of income.

Mrs Crawley did not in fact run what we would term a school, but in the same manner that the Reverend Austen took in boarders to prepare them for entrance to public school, she  had a similar tutoring arrangement for girls. She charged £30 each for the Austen sisters board lodging and lessons.

Sadly, this episode ended unhappily. The three girl caught typhus. Jane Cooper was near death when her mother discovered  her state of health and Mrs Crawley infamously refused to contact the Austens about their children’s illnesses. Mrs Cooper, outraged  by this intransigence, arranged for Mrs Austen to come to Southampton to remove the children back to Steventon with her. Jane Austen was in fact seriously ill. As a result of  this intervention Mrs Cooper also caught the fever and  died in October 1783.

Jane Cooper’s father , Dr Cooper was inconsolable after his wife death and left his home  in Bath  to return to Henley and Reading area of his  youth. He became rector of Sonning in Berkshire.

(Berkshire by John Cary,circa 1797)

His son  Edward was entered for Eton, and Jane was to be sent  to the Reading Ladies Boarding School. The Coopers spent the  Christmas of 1784 with the Austens at Steventon and here it appears that he decision also to send Cassandra and Jane to that school was taken.

The school was set in the 13th century gatehouse of the ruined Abbey in Reading. It had been founded by  Henry I in 1121

for the salvation of my soul, and the souls of King William my father, and of King William my brother, and Queen Maud, my wife.

King Henry I is buried in the abbey grounds. During the Dissolution of the Monasteries it was destroyed under the orders of Henry VIII. Imagine what a thrill it would have been for the imaginative and impressionable Jane Austen to live in a ruined abbey. No wonder Catherine Morland was so enamoured of them, and no wonder Jane Austen went on soon after her time there to write The History of England ;-)

(Reading Abbey Gatehouse from The Beauties of England and Wales by Brayley and Britton)

The ruins still remain: and the gatehouse has been restored. But the house which you can see in the engraving above- to the left of the gatehouse- was the main part of the school where the majority of the schooling took place when Jane Austen attended .It has since been demolished and it is now a car park.

The school was at that time informally known by the name of its principal, Mrs La Tournelle. She is the  most interesting character and Jane Austen must have noted every detail. Born Esther Hackett in London she re-named herself Sarah as a teenager. She became first an assistant at the school , then principal. Her obituary in The Gentleman’s Magazine in 1797 explained her adoption of her Frenchified surname as follows:

Having early in life been engaged as a French teacher her employers thought it right to introduce her to the school under a foreign name

And thus she became Mrs la Tournelle. She may have come from a theatrical family for the same obituary records that she used to regale pupils with tales of

Plays and play actors and green room anecdotes and the private lives of actors.

Luckily for us Mrs Sherwood ,nee Mary Martha Butt ( 1775-1851) the prolific evangelical children author’s attended the school as a parlour boarder and  left us some details of life there in her autobiography.

This is quoted extensively by William Austen-Leigh and Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh in A Family Record (1913) :

Miss Butt, afterwards Mrs. Sherwood, who went to the same school in 1790, says in her Autobiography that Mrs. Latournelle never could speak a word of French; indeed, she describes her as ‘a person of the old school, a stout woman, hardly under seventy, but very active, although she had a cork leg. . . . She was only fit for giving out clothes for the wash, and mending them, making tea, ordering dinner, and in fact doing the work of a housekeeper.’

But in Mrs. Sherwood’s time she had a capable assistant in Madame St. Quentin, an Englishwoman, married to the son of a nobleman in Alsace, who in troubled times had been glad to accept the position of French teacher at Reading Grammar School under Dr. Valpy. Mrs. Sherwood says that the St. Quentins so entirely raised the credit of the seminary that when she went there it contained above sixty pupils. The history of the school did not end with Reading, for the St. Quentins afterwards removed to 22 Hans Place, where they had under their charge Mary Russell Mitford. Still later, after the fall of Napoleon, the St. Quentins moved to Paris, together with Miss Rowden, who had long been the mainstay of the school. It was while the school was here that it received Fanny Kemble among its pupils.

Mrs. Sherwood tells us that the school-house at Reading, ‘or rather the abbey itself, was exceedingly interesting, . . . the ancient building . . . consisted of a gateway with rooms above, and on each side of it a vast staircase, of which the balustrades had originally been gilt. . . . The best part of the house was encompassed by a beautiful, old-fashioned garden, where the young ladies were allowed to wander under tall trees in hot summer evenings.’

Discipline was not severe, for the same lady informs us: ‘The liberty which the first class had was so great that if we attended our tutor in his study for an hour or two every morning . . . no human being ever took the trouble to inquire where else we spent the rest of the day between our meals. Thus, whether we gossiped in one turret or another, whether we lounged about the garden, or out of the window above the gateway, no one so much as said “Where have you been, mademoiselle?”‘

After reading this we are no longer surprised to be told that Cassandra and Jane, together with their cousin, Jane Cooper, were allowed to accept an invitation to dine at an inn with their respective brothers, Edward Austen and Edward Cooper, and some of their young friends.

(see Jane Austen, Her Life and Letters: A Family Record by W A Austen Leigh and R A Austen Leigh pp26-28)

Tony Corley in his very interesting article about the school in the Jane Austen Society’s Report of 1996 has been able to discover more interesting and tantalizing detail about the school. There was a uniform of

A dark dress (bell skirted for the juniors) protected by a pinafore and topped by a plain cap of Norwich quilt with narrow pleating round the edge-shaped to fit the head tightly. For best, caps were of coloured silk or satin decorated with flowers or ribbon.

The teaching was mostly undertaken by one Miss Pitts. She was at the time Jane Austen was at the school in her twenties and an orphan, having been sent to the school as a parlor boarder. She graduated to teaching and eventually became a partner in the school. Mrs Sherwood tells us that

Her complexion was bright  brown and red carmine, her eyes bright her nose not bad and her teeth white. She had fine dark hair and a beautiful hand and arm.

She danced with great gusto and was

really the most hospitable generous affectionate of human beings.

She married in 1789 Monsieur St Quentin, a former diplomat from Alcaes, escaping from the French revolution. He was a good teacher at the school but sadly was addicted to gambling and in 1794 the school had to be sold in order to pay his debts. A notice of the auction of the sale of the fixtures and fitting of the school  as it appeared in the Reading Mercury on the 3rd March 1794 is fascinating, for it lists all the equipment and furniture to be found at the school, most probably as it was when Jane Austen attended the school:

Once the debts were paid there were some funds remaining, and Monsieur Quentin moved to Hans Place in London to establish a new school ( where most  interestingly he  taught the writer, Mary Russell Mitford.)

The dreadfully harsh winter of 1785 did for Jane and Cassandra’s school careers. The appallingly bad, prolonged  and cold weather affected The Reverend  Austen’s income for he depended upon the sale of produce obtained from farming the  glebe lands in Steventon for most of his income. Hay, turnips and straw became scarce and expensive, and any animals on the farm due to be overwintered and sent to market in the spring  could not be properly fattened for sale, thus reducing any sale price. This combined with a good wheat harvest in 1785-which accordingly brought the price of wheat down, reduced his income considerably. As a result Mr Austen was in some financial difficulty and retrenching took place.  Jane and Cassandra left the school mid December 1786. And that was the end of their formal education.

Jane Austen seems to have retained affectionate memories of the school remembering , in her letter to Cassandra of 1st September 1796

I could have died of laughing at [your letter-jfw] as they used to say at school’

She clearly remembers in Northanger Abbey the fashion for changing one’s name as a teenager as Mrs la Tournelle had done:

Sally, or rather Sarah (for what young lady of common gentility will reach the age of sixteen without altering her name as far as she can?), must from situation be at this time the intimate friend and confidante of her sister

Northanger Abbey, Chapter 2

Ditto the ruined Abbey- a favourite of Gilpin,  and artists in the 18th century, must have been wonderful for her to live amongst. And I really do feel sure that her description of Mrs Goddards school in Highbury is her affectionate tribute to her last and really only experience of a real school.

Cottesbrooke Hall in Northamptonshire has long been thought by some to have been the estate and house that  inspired  Jane Austen when she created the house (and estate) of Mansfield Park in her novel of the same name.

Is there any evidence that she knew of it or even visited it?

Let’s see, shall we?

At the time Jane Austen was composing Mansfield Park- 1813- she famously wrote to her sister Cassandra and to her close friend Martha Lloyd to ask questions about the landscape of Northamptonshire. It is extremely unlikely from our knowledge of her travels in England that she ever visited or even travelled through the county en route to somewhere else:

( Map of England and Wales from my copy of Cary’s Traveller’s Companion or a Delineation of the Turnpike Roads of England and Wales etc. (1812)  written, drawn and published by  John Cary, The Strand, London)

Her trip to Staffordshire in 1806 –which was the most northerly point she is ever recorded to have visited in England- and the return journey to Hampshire would probably not have taken her through Northamptonshire. She would have travelled from her starting point, Adlestrop in  Gloucestershire on to Warwickshire(Stoneleigh Abbey) and then northwards into Staffordshire to Edward Cooper’s home at Hamstall Ridware.. The return journey would have  been taken through Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and finally back into Hampshire where the Austen ladies visited James Austen (Jane’s oldest brother and then then rector of Steventon) and  his family.

Indeed, her ignorance of the shire is rather confirmed by the questions she asked about Northamptonshire to be found in the extracts from these letters:

If you could discover whether Northamptonshire is a County of Hedgerows, I should be glad again.

(Letter to Cassandra Austen, dated 29th January 1813)


I am obliged to you for your enquiries about Northamptonshire but do not wish you to renew them, as I am sure of getting the intelligence I want from Henry, to whom I can apply at some convenient moment  “sans peur et sans reproche”…

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

(Northamptonshire :from my copy of Cary’s Traveller’s Companion or a Delineation of the Turnpike Roads of England and Wales etc. (1812) as above.Do remember this can be enlarged simply by clicking on the image)

She would have asked Henry about Northamptonshire because of all her family and acquaintance, he had some links with the county, due to his friendship and business relationships with the Sandford and Tilson families. They were all related in some way to the Langhams, the baronets and the then owners  of – yes, you’ve guessed it- Cottesbrooke Hall.

Indeed, the opinions of Sir James Langham and Henry Sandford were sufficiently important to Jane Austen  to be included in her collection of  opinons of Mansfield Park, amongst the other opinions collected from her family and friends etc :

Sir James Langham & Mr H. Sanford, having been told that it was much inferior to P. & P.—began it expecting to dislike it, but were very soon extremely pleased with it—& I beleive, did not think it at all inferior.

Taking all this infomration into account, Sir Frank MacKinnon, the British High Court judge and Austen scholar, suggested that Cottesbrooke was indeed the inspiration for Mansfield.  Dr  R. W. Chapman ,the Austen scholar supreme of the early 20th century, published this information in  1931 in the Times Literary Supplement and seemed to agree with Sir Franks’ assessment.

Logan Pearsall Smith visited Cottesbrooke in 1935 and published his impressions in 1936 in Jane Austen: Reperusals and Recollections:

The name of the owners of Mansfield Park was Langham…The Hall was built by the fourth Baronet, Sir John Langham..That beautiful and stately house in the great park we visited…we saw the stairs on which Edmund found the little Fanny weeping, the breakfast rooms in which she wrote her letter to her borther William and her room upstairs with its empty grate. Then downstairs we went to the library with the billiard room adjoining which was the scene of the rehearsal of Lover’s Vows…Was Jane Austen ever at Cottesbrooke Hall? There is good reason to believe that she as acquainted with the Sir James Langham of the time, and that her brother Henry Austen was familiar with his family. It may be that he supplied her with the necessary plans and information…But anyone who has made this most delightful of all Jane Austen pilgrimages will find it difficult to believe she had not been there herself so accurately does she describe all the details.

Cottesbrooke Hall, admittedly, is a very fitting place to stand as the home of the Bertrams. It is a red brick building,with two wings  either side of the main block on the entrance front. The original building was designed by Francis Smith-Smith of Warwick- and the stone embellishments you can see (the columns etc) were added in the 1790s by Robert Mitchell.

It is set in Northamptonshire, in a large, beautiful park,-a real park –just as Mary Crawford  describes, and is delighted with(in this passage it is clear she is more delighted with the surroundings than the heir to the estate, frankly):

She acknowledged, however, that the Mr. Bertrams were very fine young men, that two such young men were not often seen together even in London, and that their manners, particularly those of the eldest, were very good. He had been much in London, and had more liveliness and gallantry than Edmund, and must, therefore, be preferred; and, indeed, his being the eldest was another strong claim. She had felt an early presentiment that she should like the eldest best. She knew it was her way.

Tom Bertram must have been thought pleasant, indeed, at any rate; he was the sort of young man to be generally liked, his agreeableness was of the kind to be oftener found agreeable than some endowments of a higher stamp, for he had easy manners, excellent spirits, a large acquaintance, and a great deal to say; and the reversion of Mansfield Park, and a baronetcy, did no harm to all this. Miss Crawford soon felt that he and his situation might do. She looked about her with due consideration, and found almost everything in his favour: a park, a real park, five miles round, a spacious modern–built house, so well placed and well screened as to deserve to be in any collection of engravings of gentlemen’s seats in the kingdom, and wanting only to be completely new furnished—pleasant sisters, a quiet mother, and an agreeable man himself—with the advantage of being tied up from much gaming at present by a promise to his father, and of being Sir Thomas hereafter. It might do very well; she believed she should accept him; and she began accordingly to interest herself a little about the horse which he had to run at the B———– races.

(Mansfield Park ,Chapter 5)

However, here, for me at least, is the main  problem with the argument that Cottesbrooke is Mansfield.

Mansfield is clearly described as :

A spacious modern-built house

At the time Jane Austen was writing, Cottesbrooke could not be described as modern, for it was originally built in 1702- some 111 years prior to the composition of Mansfield Park.

But it is a beautiful place to visit : all the photographs here were taken by me on a visit last summer –  and please do note that they can all be enlarged merely by clicking on them so that you can see the beautiful details of this place.

But  note that the  gardens- which are stunning- are a modern development, designed by some of the most influential designers of the past 100 years-and the grounds would not have looked as they do now when Jane Austen was  writing about  it, or not….or visiting ,or having plans sent to her… ;-)

It is tempting to want to see Cottesbrooke as Mansfield, and I can understand why, with all its connections and it being in the right location, people might want to do that . But do I think it more likely that Jane Austen’s modern house was not based on any one building but was rather the product of her genius.

But who am I to judge? I shall leave it to yourselves to determine ;-)

I thought that before 12th Night is upon us I’d share part of  an interesting Christmas gift I received…a copy of the Illustrated London News for 1858, and within its pages is this wonderful article commemorating Queen Victoria’s visit to Stoneleigh Abbey, in Warwickshire, the home of the Leigh family.

Slightly out of our time period, but  interesting nevertheless especially with Jane Austen’s connection to  the Abbey.

The pages are vast and  are too big to be scanned completely, but I attach them here for you to explore. They can all be made larger simply by clicking upon them.

The test is interesting, and  as Stoneleigh had not changed much since Jane Austen’s visit of 1806, the details are relevant to this site. The scenario is reminiscent of all royal visits, or so it seems to me -newly cut lawns and repairs hastily made in order to impress .

I hope you enjoy exploring this interesting article over the holiday weekend,and I take this opportunity of wishing you all

A Very Happy and Peaceful New Year

Jane Austen lived in Southampton, Hampshire in Castle Square from 1806 until 1809 together with her sister in law, Mary Austen (nee Gibson, wife of Frank ), her mother, Mrs Austen ,Cassandra Austen her sister, and their friend Martha Lloyd. In July 1809 Jane, Cassandra Mrs Austen and Martha left Southampton to live at Chawton, in a house provided by their brother Edward Knight.

Today we think of Southampton mainly as a modern port-much changed and modernised since the ravages of the Second World War; but in Jane Austen’s time it had been discovered by “persons of rank” and became known as a resort and spa from the middle of the 18th century.

The old port had long been in decline at this point and the new business rejuvenated it. New houses were built, inns were modernised and communications with London improved. The rich built villas in the surrounding countryside. Fashionable promenades were created and shops boomed along with circulating libraries etc.

This is a general description of it from my copy of A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-bathing Places etc (1803) by John Feltham

EQUALLY adapted for :health, pleasure, and commerce, Southampton, distant about seventy-seven miles from London, is bounded on the east by the river Itchin which flows past the ancient city of Winchester, and on the west by the Tese or Anton, which rises near Whitchurch. It occupies a kind of peninsula, the soil of which is a hard gravel ; and, as the buildings rise from the water with a gentle ascent, the streets are always clean and dry. The approach from the London road is uncommonly striking and grand; in fact, it is almost unparalleled in the beauty of its features, for the space of two miles. At first appear an expanse of water, and the distant Isle of Wight, the charming scenery of the New Forest, and Southampton itself, in pleasing perspective. Elegant seats and rows of trees, nearer the town, line the road on both sides ; and, on entering the place, by one of its most fashionable streets, that venerable remain of antiquity the Bargate, gives a finish to the scene, and fixes the impression of the objects through which we have passed.

But by the time of Jane Austen’s death in 1817 its star had faded, and it was only with the introduction of the railway in 1840 that Southampton once again became a port and place of some import. However, it was undoubtedly a fair place in JAne Austen’s time:

THE lovely situation of Southampton, the elegance of its buildings, the amenity of its environs, and the various other attractions which it possesses, in a very high degree, will always render it a place of fashionable residence, as well as of frequent resort. As a sea-bathing place, indeed, it has less reputation than some others that are described in this work. It has no machines, nor is its beach favorable for immersion; the marine is, also, deeply mixed with the fresh water; but, if the opinion of those is correct, who maintain, that water acts only by the shock and ablution, and that one cold or one warm bath is the same as another, Southampton, notwithstanding the disadvantages we have mentioned, is as eligible as any other station on the coaat, and, in many respects, it is superior. The air is soft and mild, and sufficiently impregnated with saline particles to render it agreeable, and even salutary, to those who cannot endure a full exposure to the sea, on a bleak and open shore.
(See: A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-bathing Places etc (1803) by John Feltham)

For Frank Austen it was a place not too far away from Portsmouth, the naval base, where he could safely leave his new wife , his mother, sister and their friend Martha while he was away on duty. For the Austen ladies it was a chance to return to Hampshire, and to leave the confines of Bath and a way of life ever decreasing in style and consequence.

Frank wrote of the new domestic arrangements as follows:

He fixed his abode at Southampton making one family with his mothers and sisters a plan equally suited to his love of domestic society and the extent of his income which was somewhat restricted
(See: A Family Record, Le Faye p 153)

This is a detailed map of the areas surrounding Southampton circa 1803:

This is a map of the town centre made in 1791 by T. Milne. If you enlarge it you can clearly see the castle -a circular structure in the lower part of the map.

The Marquis of Landsdown for a very short time before his death in 1809 , lived at Southampton in this Gothic style castle. The Castle was put up for sale in 1816 but no buyer was found and it was demolished in 1818. Jane Austen’s house was in the square surrounding the castle:

Our Dressing-Table is constructing on the spot, out of a large Kitchen Table belonging to the House, for doing which we have the permission of Mr Husket Lord Lansdown’s Painter, -domestic Painter I should call him, for he lives in the Castle-Domestic Chaplains have given way to this more necessary office, & I suppose whenever the Walls want no touching up, he is employed about my Lady’s face.

(see Letter to Cassandra dated 8th February,1807)

The Castle and the Square around it no longer exist, but here is a description of it:

This stands near the middle of the south part of the town. From the High-street, the approach to it is up Castle-lane. The area of the castle seems to be of a semicircular form, of which the town wall to the sea, formed the diameter. The keep stood on a very high artificial mount, and from its ruins a small round tower has been constructed, from the leads of which there is a delightful bird’s-eye view of Southampton, and of the environs, lying like a map before the eye of the spectator.

” The high mount, and circular form of the keep,” says Sir H. Englefield,” indicate an Antiquity much higher than the time of Richard II. who probably only repaired and strengthened the castle.” This ingenious and learned antiquary seems to think it of Saxon origin.

In Porter’s-lane, at the bottom of the High-street, he discovered a building, which he conjectures was originally a palace. It is evidently of great antiquity, and was probably inhabited by the Saxon or Danish kings, who occasionally made Southampton their residence.

Here are two views of the High Street in the early 19th century:

The Southampton Guide of 1805 stated:

Many of the shops rival those of the metropolis…the shopkeepers are equally strenuous to excel in the elegance of their shops and displays of heir goods. Strangers in general are exceedingly struck at the size and the very superior appearance of the shops as in this town nor are they less so on viewing the abundant stocks of goods with which they are stocked

The town was full of antiquities: this is the Bar Gate as it looked  in 1802:

This was singled out in many of the Guidebooks to the town as a “truly beautiful specimen of medieval military architecture”
(See A Walk Through Southampton by Sir Henry Englefield, Bart (1801), page 8.

But look at this description from John Feltham’s Guide(1803) and spot the Austen-esque names:

The principal and formerly the only approach by land is a splendid remain of the fortifications of this place. The north front which is supposed to have been erected in the reign of Edward III is semi-octagonal, flanked with two lower semi-circular turrets.

The arch of entrance which is long and deep is highly pointed and adorned with a profusion of mouldings. Above the arch on a row of sunk pannels alternatively square and oblog, is a shield in relief charged with the arms of England, Scotland, Paulet, Tylney, Abdy, Noel, Mill, Wyndham etc. These arms however are not of ancient date and from a minute inspection of the compnent parts of this curious gate Sir Henry Englefield is of the opinion that the internal centre must have been erected in the early Norman time or even before then.

The front towards the High-street, is modern, plain, and uninteresting, except that in a central niche is contains a whole-length statue of Queen Anne, still and formal enough.

Over the arches of the two foot and carriageways, is a spacious TOWN-HALL, fifty-two feet by twenty-one, with which a room for the grand jury communicates. The windows in these apartments, withinside, bear marks of antiquity.

From the leads, the whole of this noble gate may be traced, and great part of site town may be seen. Two lions serjant, cast in lead, guard the entrance of Bargate, and on this side there are likewise portrayed two gigantic figures, representing Ascupart and Sir Bevios, of Southampton his redoubted conqueror, according to the following couplet:

“Bevois conquer’d Ascupart, and after slew the boare,
And then he cross’d beyond the seas to combat with the More.”

I’m sure this and the castle appealed to Jane Austen’s sense of the Gothick, if not to inspire names of characters in Northanger Abbey and Emma… Southampton had many of the amenities necessary for the amusement of its visitors. In addition to a riding school…

it also possessed chaylebeate springs, baths, public rooms owned by a Mr Martin( complete with a full set of Assembly Room regulations) and winter assemblies were held at the Dolphin Inn

( now sadly closed due to the effects of the current credit crunch)and a theatre:

Jane Austen attended the French Street Theatre while living there .

It also had a multiplicity of circulating libraries:


BAKER’s LIBRARY, in the High-street, contains a well-chosen collection of more than 7000 volumes, in every branch of learning, and in every department of composition Jewellery, stationary, &c. are likewise sold at this shop.

Messrs. Baker have also a printing-office, from which books have issued that would do no discredit to the London presses. The good sense, information, and civility of that family, which is large and respectable, render their acquaintance desirable to every visitor of the place.

Skelton’s Library, standing nearly opposite, is likewise well filled with valuable and entertaining books, and much frequented.

He has likewise a printing-office, and a subscription News-room, which is open from nine in the morning to nine in the evening, on reasonable terms.

If superior industry, understanding, and a zeal to oblige, are claims to patronage, Byles will not be forgotten, though his establishment is comparatively new.

There are some other libraries in Southampton,which possess their appropriate merits, and are ad mired by their respective customers.
(see The Guide to all the Watering Places etc (1803) by John Feltham.)

Jane Austen also attended All Saints Church, which was built in 1792-3 and was designed by William Revesley. Frank’s daughter, Mary Jane, born in April 1807 was christened here.

The beach was a tree-lined walk made around 1769 on the old causeway from the Platform to the Cross House

And it was here -on flooded meadows that froze -that Frank skated :

We did not take our walk on Friday, it was too dirty, nor have we yet done it; we may perhaps do something like it to-day, as after seeing Frank skate, which he hopes to do in the meadows by the beach, we are to treat ourselves with a passage over the ferry. It is one of the pleasantest frosts I ever knew, so very quiet. I hope it will last some time longer for Frank’s sake, who is quite anxious to get some skating; he tried yesterday, but it would not do.

(See Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 7th January 1807)

And here is a picture of a contemporary couple skating circa 1805…it won’t be long before braver souls than I can attempt that here in darkest Lincolnshire….

We are very familiar with the sites in Hampshire and the south of England associated with Jane Austen: Steventon,Chawton, Lyme…But not many people realise that there is a very interesting site in Lincolnshire, open to the public and easily accessible via the A1, which has a very interesting connection to Jane Austen’s aunt, Jane Leigh-Perrot.

The family who own this estate are named Cholmeley and Jane Austen’s aunt was a part of this family. Though Jane Leigh Perrot  was born  in Barbados in the West Indies, her maiden name was Cholmeley, and she was a niece of the baronet, Sir Monatague Cholmeley who was then in posession of the estate.

(Section from The West Indies, map by Thomas Kelly, 1816)

Jane Cholmeley was the daughter of Robert  Cholmeley  who owned land in Barbados.

(Lincolnshire from Cary’s Traveller’s Companion or a Delineation of the Turnpike Roads of England and Wales etc.(1812) by John Cary)

.She was sent to England  and was  educated there at a boarding school. Because of the rigours of travelling to the West Indies-as recounted accurately by Jane Austen in Mansfield Park-she did not return to Barbadoes  during school holidays but instead  spent much of her  time here at Easton with her uncle and his family.

She married James Leigh-Perrot, who was Mrs George Austen’s brother, on the 9th October  1764 . Jane Austen’s aunt was of course infamous for being charged with grand larceny an attempt, seemingly at blackmail, by some Bath haberdashers meant that in 1799 she was accused of stealing a quantity of lace.  Go here for an essay on her trial by Albert Borowitz. If found guilty she would no doubt have been transported to Botany Bay in Australia for 14 years- a virtual death sentence for a woman of her age.

When she was incarcerated in Ilchester Gaol awaiting trial at Taunton, Montague Cholmeley of Easton wrote her a series of kind letters to her to help maintain her spirits. Here is an extract from one commenting on Mrs Austen’s generous but slightly deranged offer to have Jane and Cassandra accompany their aunt in the gaol( in reality Jane Leigh-Perrot lived together with her husband in the squalid but humane lodgings with the Gaol Keeper and his family and not in a jail cell). Mrs Leigh Perrot declined the offer, recoiling in horror at the thought of the Austen girls having to spend time there writing to her cousin ,Sir Montague Cholmeley  the then owner of Easton, as follows :

One of my greatest Miseries here ( indeed my very first) is the seeing what my dearest Husband is daily going through-Vulgarity, Dirt, Noise from Morning till Night. The People  not conscious that this can be Objectionable to anybody, fancy we are very Happy and to do them justice they mean to make us quite so…this Room joins to a Room where the Children all lie, and not Bedlam itself can be half   so noisy, besides which, as not one particle of Smoke  goes up the Chimney, except you leave  the door or window open, I leave you to judge of the Comfort I can enjoy in such a Room…No! my Good Cousin, I cannot subject even a Servant to the suffering we daily experience…My dearest Perrot with his sweet composure adds to my Philosophy; to be sure he bids fair to have his patience tried in every way he can. Cleanliness has ever been his  greatest delight and yet he sees the greasy toast laid by the dirty children on his knees and feels the small Beer trickle down his sleeves on its way across the table unmoved…Mss Scadding’s Knife well licked to clean it from the fried onions helps me now and then-you may believe how the Mess I am helped to is disposed of-here are two dogs and three Cats always full as hungry as myself.

Sir Montague appeared to have agreed with her decision:

You tell me that your good sister Austen has offered you one or both of her Daughters to continue with you during your stay at that vile place, but you decline the kind offer as you cannot procure them Accommodation in the House with you and you cannot let those Elegant Young Women be your Inmates in a Prison nor be subject to the inconveniences which you are obliged to put up with….

Jane Leigh Perrot was eventually found not guilty after the long and infamous trial.

The estate is a very interesting place to visit. Here is a link to its website. The current owners have embarked on a very laudable and brave project to restore the gardens: the site as you can see from these photographs which I took on a recent visit  is spectacular, spanning the River Witham :

.The stables are the only part of the massive structure that survive: the main house was sadly demolished in the 1950s. This is all that remains :

The buildings that do survive are fascinating…

..all emblazoned with the Cholmeley crest of a wheat-sheaf in different forms:

And the gardens are  bewitching:

Here is a link to the history of the house from  Easton Walled Gardens current website:

…and here  are some photographs from the family’s archive as to show the hall as it looked before it was demolished.

I do have to sincerely  thank Lady Cholmeley, the present chatelaine,  for her generosity in allowing me to reproduce them here .

Walking about the grounds, imagining the splendours of the place in Jane Leigh Perrot’s youth is a very interesting experience, and give some idea of her background and possibly explains her imperious attitude, ending her life playing games with the possible inheritors of her wealth-as she was childless and had inherited all her husbands property on his death she knew she had power to wield.

And I’m not sure that Jane Austen had much affection for her aunt, certainly from the evidence of her letters, but in any event, viewing the place where Jane’s aunt spent her early summers was an interesting way to spend a summer’s afternoon, speculating on her character while wandering around.

And I find the prospect of these gardens being fully restored bewitching: but even in their present state , much akin to a half-finished archaeological dig-they exert a certain charm , and evoke memories of eras long gone. I highly recommend a visit

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