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©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

As you are all aware, Jane Austen lived in Bath from 1801-1806. Her first home in the city was one she shared with her parents, the Reverend and Mrs Austen and her sister, Cassandra.  It was a fine house, Number 4 Sydney Place, which was then on the outskirts of Bath.  You may recall that last year I wrote about an apartment in this house that had come onto the market.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

The Austens favoured living here for the situation not only had the advantage of being near to the open countryside, so necessary to such a desperate walker as Jane Austen avowedly was, but the house also overlooked the Sydney Gardens, shown below in a view from the first floor apartment :

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

The Sydney Gardens were a Vauxhall or pleasure garden where Jane Austen thought

It would be very pleasant to be near Sidney Gardens-we might go into the Labrinth every day…

(See: Letter to Cassandra Austen,dated 21st January 1801)

and they are now a very pleasant open air space.  What was the Sydney Hotel is now the fabulous and vibrant Holburne Museum, which has recently re-opened after a marvellous programme of refurbishment and extension. The apartment on sale has now been purchased and has become available to all to rent as a holiday let from the holiday let company,Bath Boutique Stays.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

It has been substantially modernised but the original feature have been kept. It sleeps four people , and has two bedrooms.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

The owners have added some amusing “Austen” touches, as you can see  from the photographs they have provided for me:

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

As you may recall from her description in her book, Jane Austen, Her Homes and Her Friends (1923), Constance Hill liked the  first floor of the house very much. There was a beautiful drawing-room, which was sunny, airy and light:

4 Sydney Place has four stories plus a basement The ground floor has an entrance hall and two rooms: the front room would  have been the parlour and dining room used for everyday entertainment and the rear room would most  likely have been Mr Austen’s study. On the first floor there is a magnificent drawing room covering the full area of the house which looks south over Sydney Gardens; the windows are large and it is a very sunny room.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

This is incorporated into the new apartment to let, and, as you can see from the photographs, it still enjoys that sunny aspect overlooking the gardens. I must admit, I’m considering re-jigging my travel plans for next year, as I would love the opportunity to actually stay, for however short a time, in a house where Jane Austen actually lived.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

Racking my memory, it would appear to be an almost unique prospect…..Steventon Rectory is now demolished, Chawton Cottage is now a museum, her home in Southampton no longer exists; Stoneleigh Abbey is a now series of private homes and Godmersham is the home of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians College…I don’t think any of the places she stayed in London apart from Henry’ Austens home in Upper Berkeley Street (which is now an hotel) are available for use as lets. And as for Bath, well, you can stay in a holiday let in Trim Street, but we do not know exactly where in Trim Street Jane Austen actually lived. Her home in Gay Street is a private house, and her home in Green Park West -where her father died in January 1805- was destroyed during bombing in World War II, though it has been rebuilt. So, this really is a fabulous opportunity to live for a short while in a place where Jane Austen spent nearly four years of her life.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

Jane Austen lived at Number 4 Sydney Place in Bath from the summer of 1801 until the summer of 1804, together with her parents, the Reverend George and Mrs. Austen, and Cassandra, her elder sister. I’ve written about it in the past and you can access those posts here and here.

It was then on the outskirts of Bath and was near to the Sydney Gardens where Jane enjoyed visiting the pleasure gardens, though she was not always too keen on the music performed there, as evidenced by this comment in her letter to Cassandra of the 2nd June 1799 ;)

There is to be a grand gala on Tuesday evening in Sydney Gardens-A concert with Illuminations and Fireworks; to the latter Elizabeth and I look forward with pleasure, and even the concert will have more than its usual charm with me, as the Gardens are large enough for me to get pretty well beyond the reach of its sound.

The garden to a house a few doors down from Number 4 is open to the public to visit on Saturday 19th may and again on the 1st July. So if you can manage to go you will get an idea of the type of garden the Austens would have enjoyed while they lived at Number 4, and also get a view of the rear of number 4 in the bargain.

The garden is opened to benefit a local charity, The Dorothy House Hospice Care, and all the details of how to ge to the garden plus opening times and price of entry can be accessed here. I do wish I could attend!

This was of course the house to which Jane Austen and her parents first moved when they quitted the rectory at Steventon to move to Bath in 1801. The Austens rented the house  which was opposite the Sydney Gardens,then right at the very edge of the town.

A one bedroom  apartment in the building, on the second floor, has just come onto the rental market.

This is the view looking towards the Sydney gardens from the house. Go here to see all the details of the apartment.

I have to say that it is very tempting…and if the rental agreement found its way into my Christmas stocking..I’d be a very happy woman indeed!

After months of house hunting –searching for and dismissing houses that might have damp and other problems….

Our views on G. P. Buildings seem all at an end; the observation of the damps still remaining in the offices of an house which has been only vacated a week, with reports of discontented families and putrid fevers, has given the coup de grace. We have now nothing in view. When you arrive, we will at least have the pleasure of examining some of these putrefying houses again; they are so very desirable in size and situation, that there is some satisfaction in spending ten minutes within them.

(See Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 21st May 1801)

…the Austens took the lease of number 4 Sydney Place. This was, as you will recall, one of the places Jane Austen favoured when they were house hunting, in her letter of January 1801.

Why? It was on the outskirts of Bath, looking out onto the open countryside as you can see from the view of the surrounding hills in this acquatint of the Sydney Gardens.

This was, I feel vitally important to Jane Austen, used as she was to the gently rolling countryside of Hampshire. As I’ve noted in my post about the Paragon, we sometimes forget when we see pictures of the large airy squares and graceful crescents in Bath how some of the buildings in the steeply terraced areas of Bath could convey a sense of  oppression and constriction. I feel sure this lack of an open aspect is one reason why Jane Austen disliked  certain parts of Bath- notably The Paragon and Axford Buildings.

As you can see from the plan of Bath of 1803, this part of Bath was developed on the far side of the Avon River.Do note you can enlarge all the illustrations in this post by clicking on them .

It was called Bathwick-after the original settlement there- and  until the buildings of the Pulteney Bridge  it was only accessible by ferry. Here is a detail of a map of Bath dating from the 1750s which shows, quite charmingly, the ferry from the developed part of Bath to the Spring Gardens, which with the city prison, market gardens  and watermill, together with the undeveloped hamlet of Bathwick, was the only developed part of the city on that side of the river until the 1770s.

The Bathwick area was developed by its owner, William Johnstone Pultney-after whom Robert Adam’s magnificent bridge-which contained shops  in imitation of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence  or the Rialto in Venice-was named.

Thomas Baldwin was the main architect/ planner of this area. The master plan was to build an entire neo classical suburb  on this side of the river, complete with wide gracious streets of houses of neo-classically inspired design and with a new pleasure garden- the Sydney Gardens– for the residents to enjoy.

By the 1790s the wide main thoroughfare of this side of the  river- Pulteney Street and Laura place- were under construction. The Sydney Gardens and the Sydney Tavern,  which terminated the view along  Great Pulteney Street from the Putney Bridge

as seen here in a still from 2004 the film production of Vanity Fair, were opened in 1795.

The gardens were, as you can see, hexagonal in shape and it was intended to build a series of terraces  surrounding the gardens. Of the planned terraces only two were actually built, and were completed in 1794.

The Austens were keen on this area. An important point to consider was that  it was on level ground, unlike the majority of the new buildings in the Upper Town in Bath, on the other side of the river, which were built on very steep slopes. This may have played a part in their decision to live there, with the centre of town an easy level walk along the wonderfully wide Pulteney Street and over the Pulteney Bridge

It was also near to the Sydney Gardens and its Labyrinth, which so attracted Jane Austen:

It would be very pleasant to be near Sidney Gardens-we might go into the Labrinth every day…

(Letter to Cassandra Austen,dated 21st January 1801)

The advertisement in the Bath chronicle dated 28th May 1801, for the lease of number 4 Sydney Place obviously caught their eye:

TO BE DISPOSED OF, THE LEASE OF No 4 SYDNEY PLACE three years  and a quarter of which are unexpired at Midsummer.

The situation is desirable, the rent very low and the landlord is bound by covenant to paint the two first floors this summer-a premium will therefore be expected.

For Particulars apply to Messrs. Watts and Forth in Cornwall-Buildings, Bath.

The Reverend Austen’s income at this time was £600 per annum. According to an article written by the present owners of 4 Sydney Place( see JAS Report 1997, page 96) the rent for Number 4 was £150 per year, a very sizeable amount of his income.. The article also gives this  description of number 4’s interior:

(The Vestibule at 4 Sydney Place from Constance Hill’s book, Jane Austen, Her Homes and Her Friends (1923))

4 Sydney Place has four stories plus a basement The ground floor has an entrance hall and two rooms: the front room would  have been the parlour and dining room used for everyday entertainment and the rear room would most  likely have been Mr Austen’s study. On the first floor  there is a magnificent drawing room covering the full area of the house which looks south over Sydney Gardens; the windows are large and it is a very sunny room.

(A Corner of the drawing room at 4 Sydney Place from Constance Hill’s book, Jane Austen, Her Homes and Her Friends (1923)

On the second floor there are three bedrooms; the parents would have slept in one and another would have been occupied by the two sisters- they shared a bedroom all their lives. The top floor has another three bedrooms, where the servants would have slept. The kitchen in the basement is reached by stairs from the ground floor. There is a small walled garden in which there would have been an earth closet..there was piped water to the house.

Prior to moving into Sydney Place the Austen holidayed in Sidmouth in Devon. Eliza de Feuillide, Jane’s cousin wrote to Phylly Walter, another cousin, on the 29th October 1801:

I conclude that you know of our Uncle & Aunt Austen and their daughters having spent the summer in Devonshire-They are now returned to Bath where they are superintending the fitting up of their new house

The Austens remained at number 4 for three years.The lease was due to expire in September 1804: a renewal of it,  albeit on a longer term, would have no doubt necessitated a rise in the rent for the property. Obviously this could not be countenanced on their limited income: and so they left their new found and pleasant but temporary home in 1804 to live in Green Park Buildings…the first of three such removals while they remained in Bath, and the subject of our next post.

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