Jane Austen Sights

The Vyne, near Basingstoke

A 16 c. house with many alterations over the years, with collections of furniture, paintings and ornaments. There is a long pannelled gallery with heldary carvings related to the Chute family who lived here for over 350 years. We know that Jane Austen came to dances here.

Atractive gardens and grounds include an ornamental lake, and one of the earliest summer houses.
Open mid-March to end October, not Th. or Fri.

 

 

The Wheatsheaf on the old London road

This is an old coaching inn south of Steventon, where horses were changed on the way to and from London. Stage coaches carried the mail, and Jane Austen walked to here to send and receive her letters. The reciepent paid for the mail, as this was before the invention of postage stamps.
The main building is much unchanged on the outside, and inside we can see the low ceilings, original beams and fire place. The old stables are now a restaurant, and at the side is a modern Premier Inn hotel. From the main road you can take a picture which will be much as Jane saw it.

 

Steventon Church

It is over 2 miles walk over Hampshire's rolling countryside from the London road to Steventon. With simple leather shoes, long skirts and on unmade roads, the return walk would be quite an effort.
The village is small, scattered and rural, the birthplace of Jane Austen (1775), whose family lived at the rectory (demolished) for 25 years. In the church there are three tablets to the family, and family graves in the churchyard.
The church is over 600 years old and very simple inside and out, with some medieval painting on the walls. The wind vane is shaped like a quill pen. A yew tree by the West entrance is over 900 years old. The rectory was large and had 7 bedrooms. Outside there were fields where Mr. Austen farmed and his wife grew potatoes (at that time quite an innovation), formal gardens with a turf walk, sundial, strawberry beds, and a grassy bank down which the young Jane possibly enjoyed rolling as a child, like Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey. There was also a carriage sweep, and a barn used for private theatricals except in winter, when the dining room had to suffice.

 

Jane’s very full social life at Steventon provided her with much of the material for her
novels, and most of her long-life friendships were cemented during her time at Steventon.
Here she wrote Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice,
although they were not published at that time. Her father offered Pride and Prejudice to a
publisher in 1797 who turned it down without reading it.
Cassandra and Jane attended many dances at nearby large houses, some of which are
still standing today. The most notable is the Vyne, a National Trust property, near
Basingstoke. Jane also attended social gatherings in Basingstoke at the Assembly Rooms.
Barclays Bank in the Market Place in Basingstoke stands where the Assembly rooms used to be. A plaque on the wall of the bank commemorates Jane. She liked shopping, and is known to have gone shopping in Andover, Alton, Alreford, Basingstoke, Whitchurch and Overton during the years she lived at Steventon.

Jane spent the first 25 years of her life in Steventon, before the family moved to Bath
in Somerset because her father wanted to retire there. Bath provided scenes for some of
her books, but she did not embark on any of her novels during the five tears she lived here.

 

Ashe Village

A few miles north of Steventon is the village of Ashe, where Jane's father was also the rector and Jane visited her friends the Lefroy's at Ashe House.

 

From the farmyard we can see a circular pond with central island; this is the source of the River Test, which we can follow on pretty country lanes through little villages of 16c. thached cottages.

 

 

 

 

Upper Test Valley

The chalk hills around Basingstoke soak up the rains, and filter the water all year into small streams going South, which combine to make the River Test and its tributaries. The official source is a lake with a circular island which can be viewed from a lane by the old church at Ashe. The river runs clear and fast in shallow channels, often breaking into several streams in its gentle valley. It is the finest trout fishing river in the South of England. The prettiest part of the valley is the upper part, from Stockbridge to Whitchurch. There are many old thatched cottages, and in some places the land in the valley is common grazing and has never been cultivated, and is a haven for wild-life. The Mayfly near Longparish is a lovely riverside pub with great lunch-time food.

 

 

Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis is a charming seaside town, barely commercialised, with many fine old buildings in its steep narrow streets. Its most famous feature is the great breakwater known as the Cobb, immortalised by local author John Fowles in his novel The French Lieutenant's Woman. Jane Austen was another author who enjoyed Lyme Regis. The coastline is a notable hunting ground for palaeontologists, with some famous local fossil finds, such as the ichthyosaurus found by Mary Anning in the early 19th century.

 

Southampton

Southampton developed along the waterfront between the mouths of the Test and the Itchen, Hampshire's two main rivers. Ideally located at the head of Southampton Water, it was a major port throughout the Middle Ages. In the 19th century, and until well into the 1960s, it flourished as a passenger port able to accommodate the largest liners, and as an aircraft-building centre; Spitfires were produced here. Heavy wartime bombing and post-war redevelopment destroyed much of the city. However, there are some remarkable survivals, including stretches of the town walls, Bargate (a fine medieval gatehouse), the 15th-century Merchants' Hall, and Bugle Street. The Wool House, built in about 1400 as a warehouse, now houses the Southampton Maritime Museum; next door is the mid-19th century Italianate Yacht Club.
Jane Austen stayed here with a brother in a house in Castle Square, beside the mediaeval sea walls. There is now a pub on the site of the house. We know that Jane attended dances in the ballroom of the Dolphin Hotel. It has the largest unsupported bay windows in the country.

 

 

Winchester

 

Capital of Wessex from the time of Alfred, and capital of all England from the 10th century until the Norman Conquest, this is one of the most historic cities in the country, crammed with medieval and later buildings. The huge cathedral is the second on the site, Norman and a mixture of later medieval styles, and is the second longest in Europe - a beautiful building, full of superb fittings including the best set of medieval chantry chapels in the country and early 14th-century wooden quire stalls of the highest quality. The Triforum gallery has a very good display on the buildings. The statue of William Walker the diver records his dangerous work replacing the footings. The small cathedral close has a medieval pilgrim hall and other attractive corners.
The 14th-century Kingsgate has the little Church of St Swithun above. Jane Austen died in College Street, and is buried in the cathedral. The plaque to her makes no mention of her writings. Winchester College, the famous public school, still inhabits the original medieval courts, with chapel and hall. The ruins of the medieval bishop's palace, Wolvesey Palace (English Heritage) are extensive.
The town itself is dense, full of Georgian brick houses. One of the best is the Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum, and there are four more military museums in Peninsula Barracks and the City Museum in the pretty little square. Opposite the decorative Victorian guildhall (with exhibition gallery) is a huge statue of King Alfred (1901). The City Mill (National Trust) of 1774 has a pretty little garden. The 13th-century great hall is the only surviving part of the castle, and one of the finest medieval halls in the country, displaying the so-called King Arthur's table, an early medieval fake, and with a little `medieval garden' attached. Westgate, part of the medieval city walls, has a museum above. See also St Cross. 

 

 

Chawton, the Jane Austen house

Revered as the village where Jane Austen spent the last eight years of her life, and wrote three of her novels. A single street of brick houses and cottages, with the Austen house on the corner, only a fair-sized village house. Many relics and some rooms looking much as in her time. Everything in the House is very well annotated, and it takes a while to see it all. Recent renovation has added a kitchen in 18 c. style and a new souvenir shop. Everything in the garden is as of Jane's time, with herbs and plants used for cooking, medical purposes and dying clothing.
Chawton House (not open), where one of her brothers lived, is also little changed. It is just beyond the church, where we can see her mother's and Casandra's graves. The original church was damaged by fire and re-built in the 19 c.

 

 

Bath

Bath owes its prosperity to its hot springs, unique in Britain, and first capitalised upon by the Romans, who constructed a great bathing complex here. In AD 973 Bath Abbey was the site of the coronation of Edgar, first king of All England. The present abbey, dating from the 15th century, is famous for its magnificent fan vaulting and monuments.

During the 18th century the presence of the flamboyant Richard “Beau” Nash helped to make Bath one of England’s most fashionable towns, while the Palladian architecture of John Wood and his son turned it into one of the country’s most coherent and beautiful cityscapes. Today the Roman Baths Museum houses the finest Roman remains in Britain, and Bath’s Georgian masterpieces - the Pump Rooms, the Assembly Rooms, the Circus, the Royal Crescent, and the Florentine-style Pulteney Bridge - remain in a marvelous state of preservation.

The town is also a major cultural centre with many excellent museums. Bath is the most elegant town in the country, with acres of handsome Georgian buildings in the creamy orange local stone and surrounded by small green hills. The town has always been based on its natural hot springs, the largest producing a million litres a day of red-stained hot water.

The Romans built their baths around the spring, with a temple dedicated to Minerva and the Iron Age god Sulis, providing a mixture of physical healing and spiritual refreshment, doubtless, as later, relieved with more social amusements. The Roman baths were rediscovered in the later 19th century, and can be seen along with the little medieval King’s Bath, and displays of finds which include Roman sculpture and Roman curses.

Medieval Bath was small, with a big monastery, whose large and handsome early 16th-century church survives as Bath Abbey, fan-vaulted and with a famous west front. The 17th-century town was promoted as a spa, and really took off from 1725, becoming the most fashionable resort in the country. Present-day Bath is the stylish town created for those who came to bathe and to drink the water in the Georgian period. Two people heavily influenced the town: ‘Beau’ Nash, the official Master of ceremonies for 50 years who made the resort genteel, and the architect John Wood who designed many areas of Bath including the Circus (1754), the large circular terrace. His son designed the Royal Crescent (no 1 is open to the public) and the Assembly Rooms in the 1760’s, while Robert Adam produced Pulteney Bridge at the same time. Other notable buildings include the Guildhall (1776) and the Pump Room (1789), but fine as these individual buildings are, it is Bath as a whole which impresses, miles of Georgian houses, mostly in terraces, looking much as they did when Jane Austen or Gainsborough visited.

The magnificent Royal Crescent was built by John Wood the Younger between 1767 and 1774. This glorious terrace of 30 classically inspired, three-storey houses in glowing, golden Bath stone is often claimed to be the most majestic street in Britain. No. 1 Royal Crescent has been superbly restored and furnished to reflect the golden 18th-century age of Bath when aristocrats, such as the Duke of York, lived here.

Royal Victoria Park (laid out from 1830) and the Botanic Gardens in the north-west area of the city, are fine Victorian additions to the town, although by then it had ceased to be fashionable. Best view of the city is from the wooded ridge to the south. Two of Jane Austen’s novels, `Northanger Abbey’ and `Persuasion’, are partly set in Regency Bath and give a good picture of the social life then, as do the Assembly Rooms and the Museum of Costume.

Today Bath attracts visitors from all over the world, and has masses of smart shops. The annual summer music festival holds concerts many of the Georgian buildings, and the Holbourne of Menstrie Museum (in a hotel of 1796) and the Victoria Art Gallery have temporary exhibitions as well as their permanent displays. The Building of Bath Museum has details of the construction of the Georgian town. Bath is always bustling and always beautiful.

 

 

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