It’s been a year of Jane events, as England celebrates 100 years of a beloved novelist
It may be two centuries since Jane Austen hung up her bonnet for good, but the novels of one of England’s finest writers are still as popular as ever.
And this year, on the bicentenary of her passing, the places that inspired the pithy novelist are once more alive with rustling petticoats and romance as visitors flock from around the globe. Here are 10 places to get lost in Austen.
JANE AUSTEN’S HOUSE CHAWTON, HAMPSHIRE
In the picturesque little village of Chawton, between Winchester and London, you’ll find Jane Austen’s home, where she spent the final eight years of her life before she died at 41.
The charming but modest cottage was where she did much of her writing, penning Persuasion and Emma and finessing Pride and
Prejudice, all on a remarkably tiny table and writing stand. It’s a moving place to visit and you can’t help but be inspired by her passion.
Now a museum, it’s the only one of Austen’s homes open to the public.
ADMISSION IS £8 (ABOUT $14) FOR ADULTS, £4 (ABOUT $7) FOR CHILDREN. JANE-AUSTENS-HOUSE-MUSEUM.ORG.UK
CHAWTON HOUSE LIBRARY OF WOMEN WRITERS CHAWTON, HAMPSHIRE
“I went up to the great house … and dawdled away an hour very comfortably,” wrote Austen in 1814.
She was describing Chawton House, just along the little lane from her home in the village, where her brother, Edward, lived with his wife.
It was he who bequeathed the family the use of the cottage. Now this beautiful home and gardens have been restored and feature the Chawton House Library, dedicated to championing the works of early women writers and restoring them to their rightful place in English literature. Visitors can make use of the library’s extensive collection and attend talks and special events, before taking afternoon tea in the house.
ADMISSION IS £8 FOR ADULTS, £4 FOR CHILDREN. CHAWTONHOUSE.ORG
THE WRITER’S BIRTHPLACE STEVENTON, HAMPSHIRE
Austen was born in the village of Steventon, Hampshire, in 1775 and
lived there until she was 25. It was here she penned the first drafts of her novels, Northanger Abbey, Sense and
Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.
The seventh of eight children to Reverend George Austen and his wife, Cassandra, the family lived in the rectory by St Nicholas Church, where her father was the vicar.
Although the rectory is no longer there, the simple 12th-century church still has relics from the Austen family, including a plaque to Jane and her brother, James, who took over as vicar when his father retired.
Poignantly, there is an enormous yew tree outside the church which is 900 years old – it would have been substantial in Austen’s lifetime and something she passed every day.
JANE AUSTEN’S GRAVE WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL, HAMPSHIRE
Austen was only buried in Winchester Cathedral because her sister, Cassandra, had taken her to stay in lodgings next door, in order to get help from a renowned doctor who worked nearby. Sadly, Austen died in Cassandra’s arms before the doctor could do any good. Her funeral was modest, attended by four people and her original memorial stone made no mention of her novels.
After she died in 1817, Northanger
Abbey and Persuasion were published and her fame began to grow over time.
And so in 1870 her nephew paid for a new brass plaque with the inscription: “Jane Austen, known to many by her writings.”
Now there’s a public memorial for the steady stream of visitors who come to pay their respects from all over the world.
ADMISSION IS £8 FOR ADULTS, CHILDREN FREE. WINCHESTER-CATHEDRAL.ORG.UK
JANE AUSTEN CENTRE BATH, SOMERSET
“Oh who can ever be tired of Bath?” wrote Austen in Northanger Abbey, and certainly the author loved her visits and time living in the beautiful city. Famous for its Roman baths and Georgian buildings, she lived there from 1801 to 1806.
Based in a Georgian townhouse, the Jane Austen Centre is a small museum celebrating the life of the city’s famous resident. Superfans can dress up in costumes and will love the Regency tearooms where you can even dine with Mr Darcy. Admission is £11 for adults and £5.50 for children. From there, head over to the Bath Assembly Rooms (nationaltrust .org.uk), the ballrooms which were at the heart of Georgian society and appeared in Northanger Abbey.
It also has a fun fashion museum in the basement, where you can try on clothes, fashionmuseum.co.uk.
ADMISSION IS £9 FOR ADULTS, £7 FOR CHILDREN. JANEAUSTEN.CO.UK
JANE AUSTEN FESTIVAL BATH, SOMERSET
If you want to go all out Austen, then the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath is for you – taking place every September, it includes costume parades, dances, book readings and screenings. You can also dress up Austen-style and march in the promenade, which holds the record for the largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costumes – no doubt beating off stiff-petticoated competition for the title.
STONELEIGH ABBEY KENILWORTH, WARWICKSHIRE
This imposing stately home in Warwickshire, in England’s Midlands, was owned by the noble Leigh family, relatives of Austen’s mother. In 1806 the author stayed at the house with her mother and sister Cassandra.
Austen was much taken with the home and wrote descriptive letters about it and its inhabitants. Now widely accepted as the model for her third published novel, Mansfield
Park, the author wove many of the home’s details into the book.
There’s a special Jane Austen tour by guides in costume, who take you through the house and grounds and show you the same interiors as Austen experienced two centuries ago.
Tours run daily, Sunday to Thursday at 1pm.
ENTRY TO THE GROUNDS IS £5 FOR ADULTS AND £1 FOR CHILDREN, AND FOR TOURS £5 AN ADULT AND £3.50 A CHILD. STONELEIGHABBEY.ORG
THE COBB LYME REGIS, DORSET
“A very strange stranger it must be, who does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme, to make him wish to know it better,” Austen wrote of Lyme Regis – a pretty seaside town in Dorset on England’s South Coast. She visited it twice and based
Persuasion there, the most autobiographical of her novels.
You can literally follow in the footsteps of Anne Elliot and the impetuous Louisa Musgrove and walk along the sea wall, The Cobb, spotting the stone steps where Louisa fell.
It’s said even Alfred Lord Tennyson visited to see the exact place where she plunged to the ground.
It’s also where local resident John Fowles later set his haunting novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
To tick off all the sights, take a Literary Lyme Jane Austen walking tour for £10.
PEMBERLEY CHATSWORTH HOUSE, BAKEWELL, DERBYSHIRE
It is believed Austen based Pride and
Prejudice’s Pemberley on Chatsworth House, which she visited while staying in nearby Bakewell. It was also used as the filming location for Pemberley in the 2005 Keira Knightley movie version.
The 1995 BBC adaptation with Colin Firth used Lyme Park in Cheshire (nationaltrust.org.uk).
The stunning stately home, owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, has expansive gardens which also house holiday cottages for rent (chatsworthcottages.co.uk), so you can pretend to be Lizzie Bennet roaming the grounds, if only for the weekend.
All areas admission is £21.90 for adults and £14 for children, if tickets bought online.
BOX HILL TADWORTH, SURREY
Jane Austen set the famous picnic scene in Emma on Box Hill, where a perfect day out is ruined by the spoiled heroine’s thoughtlessness. It was also used as the same location in the 2009 BBC adaptation.
Owned by the National Trust and part of the North Downs, this stunning spot is perfect for hearty walks and bucolic picnics – ideally without rows, with the addition of the all-important National Trust tearoom.
ADMISSION IS FREE. NATIONALTRUST.ORG.UK
SUPERFANS CAN DRESS UP AND WILL LOVE THE REGENCY TEAROOMS WHERE YOU CAN EVEN DINE WITH MR DARCY
Jane Austen fans have plenty to see and do, from Chawton House Library (main picture) to the writer’s kitchen, bedroom and Winchester Cathedral where she is buried. Enjoy festivals, walking tours and explore the settings of her books.