Rural England has a special place in just about every romantic twenty-something who has been swept into other worlds by Jane Austen’s novels. From grand manors to pretty gardens, county dances and girly gossip. A tour of Austen’s England is a trip every admirer should make.
Austen’s characters as well as herself loved to dance at assembly room balls, loved to gossip in letters about friends and family acquaintances and loved to walk and wander through the fields. Whether you want to lose yourself in the places where her stories unfold or just discover a new corner of the country, here are some of the essential stops to make along the “Austen Trail” while on holidays in England.
St. Nicholas Church – Steventon (Hampshire)
Just about every one of Austen’s novels ends or includes a wedding. You can imagine the quaint country affairs they would have been. St. Nicholas Church was a common sight for Austen as her family lived in the nearby rectory. It was built around 1200 but the rectory where she lived for 25 years was demolished after her death. Today you can still see the church, with its 3-foot thick walls and medieval paintings and a lime tree, planted by Jane Austen’s brother, where the rectory once stood.
Chatsworth House – Derbyshire
Today every one may be smitten with Downton Abbey but in Austen’s day it was the grand and marvellous Chatsworth House, what scholars believe was the inspiration for Mr. Darcy’s Pemberley. The house has been home to the Duke and Duchess of Cavendish for sixteen centuries and even played the role of Pemberley in the 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice. Today visitors can tour 30 rooms and explore the 105-acre gardens.
Godmersham Park Walk – Kent
Jane Austen was raised quite humbly but never ceased to appreciate the fine things in life. She spent plenty of days at Godmersham Park, a fine brick mansion that was inherited by her brother, Edward. It was here she used to visit her favourite nephew, George and spent evenings revising Sense and Sensibility. If you visit, follow the footpath from Village Hall to St. Lawrence the Martyr Church and visit the Godmersham Park Heritage Centre.
Jane Austen Centre – Bath (Somerset)
Bath is likely one of the most famous of Austen’s residences, although she quite hated it when her family had to move from the countryside to the city. These were the worst five years of her life on a personal level (her father died at this time) but she flourished as a writer. Two of her novels were set here, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. A Georgian-era walking tour from the Jane Austen Centre takes you to places she would have been familiar with including the grand Assembly Rooms and the Bath Circus.
Jane Austen House Museum – Chawton (Hampshire)
Back in Hampshire, it’s every admirer’s dream to visit Jane Austen’s house in Chawton where she lived the last eight years of her life. Fortunately, it looks almost exactly as it did when she lived there until the age of 41. Here you’ll see a rare collection of her personal things including her writing table, a patchwork quilt she made with her sister Cassandra and her mother.
Which is your favourite Austen novel?
Imgs: Creative Commons