Mrs Hudson's Top Tips

 Mrs Hudson knows all about heritage places. Each month she comes up with some top tips for places to visit and days out around the UK. Whenever she can she takes her faithful dog Walpole with her too!

I confess, I’m poopsy about Jane Austen. I love all her novels and can re-read them again and again. I can lap up any number of film and TV costume dramas based on her books too from Clueless to every version of Pride & Prejudice. So with the bicentenary of her death coming up on 18 July, I’m thinking about places to relive Jane Austen, herself, her books and her films. Well, films made of her books – you know what I mean.

JANE AUSTEN HERSELF

Die hard fans like me may want to make a pilgrimage to places Jane herself lived. She was born in 1775 in Steventon, near Basingstoke in Hampshire, where her father was rector. The rectory has been demolished but the church of St Nicholas where she would have heard her father preach is still there and it has a rather cute wind vane in the shape of a quill pen added to the later spire in her honour.


Teenage Jane stayed with friends in Southampton and went to the Dolphin Hotel for a dance on her 18th birthday in 1793. You can hold a banquet in the elegant Jane Austen suite and look out of what claim to be the largest Georgian bay windows in the country. We know that she also went to dances at The Vyne in Hampshire, with its exceptional Palladian staircase added by John Challoner Chute in the 1770s. Just the thing for an inspiring entrance! This year the National Trust’s restoration project allows you up the scaffolding for a unique view in the roof space, definitely not one Jane saw.

In 1800, Jane’s father retired and the family moved to the fashionable spa town of Bath. Visit Bath have a downloadable app that takes you on a tour of all the places Jane would have known and elegant Bath is still so little changed, I almost feel I should be wearing a bonnet [Click here to visit the tour]. No. 1 Royal Crescent is earlier and rather grander than the house the Austens lived in at 4 Sydney Place but the interiors are of the period unlike the ultra modern tourist flats in Sydney Place.


After her father’s death, the family eventually moved to a cottage in Chawton in Hampshire, now the Jane Austen House Museum, on the estate of her eldest brother Edward. Make your pilgrimage this year for an exhibition of 41 objects celebrating each year of Jane’s life and some early editions of the books. Brother Edward’s fine Tudor house is now home to The Centre for the Study of Early Women's Writing and the Chawton House Library, pop in there for a rare treat – a manuscript in Jane’s hand of a play the family may have used for their own theatricals.


Jane died in Winchester and is buried in Winchester Cathedral, her grave in the North Aisle is marked by a simple stone. It makes no mention of her writing, but two later memorials, a brass plaque and a window, do, so you can see how her fame grew after her death. I admit, I got a bit choked up standing here at the end of my pilgrimage.

 

Jane Austen in books

It’s a bit more of a challenge to find the real places on which Jane based the locations of her novels. London streets are pretty straightforward – go to Manchester Street where Frank Churchill lives in Emma, Bond Street where John Willoughby stalks Elinor Dashwood in Sense & Sensibility or Wimpole Street, where Maria Rushworth set up home in Mansfield Park and you can still just about recapture something of the 1800s.


The immortal scene in Pride & Prejudice where Elizabeth Bennet tours Pemberley with the house keeper before unexpectedly running into Mr Darcy, is a great example of what a buzz Jane herself may have got out of visiting country houses. Chatsworth, the most-likely model for Pemberley, is “a large, handsome, stone building standing well on rising ground” and in the novel the characters certainly discuss sampling “the celebrated beauties of Matlock, Chatsworth, Dovedale, or the Peak”. Book for the Pride & Prejudice Regency Ball at Chatsworth on 8th July to celebrate Pemberley. On her way to Derbyshire, Lizzie Bennet had already visited Blenheim Palace (Rosings Park was surely just as imposing as this), Warwick Castle and Kenilworth Castle. We know that Jane was at Kenilworth on a trip in 1806, visiting the ruined castle where Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester courted Elizabeth I. It looks like she visited Stoneleigh Abbey, because the chapel is the one “fitted up, as you see it, in James the Second's time” visited by Fanny Price with Mary Crawford and Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park.

Characters in other books also indulge in visiting country houses. The odious Mrs Elton makes sure that she impresses Emma with her connections and her culture “We explored to King's-Weston twice last summer, in that way, most delightfully”. King’s Weston near Bristol is the work of Sir John Vanbrugh, architect of Blenheim Palace. The house is not open but you can get married there and there is a great café and bistro in the basement with tables on the terrace. Jane may have travelled from Clifton where the family briefly lived after the death of her father in 1806. At the same time, she may have got to know Blaise Castle, a charming folly even if it does not quite have “towers and long galleries ..by dozens” as Henry Tilney promises the gullible Catherine in Northanger Abbey.


Another real location where you can book a wedding in Jane Austen style is Pynes House near Exeter, the probable model for Barton Park in Sense & Sensibility. Jane was in Devon in 1801 and 1802 on holiday, no doubt taking long walks just like Elinor & Marianne.


Jane’s brother Edward married Elizabeth Bridges and they spent their early married life living near her parents at Goodnestone in Kent. Jane certainly spent time there and to stroll in the wonderful gardens at Goodnestone today is to recapture a glimpse of Jane’s leisure time. She started writing Pride & Prejudice just after staying here in 1796, so I’m hoping for inspiration too.

Best of all, of course, are the Assembly Rooms in Bath which are a must-see for any Austen fan. Designed by John Wood the Younger, they opened in 1771. These are the Upper Rooms that Catherine Morland is so excited about visiting in Northanger Abbey. Assemblies here in the 1800s involved as many as 800 people meeting to dance, take tea, play cards, listen to musical performances or just promenade. Jane and her sister Cassandra would certainly have attended during the five years they lived in Bath but famously, Jane was disillusioned with Bath by this point in her life, perhaps because it was a bit of a marriage market. Today, the rooms are emptier but just as elegant and the Fashion Museum on the ground floor is an added bonus.

Other spots? Well you can always picnic on Box Hill in Surrey just like Emma; the National Trust have done a great job of protecting it. Or visit the village of Gretna Green on the Scottish border; Lydia and Wickham in Pride & Prejudice were supposedly heading here because over the border you could legally marry without parental consent. And I’m sure there are lots more which everyone else can tell me about or follow the link below for locations from some of the best film and TV adaptations.

JANE AUSTEN FILM AND TV LOCATIONS

Films have been made of Jane Austen’s novels since Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson starred in Pride & Prejudice in 1940. Pride & Prejudice lovers either favour the BBC mini-series from 1995 starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth in a wet shirt or the 1995 film version with Keira Knightly and Matthew McFadyen. Other popular versions are multi-award winning Sense & Sensibility of 1995 and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emma of 1996. Here are some of the filming locations to help you enjoy some Jane Austen moments of your own.

Basildon Park
The Ballroom at Netherfield Hall where Lizzie Bennet dances with Mr Darcy
Pride & Prejudice, BBC, 1995

Lyme Park
Pemberley and the lake where Mr Darcy gets wet
Pride & Prejudice, BBC, 1995

Lord Leycester Hospital, Warwick
Coaching inn where the Bennet sisters meet
Pride & Prejudice, BBC, 1995

Stourhead
Temple where Darcy proposes and is refused
Pride & Prejudice, Joe Wright, 2005

Chatsworth
Mr Darcy’s Pemberley
Pride & Prejudice, Joe Wright, 2005

Groombridge Place
The Bennet family’s home, Longbourn
Pride & Prejudice, Joe Wright, 2005

Burghley House
Rosings Park, home of the superior Lady Catherine de Burgh
Pride & Prejudice, Joe Wright, 2005

Wilton House
Pemberley’s interiors
Pride & Prejudice, Joe Wright, 2005 and the London Ballroom where Marianne meets Willoughby – Sense & Sensibility, Ang Lee, 1995

Saltram House, Devon
Norland Park, sadly quitted by the Dashwoods
Sense & Sensibility, Ang Lee, 1995

Montacute
Home of Mr & Mrs Palmer
Sense & Sensibility, Ang Lee, 1995

Mompesson House, Salisbury
Mrs Jennings’ London house
Sense & Sensibility, Ang Lee, 1995

Mapperton, Dorset
Randalls, Mrs Weston’s home
Emma, Douglas McGrath,1996

Syon House, Brentford
The library where Frank Churchill declares to Emma
Emma, Douglas McGrath,1996

Stratfield Saye, Hampshire
Mr Woodhouse’s dining room
Emma, Douglas McGrath,1996

Claydon House, Buckinghamshire
Donwell Abbey for the dance
Emma, Douglas McGrath,1996

 

 

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Mrs Hudson is a pseudonym. She is not related to Sherlock Holmes' landlady or housekeeper, the cook in Upstairs Downstairs or any other Hudson fictional or real. The dog is real but doesn't answer to Walpole.