Thursday 28 January 2010

With the Austens at Netley Abbey

The refrectory at Netley Abbey.
The main monastic buildings.

This was the Netley Abbey's hospital.

The abbey church looking east.

The remains of the south transept of the abbey church showing first floor galleries.

A recess to the right of the high altar. Water and wine would have been kept here to use during mass.

This doorway shows some of the changes William Paulette made to the structure when the abbey became his country home.

An architectural feature. A stone arch would have been supported by this pediment.

The west end of the abbey church showing the site of the high altar.

The pilgrims entrance. Travelers could call at this door and ask for food and water.

Arches leading from the cloisters to one of the side rooms.

The infirmery with gothic window and vaulted roof.

A window remains of William Paulettes great house.

Pilars and arches in the abbey church.

An intricate gothic stone window arch.

Netley Abbey is on the eastern outskirts of Southampton. Jane and her family often took a ferry from the Itchen River out into Southampton Water and were rowed two miles to Netley. The Isle of Wight was in view along Southampton Water, in the distance.

Writing to Cassandra ,who was staying with their brother, Edward, at Godmersham Park, from Castle Square on Monday 24th October 1808 she writes,

"We had a little water party yesterday; I and my two nephews (George and Edward came from Winchester School to stay with their Aunt Jane.Their mother, Edward's wife, having died)went from the Itchen Ferry up to Northam, where we landed, looked at the 74(A 74 gun battleship)and walked home, and it was so much enjoyed that I had intended to take them to Netley today; the tide was just right for our going immediately after noonshine, but I am afraid there will be rain; if we cannot get so far, however, we may perhaps go round from the ferry to the quay..."

Netley Abbey is a magificent ruin. It is a Cistercian monastery founded in 1239 by Peter des Roches who was Bishop of Winchester from 1205 to 1238.Wealthy clergy, like bishops and also rich Lords and knights, often founded churches and religious establishments because they thought it would put them in good stead with the almighty and help pave their way to heaven.

In 1536, during The Reformation, the abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII. Sir William Paulette, Henry's treasurer, turned it into a magnificent country home and estate.

When Jane visited the abbey it had become a romantic ruin. A significant amount of it's masonry had been taken to build local farms, barns and churches. Why so much still exists today is partly due to superstition. A local builder was removing masonry from one of the elegant arched windows in the abbey church when a large stone fell from on high and crushed him. Many people saw this as an omen and the taking of stone from Netley stopped.

Nowadays a lot of the shrubs , ivy and bushes that grew on and around the ruins in Jane's day are no longer there but the ruin itself is as it would have been in Jane's time.

If you ever get the opportunity, Netley Abbey is worth a visit. Why not have a picnic there as Jane and the Austens would have done. Choose a sunny Summers day though.
Here is an English heritage link to Netley Abbey.

Sunday 24 January 2010

Highbury and Hartfield, perhaps.

Mr Elliot, bachelor to begin with,  lived here, next to the church.
Mr Weston's House, Randalls.

Emma and Mr Woodhouse lived here.

The Martins family lived here.

Mrs Goddard's school

Part of Abbey Mill farm.

The mill.

Highbury church. So who got married here?

Shopping in Highbury.

The new BBC version of EMMA has been uppermost in a lot of Janeites minds just lately.

We all accept that Highbury is a fictitious place although Jane has it anchored geographically amongst some very real places, seven miles from Box Hill, sixteen miles from London, twelve miles from Richmond upon Thames and nine miles from Kingston upon Thames. A place called, Cobham, sends news of scarlet fever prevalent in it's town. Mr Knightley and Mr Martin are dispatched off to Kingston, Mr Churchill resides in far off Richmond while making visits to Highbury and they all go on an outing to Box Hill. By it's closeness to real places and its inhabitants going backwards and forewards between real places and Highbury, it is given a "reallity,"of it's own. It is the quintisential English town of the late 18th century, early 19th century.It has everything of that period, the great house down to the humble farm and cottage,and all the classes and types of people that populated an English town of that time with all their various roles.

Jane Austen used her experiences of  real places to help her create Highbury. Other places that she could draw on were Basingstoke, Alton, a town near Chawton that she knew intimately, Great Bookham, Leatherhead, Winchester, Southampton and Bath too.

If you visit those places today it easy to fall into the trap of picking existing buildings and sites that could have been an influence. As for the characters, human nature doesn't change much and there are always people to be found that can fit the mould.

I like to think that one place Jane knew and visited, often travelling through it and mentioned as an aside in Emma itself, as well as in her letters,could be a fitting model for Highbury .Cobham, is where they had," scarlet fever," so nobody was encouraged to visit.

Here are some pictures of Cobham today.
I haven't got pictures to fit every character's home but just outside of Cobham, tantalisingly about a mile distance froim the centre,  is Painshill Park and house, an 18th century landscaped garden with many, "follies,"in the grounds including a ruined abbey. Could these grounds and this house be Mr Knightly's home? Well, maybe not. After all, this whole message is about me, fantasising.
All the best,

PS Here's a link to Painshill Park. It's worth looking at. An 18th century dream.

Sunday 17 January 2010

Going to Alton with Jane.

An 18th century building in Alton.
The door to Henry's bank.

A plaque showing that this building was the site of Henry Austen's bank.

The main door to The Swan Inn.

Perhap Jane visited the bakers. It is now a pub but it's origins are in it's name.

Looking down the high street.

The north end of the High Street. The raised pavement shows the affluence of Alton. Raised pavements allowed finely dressed ladies to keep their long dresses free of the mud and mire of the road.They were expensive things to build. Only a wealthy market town could afford to build raised pavements. This pavement is in front of Henry's bank.

The Swan Inn. This was the main coaching inn in the town . Here coaches from London would stop. Jane may have used it's services.

Alton High Street two years ago in July.

A beautiful 18th century door. Perhaps Jane knocked on it to visit a friend.

The main church in Alton. Jane probably visited this church.

Jane's donkey carriage which she would ride in along Hampshire lanes.

Chawton, where Jane lived for the last ten years of her life, is two miles from the county town of Alton in Hampshire. Jane had many connections with Alton. She would walk there or ride in her donkey carriage to go shopping and visit family and friends. Her brother Henry opened a branch of his bank in Alton.
Writing to Caroline Austen, her niece and James's daughter, on Thursday 23rd January 1817, nearly two hundred years ago, she writes,
"I feel myself getting stronger than I was half a year ago, & can so perfectly well walk to Alton, or back again, without the slightest fatigue that I hope to be able to do both when the Summer comes."
Some of these places Jane would have known. There are many buildings surviving from her days.

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Janeites, where is this?

The undercliffe at Lyme Regis in Dorset. Jane Austen and her family often spent holidays at Lyme Regis. The steps on the Cobb at Lyme that Louisa was determined to leep from into Captain Wentworths arms. Disaster struck!!!!!!!!
A walk along the Cobb at Lyme. That,"black crooked finger."

Jane's birth and death

A window in the side of the church at Steventon where jane Austen's father was vicar.
A view of the side of Steventon Church. Jane Austen's tomb in the north aisle of Winchester Cathedral.
Another view showing the inscription on Jane Austen's tomb.
The house Jane died in.
This is the house Jane Austen died in. It is just outside the precincts of Winchester Cathedral. The house belonged to her doctor.
The front entrance to Winchester Cathedral.
This medieval face is to the left of the door leading into Steventon Church. Jane would have seen it often.
A cross roads in Steventon Village, Hampshire.
Steventon Church.
This is the grave of Jane's brother, James Austen, who took over as the vicar of Steventon when their father retired.

Some cottages in Steventon. As a baby Jane was sent to live with a family in the village. Women in the village would often act as wet nurses for Mrs Austen. It is sometimes sited as a reason for Jane's emotional distance from her mother. However, using wet nurses was a common practice at the time.
Jane Austen was born in Steventon near Basingstoke in Hampshire. She was the daughter of the vicar of Steventon. She probably thought she was destined to live in Steventon all her life. Some of her novels and all her early writing was done there. It was a shock to her and her sister Cassandra, when her father retired and decided to move the family to Bath. Jane had no choice in the matter.She only found out after the decision had been made.

In the last years of her life Jane Austen lived in Chawton in Hampshire. She was ill for at least a year before she died. Her sister, Cassandra, took her, in her last days, to live at her doctors house in Wichester, close to the precincts of Winchester Cathedral. She died in the home of her doctor on the 18th July 1817. She was 41 years old.

Nobody is absolutely sure of what she died of. It is generally thought, from descriptions of how she looked and felt, in family letters, that it was Addisons disease, which is nowadays treatable. Other theories point to a form of cancer called Hodgkins disease.

here are some pictures of Steventon village and church. Also some pictures of the house where Jane died and her grave in Winchester Cathedral.

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Jane in Southampton

The Dolphin Hotel, a short walk from Castle Square where Jane lived for a short while. Jane attended balls in the ballroom, situated on the first floor between the two bay windows. Netley Abbey just outside of Southampton. Jane and her family and friends would row along Southampton Water and have picnics in the grounds of this idyllic ruin.

The medieval walls of Southampton. Janes house in Castle Square, backed on to these walls.
The house she lived in is situated where the mock Tudor pub, The Bosun's Locker now stands.
The Bosun's Locker. Jane's house in Castle Square, stood on this site. Castle Square today.
A print of All Saints Church where Jane attanded services. Dr Mant, an eminent preacher, was the vicar at the time. Jane would have knew him well.The church was bombed in the war and demolished afterwards. A charity shop now stands on the site.

Jane Austen lived at Castle Square, Southampton, from 1806 to near the end of 1807. She lived in a house rented from the Marquis of Queensbury, with her mother, sister Cassandra, friend Martha Lloyd and her brother Frank's wife, for almost two years. She didn't write or edit any of her novels while living in Castle Square but all the evidence points to her enjoying her stay in Southampton more than she had ever done in Bath.Perhaps the impermanence of her stay in the house didn't lend itself to her being settled and secure enough to devote time to her novels. She did write a lot of letters while there and we have a detailed description of her time in Southampton.

Jane attended dances at the Dolphin Hotel, she visited the theater, attended church at All Saints, in the High Street, becoming friends with the vicar, Dr Mant.An insight into Jane's waspish temperament is that she used to tease Martha Lloyd about having an imagined affair with Dr Mant. He had been a respected headmaster in the town and was a respectable married man. She went on rowing trips on the River Itchen and had picnics at Netley Abbey.

Here are a few photographs of some of the sites mentioned in Jane's letters from Southampton. The house she lived in in Castle Square, no longer is standing. On the site is a pub called, The Bosun's Locker.