Sunday 18 December 2011

Remains of Jane's Steventon home.

During November this year some archaeologists and a few volunteers obtained a grant of £10,000 from The Heritage Lottery Fund to excavate the site of Jane Austen's first home and birthplace at Steventon, just south of Basingstoke in Hampshire.

It was demolished by her brother Edward Knight in 1823 when his son William Knight became the incumbent vicar of the parish. It needed a lot of repairs and it's location, at the bottom of the hill which leads up to St Nicholas Parish church, was a site prone to dampness and the occasional flooding. Edward had a new rectory built, not far away, on the opposite side of the road higher up on the side of the valley.

The site of the original rectory, where Jane started writing some of her most famous novels, can viewed from the junction of the main road leading through Steventon and the road leading up to St Nicholas's. It is a meadow with a couple of large oak trees situated near the main road. The remains of the pump that stood in the backyard of the original rectory can still be seen.

The archaeologists have found a considerable number of artefacts that tell us about life in the rectory. Many clay pipes have been found. Smoking must have been an important past time amongst the male members of the family.The Museum of London have a database of all the 18th century clay pipe makers in London. On the base of each pipe bowl where the tobacco was placed is usually found a stamp with the makers initials or emblem on. The archaeologists at Steventon should probably be able to find where Jane's brothers and father bought their clay pipes from. Jane may have smoked herself.Clay pipe smoking was popular amongst women in the 17th and 18th centurys.They got their tobacco from Virginia. I am sure snuff would have been inhaled on more formal occasions.(

Wine bottle necks were unearthed too. They obviously liked more than a glass of wine. Shards of earthenware pottery have been found.The pottery discovered might refer to certain types of food stored and eaten.As with the pipes,local makers might be identified.

Parts of the foundations of the rectory have been uncovered. This will give us a better insite into the construction methods, style of the house, ground plan and materials used in its construction. Until now we have only had two sketches of the house, which contradict each other.

Here is a link to an article about the excavation.


  1. Fascinating! I would love to hear about the developments in the excavation...can't wait!

    Somehow I can't picture Jane Austen with a pipe in her mouth, though a drink of wine sounds familiar...

    1. Hi Anna, HAPPY NEW YEAR.I know, I'm late.

      It's good to hear from you. How is the baby? Probably not a baby any longer.

      That thing about Jane smoking. I was making wild assumptions based on the archaeologists finding clay pipes on the site and the fact that women did smoke in the 18th century. I realise it is something that probably nobody has contemplated before.

      Just a thought. If you need some relaxation with the baby there are a couple of musical items and a dance item I have placed on my recent post. A good mate of mine is a singer songwriter and he's very good. You might find his voice soothing.

      All the very best,

  2. Happy New Year to you, too, Tony! I know I haven't been around much lately, what with the baby taking all my time... he's 3,5 months old now and still very demanding :) He just won't go to sleep... Let me check out your mate's music and see if that helps!

    It is possible that Jane did smoke. Funny how we never see any of her characters smoking pipes in any of the adaptations - I suppose it wouldn't make the heroes look sexy by modern standards.

    Have a great year!