Tuesday 19 June 2018


The face of Jane Austen on the new statue in St Nicholas churchyard, Chawton.
To Cassandra Austen Thursday 6th June 1811.
“I had just left off writing and put on my things for walking to Alton, when Anna  and her friend Harriot called in their way thither, so we went together. Their business was to provide mourning, against the King’s death, and my mother has had a bombasin bought for her.-I am not sorry to be back again , for the young ladies had a great deal to do- and without much method in doing it.-“
To Cassandra Austen Sunday 24th January 1813
“ When my parcel is finished I shall walk with it to Alton. I believe Miss Benn will go with me.”
To Cassandra Austen Tuesday 9th February 1813
“ My cold has been an off and on cold almost ever since you went away , but never very bad; I increase it by walking out and cure it by staying within. On Saturday I went to Alton, and the high wind made it worse- but by keeping house ever since, it is almost gone.”
To Cassandra Austen Monday 9th September 1816
“Our day at Alton was very pleasant.”
I would like to reiterate that last sentiment. Yesterday, Sunday 17th June 2018, “our walk, to Alton was very pleasant.”

Caroline Jane Knight, the fifth great niece of Jane Austen and myself. I think I said, "lets make a face." But, we smiled instead.

Caroline Jane Knight is Jane Austen’s fifth great niece, descending from Jane’s brother Edward who took the name of Knight. Caroline launched the Jane Austen Foundation on April 16th 2014 in the Holywell Room of Oxford University. Her initial idea was to ask fans, writers, actors, producers and anybody who has profited from Jane Austen to donate money to support literacy programs in the country of donation and in the developing world. I first knew about this particular fund raising walk when Caroline posted  information about it on ,”Jane Austen and Her Regency World Facebook,” site. I have been writing about various aspects of Jane Austen for many years on my blog and other blogs. Having been a school teacher for over forty years, I know that good resources are necessary for teachers and pupils to develop  learning. My interest in Austen and my interest in education combined in this charity walk. Caroline set me up with a donation page and I advertised the page on my Facebook and on other sites. I had a great response from family and friends. Perhaps I was a little proactive in trawling through my e-mail list and firing off begging e-mails to all and sundry, but hey! what are e-mail addresses for? I hope everyone will still talk to me.

Some of the cards I was kindly given on the day.

The money donated will be used, in conjunction with an organisation called, Worldreader, to supply e-readers and a digital library for, Suhum MA Experimantal C School in Ghana. The project manager and class 3 teacher in the school is Michael Sem, and he will be seeing the implementation of this new technology.
 Ruth Sorby, from Worldreader, the organisation that Caroline has allied The Jane Austen Foundation to,  took part in the walk. We discussed the profound impact the readers will have on the children and teachers at the  Suhum school. Technology such as e-readers and digital libraries are some resources teachers can use from a whole range of teaching strategies. Where there are no books and there is not the teacher experience to use this technology, what is being provided will create an enormous leap in learning for these teachers and children. It is a very good cause to get involved in.

Ruth Sorby, from Worldreader and myself.

On the Sunday morning of the walk I arrived early because I had heard  a new statue  has been placed  in the graveyard of St Nicholas Church in Chawton. I wanted to see it and get a photograph. The rain had stopped and the cool clean air felt refreshing as I strode along the road from ,”The Greyfriar,” car park, next to Jane's cottage. It is a leafy walk along the old Gosport Road with some beautiful thatched and clay tiled cottages on the right, many with climbing roses and gardens brimming with hollihocks and geraniums. Beautiful examples of  English country gardens. Cars were pulling up in this stretch of road as I strode along and white flannelled individuals emerged to make their way to the cricket pitch nearby for a cricket match that day. I passed the flint walled primary school. Caroline was to later tell me that she herself had attended Chawton Primary School as a child. I admitted to her that I had always liked the thought of being a teacher there. Alas too late in life for me now. I arrived at St Nicholas close to the great house in Chawton where Caroline’s ancestors had lived. The statue of Jane stood on a pristine white stone plinth. It is dark bronze and shows Jane as a young woman. She is in motion with a twisting movement and a certain vitality in her body. A lady of action.  I took some pictures and hurried back down the Gosport Road  to see who else had arrived ready for the walk. Caroline and her father, Jeremy, were just pulling up in a car. They emerged both dressed in 18th century attire. Jeremy looking very smart in top hat and tails and Caroline in an elegant light blue silk gown, She wore an ostrich feather in her hair. I smiled and made myself known to them. Within minutes other people arrived, some in 18th century attire and some in their everyday attire. I was not the only one therefore. I wore  a polo shirt, trainers and walking trousers. Many knew each other already from contacts in the Jane Austen World but everybody was so welcoming and I think , during the morning, I had conversations with almost all the people on the walk. I was greeted warmly and in a very friendly fashion. Who was I this strange interloper?

Everybody gathering outside Jane's cottage in Chawton.

As we walked along I had a chat with Caroline and asked her how the Jane Austen Foundation came about. She told me about her youth and how she and  her family having to move out of Chawton Great House was a shock to her. She rejected her background and spent a few years trying to discover herself. She told me that for a while she lived in a flat over a jewelers shop in Wimbledon Village High Street. I know the jewelers. I live near Raynes Park at the bottom of the hill from Wimbledon Village.  Some time in the past we may have passed each other in the street. During this time she kept her illustrious ancestry a secret not telling anybody of her background. Caroline moved to Australia and became a successful business woman. Having met her, she has not only a great sense of humour and a warm effusive personality but she has a certain steeliness and determination about her. She has an aim for the Jane Austen Foundation and I can sense she will achieve it. 

The Foundation came about when her father, Jeremy, suggested she attend an Austen celebration for the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice in 2013. Caroline saw the power for good Jane’s legacy could achieve and she formulated an idea for the Foundation.

We are ready to start walking.

Walking to Alton along the Old Gosport Road from the cottage in Chawton was a relaxed affair. The distance to Alton is a mere two miles and we followed the route Jane and her family, neighbours and friends would have walked. Just the thought of walking in Jane’s footsteps has a certain frisson, a certain excitement about it. I spoke to a gentleman who introduced himself as ,”Lord Cheltenham,” but he was very sociable and amiable not withstanding. Sophie Andrews, the creator and editor of ,”Laughing With Lizzie,” and her friend, both elegantly dressed in Georgian attire, were understanding at my requests to pose for pictures.

This elegant young lady could almost be Jane herself visiting friends.

 Joana Starnes, author and editor of, “All Roads Lead To Pemberley,” put up with me imparting my meager Austen knowledge until I discovered her identity and realized that Joana is, by far, more knowledgeable about Austen than myself. 

A very nice American lady and her friend,part of our walking group,were discussing terms we use here in England, the use of ,"sorry," "mate,"" bloody hell," and so forth when a van drove past with the name,"Pratt," emblazoned on it and I blurted out, 
"there's another one." Yes, I did explain the meaning of, prat.

And on we walked.

Onwards we walked, and the rain stayed off. Jeremy Knight was active as we walked along approaching people who were walking past and suggesting they put money into his collection tin ,”for a very good cause.” He was so keen to empty the pockets of passersby, one gentleman, top hatted and wearing white breeches and tails, who I was walking along with at the time complained to me that Jeremy was too alert, too proactive and wasn’t giving him a chance. I started pointing out possible targets in the hope he would get to them before Jeremy. It was all a very pleasant and light hearted of course.

In top hat and tails.

Caroline had coerced a friend to film the walk. At one time during our march I spotted this gentleman, squatting next to a gate post, his gaze looking down between his legs at his camera resting on the ground. I presumed some terrible accident had occurred and intent on capturing every nuance of the day I approached to take a photograph of him in this twisted and bent position. Thoughts of getting an ambulance could come after, then suddenly I realized what he was doing was filming me photographing him from a low angle.

I will get the picture first.

Our destination in Alton was The Swan Inn. The Swan is an 18th century coaching inn and it was the place that coaches carrying mail around the country stopped at in Alton to deliver the mail to the local people. It was also where mail was collected from local people to be distributed around the country. Walking to The Swan was one of many reasons Jane Austen walked to Alton. She collected her mail and posted her own letters here.  Alton was also where she would shop and buy dress material and visit friends. When the Austens decided to leave Southampton, living in Alton was the first place they considered moving to before the cottage, provided by Jane’s brother Edward, was decided upon. Jane ‘s mother was tempted by an acceptable rent for a property in Alton.

Outside The Swan Inn in Alton. 
Jane writing from Southampton to Cassandra, on the 2nd October 1808, referred to her mother’s preferences. 
“ In general however she thinks much more of Alton,and; really expects to move there. Mrs Lyell’s 130 Guineas rent have made a great impression……….I depended upon Henry’s liking the Alton plan and; expect to hear of something perfectly unexceptionable there, through him.”

The cottage in Chawton must have been free of rent, as it was owned by Edward.That was the deciding factor I am sure.

While walking to Alton I  asked  Caroline what she thought about all the things that go on in the name of Jane Austen. I told her that I think Jane Austen is a great author and I  love reading her books. However, to me she is one author among many that I enjoy reading. For instance I think Virginia Woolf, who was so inventive and groundbreaking in her novels, is just as good a novelist.  Caroline thought I was making the mistake of thinking there was one Jane Austen. She said there are two, the author and family member and then there is the Jane Austen that has been created by film and TV. I think I agree with her. 

We entered the Swan Inn. The manager was very accommodating with so many people all of a sudden descending on his establishment. The ladies dressed in their wonderful costumes stood at the bar. Pump handles advertising, Old Speckled Hen, and ,Shepherd Neame, India Pale Ale, suggested  occupations as barmaids. Caroline insisted on buying us all a drink, mineral waters, tea or coffee, before we set off back to Chawton. 

Then, we were on our way back, retracing our steps. The weather remained kind to us and the journey back was just as amicable with much amiable company. One young lady dressed in a white gown emblazoned with lemons and golden tendrils of hair draping her lovely face like coiled springs related to me about her occupation as a ,”re-enactor,” and although today she was dressed as a Georgian lady her main occupation was as a Greek Goddess. Yes, I could see that, without a doubt. We talked museum education . Working with children in museums and galleries has always been an interest of mine.

Sophie Andrews, "Laughing With Lizzie," on the staircase in The Swan Inn.

With another finely dressed lady I discussed pensions and life after work.  This was something that is important in both our lives. She had a handsome dog with her that was dressed in the coat of an admiral of the Royal Navy with epaulettes and gold braid. On the way back from Alton the dog had changed its attire to that of a hussar.

Wearing his hussar outfit.

I spoke to Alison Larkin on the way to the Great House. She told me who she was and about her audio books, “The Complete Novels of Jane Austen .” One of the things that Alison personified and I noticed throughout the day was the enthusiasm and passion there is for Jane Austen among all these Janeites.  There is a love for her that is tangible

Alison Larkin, keen to advertise her audio readers.
Once back at Chawton we walked on to the Great House for the  final photo shoots, first at the Statue of Jane in St Nicholas’s churchyard. 

At the statue of Jane in the churchyard.

Also at the graves of Cassandra Austen, Jane’s mother and Cassandra Elizabeth Austen, Jane’s sister. 

Contemplating the graves of Cassandra Austen, mother and Cassandra Elizabeth Austen, sister.

 A final photo shoot in the hall.
As we exited the Great House onto the front steps Caroline announced that ,”today we have made, £2000.” A few whoops and hand clapping went on and smiles all round. Caroline’s parting shot to me as I drove past her and Alison Larkin on my way home was ,“Wear a top hat next year!” I replied, “I’ll think about it.”

 Jeremy and Caroline Knight


The Jane Austen Literary Foundation:   

" Jane and Me: My Austen Heritage," by Caroline Jane Knight

Alison Larkin

Sophie Andrews

Joana Starnes

Worldreader (Ruth Sorby)


  1. Hi Tony, how wonderful that you made the walk to Alton for the foundation. Sounds like a lovely experience. I seem to have missed you slightly, as I’d booked to do the Chawton Walking tour with Jane Hurst at 11, which was fascinating for sure. I had the chance to meet Caroline later, though, as I went to see her speech in the evening - did you attend her speech about her book? It was a fascinating insight into life in Chawton House from the perspective of a family member (as is her book). What did you think about the statue? About time Chawton had one in honour of Jane Austen!

    1. Hi Anna. Good to hear from you. I have left a comment recently on your blog. The statue is quite small. I think the size is just right because anything life size would be obtrusive in the churchyard.It shows Jane as a young woman and I think the statue has some life and action about it.A bit of Jane's personality or what we think she was like comes through. That is a shame we missed each other. It would have been very nice to have met you. At 11 o'clock, Caroline was buying us coffees and teas in The Swan. No I didn't stay for her talk in the evening but I spent some time walking along with her and she was keen to answer my questions. I promised I would post an article about the day, which of course I have. I will probably do the walk again next year. If you are interested, Caroline, will set you up with a sponsorship page next year I am sure for you. All the best to you and the family. Tony

  2. Tony, I cannot thank you enough for joining me on the Jane Austen Walk for Literacy and writing such a terrific article. You have taken some wonderful photos as well. The total we have raised is closer to £3,000 I think (we are still receiving donations now), a terrific result for our first walk. 100% of the money will be spent on e-readers and an e-library for the Suhum school in Ghana. This is the first of what we hope will become an annual event and I look forward to seeing you again next year in that top hat we talked about! Warm regards, Caroline

    1. Hi Caroline. It was lovely to meet you. I had a wonderful morning and really enjoyed it.A great group of people.I have already started looking at costume outfitters to get an idea of what is available!!!

  3. Hi Tony, it was wonderful to meet you on Sunday on the Walk for Literacy. Thank you for this interesting post as well and beautiful photos. I am currently working on the Foundation album about the events of JARW, would it be OK if I use some of your photos - with a credit to you, of course. Many thanks, Julia

  4. Hi Julia. It was lovely to meet you too. I had a great morning being with you all. Of course you can use my photographs.Tony

  5. Tony, what fun! And I'm glad the event raised a lot of money for e-readers. Had I been there, I might have walked in costume but with my trainers hidden by my skirt!

  6. Hi Jean. Yes it was good fun. Some lovely people. The total raised is continuing to rise. I think it is almost £3000 now. All the best, Tony