5 places every Jane Austen fan needs to visit in Hampshire
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Jane Austen spent most of her life in Hampshire; she was born in Steventon and lived in Southampton and Chawton between stints in Bath and Oxford. And finally, she was buried in Winchester Cathedral, where she remains to this day.
This is our guide to Jane Austen's Hampshire.
Jane was born in Stevenage and lived there for the first 25 years of her life, from 1775 to 1801. Her father was a rectory for 44 years at the church of St Nicholas, and as such, Jane and her family would visit the church to pray. The rectory where the Austens lived and Jane wrote some of her most famous work like Pride and Prejudice is unfortunately no longer standing as it was demolished around 1824.
Also, in Steventon, the young and impressionable Jane (then 20 years old) met Thomas Lefroy in December of 1795. For a month, Lefroy was a love interest of sorts; Jane noted in letters that they would talk and dance together and that he was a "very gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young man". However, this relationship was soon nipped in the bud and Lefroy was sent away in January 1796. Jane never saw Lefroy again, and it would seem that she never became enamoured by anyone else over the short years of her life.
In 1793, Jane Austen celebrated her 18th Birthday in one of the ballrooms at the famous Dolphin Hotel. Later, while living in Southampton, she also attended two dances at the venue according to diary entries from 1808 and 1809. The Dolphin Hotel is still operational today and has a function room named after the author.
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The house Jane Austen lived in during her stint in Southampton between 1807 and 1809 no longer stands but in its place is a pub called the Juniper Berry, so raise a glass and tuck into a hearty pub lunch in honour of the writer while in town.
Chawton House was inherited by Jane's older brother Edward in 1794 after a distant relative, Thomas Knight, died without any direct heirs. Jane would visit often, and in her letters, she would refer to it as the 'great house' and once proclaimed to have 'dawdled away an hour very comfortably' there.
You can visit the beautifully restored Chawton house to see where Jane would have dined, read and wandered the grounds. The property is also a hub dedicated to research into early women writers, so be sure to delve into any upcoming events to expand your knowledge on writers that history forgot!
In July 1809, Jane, Cassandra and their mother moved into Chawton Cottage after Edward insisted they take advantage of the fact that the property belonged to his inherited estate and that it would be a tremendously comfortable place for them to live.
At this point, the 33-year-old Jane was still unpublished, so the solitude and security of Chawton allowed her to revisit several drafts of works destined to become bestsellers; these were Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey.
As for works conceived at Chawton Cottage, Jane wrote Persuasion, Emma, Mansfield Park and parts of the unfinished novel Sanditon while living there before becoming too ill to continue working. Now the cottage is known as Jane Austen's House and is a fully functioning museum dedicated to the life and work of the iconic female writer.
After falling ill in early 1816 and a rapid decline the following year, Jane moved to Winchester in May 1817 to be closer to her doctor at the behest of her siblings Cassandra and Henry. During this time, she lived at number 8 College Street in Winchester, but by the 18th of July, after a painful battle with her illness, Jane passed away at the age of 41.
Jane is buried within Winchester Cathedral thanks to Henry's clerical connections. Her epitaph pays homage to the "extraordinary endowments of her mind" that continues to delight her readers year after year.