It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is one of Hampshire’s best known novelists. For those keen to link a love of literature with travelling, there are plenty of Austen-linked places in Hampshire (located in the South of England) to explore. Here are three of the essential haunts and homes of Jane Austen to add to your literary trail.
Jane Austen was born on 16th December 1775 at Steventon in Hampshire. Her father, the Reverend George Austen, was the local rector at Steventon church from 1765 to 1801, and Jane lived here until she was 25 years old.
Sadly, the Austen’s house in Steventon – the rectory – was demolished. The only surviving relic is an iron pump in a field, surrounded by railings, which is said to be a replacement of the wooden pump the Austen’s used. However, the church is still there and makes Steventon a definite stop on the Austen literary trail.
The exterior of the 12th century church where her father worked and which Jane and her family attended, hasn’t changed a great deal since their time. Inside you’ll find memorials to James Austen (Jane’s brother, who took over the rectorship from his father) and his family, plus their graves in the graveyard outside. There’s also a plaque dedicated to the memory and work of Jane herself. OS grid map reference: SU554.7
Jane lived with her family in the village of Chawton, near Alton, between 1809 and 1817. Her home here is renowned as being her ‘literary home,’ as it was here that she wrote her famous novels Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion, and revised and edited Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey before they were published.
The 17th century house where she lived at Chawton has been preserved and, since 1947, has been run privately by the Jane Austen Memorial Trust as Jane Austen’s House Museum. For true fans of her work it offers the chance to glimpse into her life and see the home and environment in which she worked and gained inspiration. If you want to explore her work in more detail, then there is also a reference library based at Chawton.
Jane Austen’s House Museum
Tel: 01420 83262
In early 1817, Jane’s health declined and she moved to Winchester on the recommendation of her doctor. Her final days were spent living at 8 College Street (now a private house) with her sister, Cassandra and it was there that she died, on the 18th July 1817. Her funeral was held in Winchester Cathedral and she was subsequently buried in the north aisle. Many Austen fans visit the cathedral to see Jane’s tomb. The original memorial inscription made no mention of her literary achievements. It simply says:
“In Memory of JANE AUSTEN, youngest daughter of the late Revd GEORGE AUSTEN, formerly Rector of Steventon in this County. She departed this Life on the 18th of July 1817, aged 41, after a long illness supported with the patience and the hopes of a Christian. The benevolence of her heart, the sweetness of her temper, and the extraordinary endowments of her mind obtained the regard of all who knew her and the warmest love of her intimate connections. Their grief is in proportion to their affection, they know their loss to be irreparable, but in their deepest affliction they are consoled by a firm though humble hope that her charity, devotion, faith and purity have rendered her soul acceptable in the sight of her REDEEMER.”
However, this lack of literary mention was re-addressed as time went on, and in 1972 a brass plaque was added:
“Jane Austen. Known to many by her writings, endeared to her family by the varied charms of her character and ennobled by her Christian faith and piety was born at Steventon in the County of Hants, December 16 1775 and buried in the Cathedral July 18 1817.’She openeth her mouth with wisdom and in her tongue is the law of kindness’.”
You can easily explore the cathedral yourself and see the memorials, but it’s also worth noting that the cathedral does offer pre-booked tours for groups of five or more, with one focusing entirely on Jane Austen.