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LUXURY ON LOCATION: Jane Austen's England
The books (and movies): Jane Austen's collected works
The Location: England
 
The streets of Bath were busy and I was inclined to proceed no further. My companion, a perfect gentleman of agreeable nature and benevolent countenance, confessed to no little fatigue himself. It was decided that our party should proceed to the Pump Room to partake of tea and scones; a most excellent end to the afternoon. "Are you OK, Hil?" said my husband, as he glanced apprehensively at what I'd just written in my diary. "I am in the best of health, how cordial of you to inquire." I said, reaching genteelly for another scone and a delicate dollop of jam.
 

pride and prejudice
pride and prejudice
jane austen house
chatsworth house
sense and sensibility, starring emma thompson and kate winslet
roman baths
the cobb at lyme regis

 
I was feeling a little fragile. My movements were mannered, my conversation uncharacteristically polite and I swore I would swoon if anyone suggested anything as unseemly as running for the bus. This was a clear case of chronic Austen-itis.
 
Jane Austen fever never seems to abate. From Oscar-winner Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, through to Emma Thomson's Sense and Sensibility and Keira Knightley's over-pronounced Pride and Prejudice pout, not to mention Bride and Prejudice, the Bollywood version; TV and film adaptations of Austen just go on and on. All of which means an ongoing interest in the places where the writer lived and set her novels.

"Oh, who can ever be tired of Bath?" Northanger Abbey, Chapter 10.

 
Jane Austen lived in Bath from 1801 until 1804, although like Anne Elliot, her heroine in Persuasion, she disliked it's "noise and glare". This glorious Georgian city with its elegant sandstone architecture hasn't changed much since she satirised the frivolous ways of its high society in Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. There was some slight bombing in World War II and there's the odd glass office block but its essence is pure Jane Austen.

You can almost here the horses' hooves clattering on the cobblestones. Most of the buildings she mentions are still there and both novels have scenes in the 18th century Pump Room, in Alfred Street. People still gather here to drink the tepid spa water and to view the impressive Roman Baths. The water is revolting but Devonshire cream tea is a must. You can soak up the regal atmosphere and be serenaded by a palm court trio, just as gossiping diners were in Austen's day.

The Austen family lived at 1 The Paragon and later at 4 Sydney Place, where a blue commemorative plaque will help you pick the right house. However, the real joy is to wander the streets alongside her fictitious characters. Camden Crescent, where Sir Walter Elliot lived; Laura Place, home of the haughty Dalrymples, and Union Street, where Anne Elliot and Caption Wentworth walked blissfully in love.

 
"The young people were all wild to see Lyme." Persuasion, Chapter 11

From Bath the Austen family often visited the seaside at Lyme Regis, Dorset. The stone jetty, known as The Cobb, is a famous literary landmark. Not only did Louisa Musgrove fall from here in Persuasion but John Fowles' French Lieutenant's Woman stood there staring out to sea.

In Bay Cottage, now a café at the west end of Marine Parade, were Captain Harville's rooms. This is where Louisa went to convalesce. On the cliff above the cottage a public garden commemorates Austen's association with Lyme. The town is also popular with fossil hunters (the first dinosaur skeleton discovery occurred nearby). Those staying overnight should take rooms at one of the small guest houses or bed and breakfasts. Try Harbour View or Cliff Cottage, both on Cobb Road, at about $40 a night.

 
"It seemed suprising to him that anyone could live in Devonshire without living in Dawlish." Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 6
 
When Edward Ferrars met Elinor Dashwood in Sense And Sensibility he thought that, as she lived in a cottage in Devon, she must live in Dawlish, the only village he knew. She lived in Barton, 6km north of Exeter. The Devonshire countryside, a mix of green hills and stark moorland, featured heavily in the film. The West Country, including Devon, Somerset and Cornwall, has long been a holiday favourite because of its mild climate, countryside and villages. Touring by car is the best way to get a feel of the country inhabited by the characters of Sense And Sensibility. Drive from Exeter, regional capital since Roman rule, to the town of Honiton which features in the novel and still has a high street lined with handsome Georgian houses.

 

"It is not the object of this work to give a description of Derbyshire... a small part of Derbyshire is all the present concern."  Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 42.
 
Most of Pride and Prejudice is set in Hertfordshire but it is Mr Darcy's legendary estate, Pemberley, near the Derbyshire village of Lambton, which fires the imagination. The estate had "some of the finest woods in the county" and the house, "a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground", is often thought to have been modelled on Chatsworth House.  Chatsworth, near the spa town of Matlock Bath, is one of England's grandest country houses. Built by various dukes over several generations, its 175 rooms are surrounded by hectares of parkland designed by Capability Brown. Admission is about $12.

"Our Chawton house how much we find, already in it to our mind." Jane Austen's letter to her brother Francis, 1809.

Jane Austen lived in more humble circumstances. Her fans cannot leave England without making a pilgrimage to Chawton, Hampshire. Austen moved here from Bath in 1809, soon after her father died.

Her home for most of the rest of her life, restored by the Jane Austen Memorial Trust, has been furnished in period pieces, and memorabilia includes extracts from her letters and manuscripts.

Austen wrote at a desk in the living room. She requested that the hinges of the living room door should not be oiled so she could have an early warning of interruptions. As tourists walk in, the door still creaks.

Jane Austen
Jane Austen

 

Luxury Listings:

Best properties: Some of England's most historic houses are owned by The National Trust. You can visit the following, used as film locations:

Pride and Prejudice: Belton House, Lincolnshire (as Lady Catherine de Bourgh's home, Rosings); Lyme Park, Cheshire (exterior of Darcy's house, Pemberley); Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire (interior); Lacock Village, Wiltshire (Meryton Village).

Sense and Sensibility: Saltram House, Devon (Dashwood family home); Montacute House, Somerset (Palmer's Cleveland estate); Mompesson House, Wiltshire (Mrs Jennings' home); Compton Castle, Devon (Mr Willoughby's home).

For more information write to The National Trust, PO Box 39, Bromley, Kent, BRI 3XL England, or phone + 81 315 1111.

Best map: VisitBritain publishes a movie map to help you find your way around the films and TV series shot there. Sense And Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice are included. Pick it up when you arrive in England.

Luxury Links:

Hilary Doling 31/3/10 Updated 28/2/2011

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