Looking for Jane Austen’s Pemberley ~ Guest Post by Chris Sandrawich

Dear Readers: I welcome today my good friend Chris Sandrawich, who has posted here before on all things Jane Austen and the Regency world. This post on “Looking for Pemberley” was originally published in the JAS Midlands annual publications Transactions (No. 24, 2013), so I am honored to include it here on the blog where it might get a well-deserved wider readership. Chris’s usual insights and wit would, I believe, even delight our not-for-dull-elves Jane. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have – please comment below with any thoughts or questions you might have for Chris. [Please note that I have maintained Chris’s British spelling and punctuation!]

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Looking for Pemberley 

by Christopher Sandrawich

This article, in the nature of a ‘Quest’, is meant to half serious and half fun, and I apologise in advance for any difficulty in working out which half is which. It is a doomed quest because Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy along with Pemberley are all fictional and I apologise if any of your illusions have just been shattered. In “Looking for Pemberley” I was also diverted from this topic firstly by the River Trent and then by the Rutland Arms in Bakewell and so both will feature very largely in what I have to say.

I confess to being absolutely certain when I began this research that the popular choice of Chatsworth would not prove a very realistic proposition. However, I tried to keep an open mind. It fails primarily on economic grounds. Chatsworth is a palace, like Blenheim Palace or Warwick Castle. It is obviously the home of an aristocrat, with a very large income needed to run it. Our hero, Darcy is just plain “Mr”, but he is alluded to as someone who could be, “reasonably looked up to as one of the most illustrious personages in this land” by Mr Collins who likes to get his facts right, and so there is some room for doubt. We’ll see as this paper mirrors the trail of research I followed, that my view has, “been shifting about pretty much” like Elizabeth says in her explanation to Jane concerning her varying feelings about Wickham and Darcy. However, Jane Austen when creating her fiction had a perfect right to have none, one or a dozen gentlemen’s country homes in mind.

We have a few pointers on how Jane Austen found material for her novels. Gaye King, a former Chairman of The Jane Austen Society Midlands, discovered that Jane Austen stayed with her cousin the Rev Edward Cooper and his family, at Hamstall Ridware in Staffordshire, directly after visiting Stoneleigh Abbey. We can match

  • Colonel Brandon’s Delaford in Sense and Sensibility with the Parsonage at Hamstall Ridware,
  • Stoneleigh Abbey itself with Northanger Abbey and
  • Stoneleigh Abbey’s chapel with that described in Mansfield Park and found in Mr Rushworth’s country home Sotherton. The landscaper Repton is the only one mentioned in any of the books and he worked on Stoneleigh Abbey and is the landscaper suggested for Sotherton.

Also, we have character’s names. Anyone who has read Sense and Sensibility will be interested in hearing that in addition to Colonel Brandon’s Delaford with its great garden walls, dovecote and stewponds matching Edward Cooper’s Rectory we have people known to, or friends of, the Coopers: Ferrars spelt with two “e’s” but still with an ‘F’, Dashwood, Palmer, and Jennings. Also, the Austens would have passed through Middleton on their journey from Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire to Hamstall, and in addition Lord Middleton was a distant relation of Mrs Austen and she, herself, was named after the sister of the first Lord Middleton – Cassandra Willoughby. There we have six characters in the book straight off.

So Jane Austen has a proven track record, just like other novelists, of borrowing scenes and people from her memory when writing her novels and with the places mentioned above we have it on record that she visited them. Did our Jane go into Derbyshire? This is a good question and one which we will consider.

Rebecca


Rebecca may seem an odd place to start but I have my motives. Daphne du Maurier wrote Rebecca which was published in 1938 when she was in Alexandria, Egypt, where her husband was posted. What a lot of people do not know is that before she went to Egypt, Daphne du Maurier was travelling in Derbyshire with an Aunt, on her Father’s side, and she had sat up late one night in her hotel bedroom reading Pride and Prejudice.

When she joined her Aunt for breakfast next morning, just as coffee was being poured, she said, “Last night I dreamt I went to Pemberley again”, but her Aunt who was hard-of-hearing and had lived in the far east, replied, “What was that dear, Manderley?” thinking no doubt of the similarity with  the road to  Mandalay . . . . . . . and so one of the great opening lines of a novel was born, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”, and Daphne, borrowing a napkin from the maid, wrote it down there and then.

So we can see that the closeness in spelling, and the shape of the word, between Manderley and Pemberley is not just co-incidental after all. I owe this information to my Uncle Jim whose best friend Eric’s mother Edith was the very lady pouring the coffee and passing napkins as a maid in that very same hotel.

Now if you suggest that I have just made all this up, as indeed you might, then I may reply as did Pooh-Bah in the Mikado, “Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic veri-similitude to a bald and unconvincing narrative.” And I hope to avoid molten lead, as he was promised, for my pains.  I fully expect that if this news spreads far and wide that plaques on hotel walls all over Derbyshire will appear claiming they were the very hotel where Daphne stayed and that they have her copy of Pride and Prejudice left by the bedside to prove it. Just why I have been involving us all in a flight of fancy will hopefully become clear later. People make things up you know!

As I mentioned above Rebecca was published in 1938 and was then adapted for film in 1940.

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice was published two hundred years ago in 1813. Helen Jerome adapted it for the stage in 1935, and a Broadway musical First Impressions sprang from that. Helen Jerome’s adaptation was used again in 1940 for the film starring Laurence Olivier as Darcy, and a much too mature Greer Garson, as Elizabeth.

We won’t find Pemberley on a 1930’s Broadway stage and we can look in vain at the MGM film for it too. The nearest we get is an indoor scene were Bingley, distracted by his sister’s disparaging remarks about Jane and Elizabeth, plays a false shot and rips Darcy’s billiard table cloth. The whole room at Pemberley, as well as Meryton and Longbourn, were the product of the work of carpenters on MGM’s Hollywood studio lots. This adaptation did not even include the Gardiners.

TV Miniseries: Darcy and Elizabeth

After this film we have a glut of Television Miniseries appearing in the 1950’s and 1960’s (one in Italian and one by the Dutch which I shall skip over) and we do have interesting UK pairings for Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet:

  • 1952 Peter Cushing and Daphne Slater
  • 1958 Alan Badel and Jane Downs
  • 1967 Lewis Fiander and Celia Bannerman

Which, I believe, are all BBC productions: in those days ITV saw a limited audience for expensive to produce “costume-drama”, and as all the action on TV takes place in-doors we have no large buildings to show.

Peter Cushing photograph

We have not time to see them all but I could not resist finding a picture of Peter Cushing suitably dressed for his part of Darcy, which he would have played when 39 years of age.

Notable points emerging from the Outside

We are going to look at houses used in TV adaptations and in films. It will be interesting to compare the features presented by these choices with the novel’s description so when you view the houses try and put a mental tick against any point in favour of the house as a reliable model for Pemberley.

  • Pemberley stood on the opposite side of a valley when first seen
  • Large handsome stone building
  • Standing well on rising ground
  • Backed by a ridge of high woody hills
  • In front a stream of some natural importance (that) has swelled into greater
  • Without any artificial appearance
  • They descended the hill crossed the bridge and drove up to the front door

Notable points emerging from the Inside

Inside from a window Lizzy Bennet’s prospect was

  • The hill, crowned with wood from which they had descended receiving increased abruptness from the distance
  • The river, the trees scattered along its banks
  • The winding of the valley as far as she could trace

So, what we should be looking for is a house that matches as many of these ten key points as possible. Many of them only manage one, and we begin with:

Renishaw Hall

Renishaw Hall, in Derbyshire, was used as Pemberley for the 1980 BBC TV adaptation starring David Rintoul as Darcy and Elizabeth Garvie as Lizzy Bennet. The Sitwell fortune was made as colliery owners and ironmasters from the 17th to the 20th centuries, and Renishaw Hall has been the Sitwell family home for 350 years. The Bingley sisters can be as “sniffy” as they like about money arising ‘from trade’, and be hypocritical when doing it, but most of the aristocratic families had land and capital and they used old money for trade to make new money. The beautiful gardens you can see, including an Italianate garden, are open to the public.

Lyme Hall

Lyme Hall, Disley, is in Cheshire, and was used as Pemberley in the now quite famous 1995 BBC adaptation starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth (which lady can ever forget his wet shirt). The house is the largest in Cheshire and is now owned by the National Trust. It had been in the Leigh family’s possession from 1388 until 1948.

The clever angle of the TV camera, as the Gardiner’s carriage stops and Lizzy takes her first look at “Pemberley”, made the stretch of water in front of the house look as much like a river as possible but it is of course more accurately described as ‘a large pond’.

Wilton House

For the 2005 P&P Wilton House near Salisbury in Wiltshire was used for many of the interior scenes (photograph by John Goodall).

Wilton House is situated near Salisbury in Wiltshire. It has been the country seat of the Earls of Pembroke for over 400 years. Now when you look at this house you may be wondering in which Pride and Prejudice you have seen it. Well, you haven’t seen the outside view BUT when Elizabeth and the Gardiners go into Lyme Hall they are seen inside Wilton House instead. A typical illusion pulled off with ease by TV and filmmakers and unless you are familiar with these homes you might never know.

There is a clue to this “switch” for the very observant; when Elizabeth, at the front of the house, takes in the view outside from the window the “lake” has trees along its nearside whereas Lyme Park does not.

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House in Derbyshire is one of England’s most famous country homes and is owned by the Duke of Devonshire. Chatsworth was used as Pemberley in the 2005 film version starring Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy and Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet.

Chatsworth House in the 18th C

Chatsworth House in the 18th Century an oil painting by William Marlow (1740 – 1813)

This painting (by William Marlow) gets us as close to seeing how Chatsworth looked when the 6th Duke inherited Chatsworth in 1811. Earlier works show bare-headed hill tops behind and so you will notice that there has been a lot of tree planting on the higher ground. We can see that the terrain Chatsworth stands in seems more sharply rising than the others.

So is Chatsworth Pemberley? Well let’s take a closer look at the 6th Duke and remember that Chatsworth is not really a house at all but like Blenheim, it is a Palace. Could Darcy on only £10,000 yearly income (even if it was very likely more as Mrs Bennet cheerfully speculates) manage such a home? It is difficult if not impossible to imagine how this level of income compares to today’s standards as lifestyles have changed so much. If we look at the RPI then £10,000 looks like only £500,000 in today’s purchasing power but if instead we look at the growth in earnings then £10,000 gets close to £8,000,000 so you can see the difficulties. Take your pick, but if a Curate could manage on £50pa then £10,000 is relative wealth two centuries ago.

A popular myth these days is that Darcy was one of the richest people in England. Afraid not, if he was on only £10,000 yearly, Jane’s brother Edward, adopted by the Knight family, had an income of £15,000pa and mere farmers to be found everywhere could have incomes of £10,000 to £40,000pa.

Louis Simond a Frenchman living in New York with his English wife toured England in 1811 – 12 and wrote an interesting sharply observed journal, which is full of facts and figures. He quotes the value of farmland in England at the time as 40/- to 45/- an acre for rent. Now if you worked the land you were expecting a profit so an acre would actually yield a larger income than the rents.

William Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire (1790-1858) – Thomas Lawrence

The 6th Duke owned 3 houses in fashionable London and many great estates in England and one in Ireland with a combined size of 200,000 acres. In Derbyshire he had 83,000 acres. Now not all the Duke’s land would be useable farmland and he would have had hills, woods and boggy ground eating into his farming income. But let us not forget that his powerful ancestors were amongst the first-comers and all the estates were set in favourable local conditions; so an estimate of 50% of his lands being utilised for farming could actually be conservative. Taking the mid-value of Louis Simond’s range and this estimate of the 6th Duke’s farming lands we can estimate his income as over £200,000pa.

Having done this exercise it is most disappointing to find that the Duke’s income for the period was assessed as only £70,000 yearly. Donald Greene quotes this on page 316 and gives his source as David Cannadine’s book, “The Landowner as Millionaire: The Finances of the Dukes of Devonshire”. This £70,000 yearly, after various mortgages and jointures were paid, left him with only with “a clear” £26,000 pa. Where might the discrepancy be? After all, if only £70,000 is drawn from over 200,000 acres then we conclude that only one-sixth of the land was rented for farming leaving five-sixths unutilised which seems untenable as a proposition and seems very unlikely behaviour from a Duke encumbered with debts not to instruct his servants to maximise his farming income.

The Duke’s estates were large and widespread and he would have to rely on stewards and many others in the management of these estates, so I am reminded of the second of Mr Bennet’s remarks to Jane on her engagement to Bingley. “You are each of you so complying, that nothing will ever be resolved on; so easy, that every servant will cheat you; and so generous, that you will always exceed your income.” But “cheating” on this massive scale seems unlikely as well, as how could such a small group of servants disguise, hide or profit from this wealth without drawing attention to themselves. So for me the suggested shortfall in income remains a mystery.

Harewood House

Harewood House is near Leeds in West Yorkshire and it was built from 1759 to 1771 for wealthy trader Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood, and is still home to the Lascelles family. It was used as Pemberley in the ITV series “Lost in Austen” starring Jemima Roper as the ‘lost girl’ who eventually swops fates with Elizabeth, played by Gemma Arterton, and gets to marry Darcy played by Elliot Cowan. I personally really enjoyed the series, fanciful though it was.

How are your mental scores or ticks for the various houses going? Well we have run out of houses to look at as shown on TV and Film but we are still on our quest, and Chatsworth for me, is the only one we have seen which matches the novel’s description.

My next step is to look at the thoughts on “Where is Pemberley” amongst many eminent authors and scholars who were giving this subject a lot of thought in the 20th Century and who are now sadly no longer with us.

Elizabeth Jenkins

Elizabeth Jenkins died in 2010 aged 104, and she was a very distinguished novelist and historian and whose research for Jane Austen A Biography published in 1938 makes it still a very widely regarded work.

In 1958 she saw, in the Rutland Arms, Bakewell, a Notice making claims about Jane Austen staying in a room there whilst revising her novel Pride and Prejudice in 1811. She was “taken aback by these statements” and she could not get the author, Elizabeth Davie, who claimed the Bakewell: Official Guide, and by inference Mr V R Cockerton who wrote the introduction which Ms Davie quotes from pretty much word for word, as a reliable source for her claims, to retract them over exchanges lasting 6 or 7 years on and off. Elizabeth Jenkins never did get hold of a copy of the Bakewell Official Guide and in turn pursue Mr Cockerton, which is unfortunate as I have found all trails now run cold.

It is well worth mentioning that the latest Official Guide to Bakewell now says under a photo of the Rutland Hotel, and I quote, “William Wordsworth and J M W Turner were among the famous who visited the hotel. Jane Austen, contrary to popular story, did not; Pride and Prejudice was not written here and she is not known to have visited Derbyshire.” If you visit the Rutland Arms as I did only this year and enquire you will be confidently assured that Jane Austen stayed there and that there is a Notice about it that anyone can view. Hotel Staff do not know who wrote the notice, or that its original source was out-of-date editions of the Official Guide to Bakewell. They are further unaware that the same Guide now flatly refutes this assertion. They remain blissfully ignorant, but are very nice about it.

Getting back to the fifty year old dispute between Elizabeth Jenkins and Elizabeth Davie, the impasse reached led to Elizabeth Jenkins publishing an article in the JAS Report 1965 supported by the whole Jane Austen Society Committee rebutting the Notice’s claims saying they are entirely without foundation.

Strong stuff; but what exactly did the Notice say? Let’s look at the Rutland Arms.

Rutland Arms: Bakewell

Here is a side-view of the hotel in Bakewell called the Rutland Arms and it seems hardly likely to be the centre of a major literary controversy. Behind those walls we can find what the Notice says, and despite Elizabeth Jenkins best efforts it is still there?

The Notice was originally displayed right outside Bedroom No 2 (in the photo first find the door, then the window above; now go to the window on the left and you have Bedroom No 2). The Notice is now sited in the Reception area, and I write it out and put some stress on the contentious parts which will be discussed later:

In this room in the year 1811, Jane Austen revised the manuscript of her famous book “Pride and Prejudice”. It had been written in 1797, but Jane Austen who travelled in Derbyshire in 1811 chose to introduce the beauty spots of the Peak into her novel. The Rutland Arms Hotel was built in 1804, and while staying in this new and comfortable inn we have reason to believe that Miss Austen visited Chatsworth only three miles away and was so impressed by its beauty and grandeur that she made it the background for Pemberley, the home of the proud and handsome Mr Darcy hero of “Pride and Prejudice”.

 The small town of “Lambton” mentioned in the novel is easily identifiable as Bakewell, and any visitor driving thence to Chatsworth must immediately be struck by Miss Austen’s faithful portrayal of the scene  —— the “large handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground and backed by a ridge of woody hills”. There it is today, exactly as Jane Austen saw it all those long years ago.

Elizabeth Bennet heroine of the story had returned to the inn to dress for dinner, when the sound of the carriage drew her to the window. She saw a curricle driving up the street, undoubtedly Matlock Street, which these windows overlook, and presently she heard a quick foot upon the stair, the very staircase outside this door.

So, when visiting this hotel and staying in this room, remember that it is the scene of two of the most romantic passages in” Pride and Prejudice” and “Pride and Prejudice” must surely take its place among the most famous novels in the English Language.

Rutland Arms Brochure  

It is possibly all for the best that Elizabeth Jenkins did not see the new brochure, because there is more. In the 1960’s the inn was owned by Stretton’s Derby Brewers Ltd, but the last time I looked it was owned by David Donegan, a retired solicitor. The brochure says (and I could only see the on-line version as they were waiting for a fresh package from their printers), and hang onto your hats while I quote from it,

“The Rutland has played host to several celebrated guests in its long history. Jane Austen stayed here in 1811 while revising her novel ”Pride and Prejudice”, using her room as the background for two scenes in the book and engraving sketches in the glass, still visible today”

The idea that Jane Austen would etch something on the windows of an Inn I find simply startling, and wonder just how this new information has come to light since the original Official Guide and the Notice. It seems obvious that the Hotel have not read the current Official Guide or remember hearing from Elizabeth Jenkins.

Objections to the Notice

Elizabeth Jenkins attacked the Notice on three main issues:

[ 1 ] She recited all of the reasons already mentioned why a Palace like Chatsworth is outside Darcy’s league, although she conceded the similarities in appearance, but she counters that there are in England many other houses that are a reasonable  fit for ‘Pemberley’ too.

[ 2 ] Bakewell is NOT Lambton. A careful reading of the novel reveals that the Gardiners and Elizabeth are staying in Bakewell and when discussing their next step to visit Mrs Gardiner’s friends in Lambton they choose a route so as to see Pemberley on their way.

We will identify where Lambton, a fictitious Town might be later, but the novel indicates a three mile plus journey from Bakewell to Pemberley and then a five and a bit mile stretch to Lambton from there. We can have some fun at the Film and TV Adaptations’ expense now as some of them share this confusion between Bakewell and Lambton and the relative distances.

In the Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson film they neatly avoid all issues by omitting the Gardiners and the trip to Derbyshire altogether.

In the David Rintoul and Elizabeth Garvie TV Adaptation Lizzy is seen reading Jane’s letters revealing Lydia’s elopement while in their rooms at the Inn in Lambton and snatching up her hat and shawl she is seen running out of the room and then onto the approaches to Pemberley and into the House. This sequence gives the idea that this is no big deal and Elizabeth is only slightly breathless. Now I know that Elizabeth Bennet is fit, but five miles across undulating country – in the height of mid-summer – and encumbered with a long dress and petticoats and all the while clutching her letters! Suspend disbelief if you can.

This running is catching. In the Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth version we have the Gardiners already staying in Lambton, so the rationalé behind their visit to Pemberley no longer holds. But leaving that aside, when Mrs Gardiner mentions Lambton we see Darcy’s eyes light up and he describes how, when a young boy, he ran to the village green in Lambton to a tree by the smithy every day in the horse-chestnut season. I think that bit isn’t in the book because Jane Austen would reckon no boy of sense runs over ten miles daily to get conkers when he could get all he could carry within a few hundred yards of home. Unless, of course, stealing the village boys’ conkers was his aim.

In the Keira Knightley film version her Aunt and Uncle, from whom she was temporarily separated, inexplicably leave her behind at Pemberley, which seems excessively harsh treatment for not ‘keeping-up’. Lizzy refuses Darcy’s help with transport and says she’ll walk. She has never been to Lambton in her life let alone to Pemberley and to this part of Derbyshire but she boldly sets off across five miles of rough country beginning with crossing the Derwent and climbing out of the steep valley Chatsworth is in. The film shows her crossing fields and not following any path. Not only did she mystically pick exactly the right direction but without any roads or signposts to help she unerringly finds The Rose and Crown in a small town in the middle of nowhere.

Sorry, for the diversion, back to Elizabeth Jenkins and her next point.

[ 3 ] She consulted the foremost authority at that time on all things Austen, Dr R W Chapman at Oxford with the question of Austen touring Derbyshire. He replied, “no evidence that she was ever north of the Trent”.

That was enough for Elizabeth Jenkins but some other smaller details in the Notice took my eye and I’ll share them with you.

[ 4 ] Two of the most romantic scenes in the novel! Well I do not think so. Let’s have a look at Bedroom No 2 which is where the visits occur. The room is very small but it has to be this room as it is adjacent to the stairs, and it is believed to have been permanently connected to the room next along, from which it is now divided by doors, and used as a Reception Room. It will help if we mentally ignore the décor and remove the bed. I can also imagine the sucking in of breath over teeth for any builder asked to enlarge a room that has two outside walls, one wall leading onto a landing and the last wall being almost all chimney breast for the large fireplace downstairs which was there when the hotel was built. I asked. So by the time we put in a table large enough for six along with chairs it will look cramped in this half of the reception room. Of course, as Jane Austen was making it all up, and if using the Rutland Arms as her model, then all she had to do was ‘imagine’ it large enough.

In the novel it holds Elizabeth with her Aunt and Uncle, although Ms Davie clearly leaves out the Gardiners in her depiction, and when the curricle arrives it rapidly fills up, first with Darcy and his sister, Georgiana, and then Bingley who joins them afterwards. A fraught and tense introductory meeting, yes; but not the stuff of romance.

The only other meeting taking place would be when Jane’s letters about Lydia’s elopement with Wickham have upset Elizabeth, and Darcy unexpectedly arrives and gives what help and comfort he can until the Gardiners return. For most of the time Darcy and Elizabeth are both very much preoccupied and caught up in their private thoughts and concerns. Romantic? Hardly; when he leaves Elizabeth never expects to see Darcy again!

[ 5 ] She heard Darcy’s quick foot on the stairs. The novel does not mention this but it does with Bingley’s arrival, when it is “Bingley’s quick step was heard on the stairs.”

[ 6 ] My last problem with the Notice is over ‘line of sight’. Here we have a view from the window, which is not the one you saw at the side of the Rutland Arms as this window looks out of the front of the hotel. Elizabeth Davie has Lizzy Bennet noticing the curricle arriving, and it would help considerably if the street you can see outside was Matlock Street. The Devil is in the detail they say. The street outside, running towards the front of the hotel, is Rutland Square and that is definitely the one you take to get to Chatsworth House which is to the east of Bakewell. Matlock Street is the A6 running broadly north to south and, apart from the first few yards, it is well out of sight and bending away from the right-hand side of this window. Matlock Street unsurprisingly goes south to Matlock and getting further away from Chatsworth with every yard.

Now we must remember that Georgiana only arrived with a large party in time for a late breakfast and they arrive to see Elizabeth before dinner, so that means Georgiana has only had a brief time to eat, change and collect herself before getting into the curricle with her brother. It would be unreasonable to suppose that she would have wanted to go sightseeing, or take a detour. So for Elizabeth Davie to be right, and for Darcy’s curricle to be coming up Matlock Street, we must accept the unlikely premise that Darcy has completely lost his way within three miles of his birthplace and home.

By the by, there are etchings on the bottom three frames of glass but you cannot see them in this photograph, although they are visible to the naked eye. They looked random and of the “Kilroy was here” variety. None of them seem remotely connected to Jane Austen, and which one, or many, the Hotel Brochure has in mind as Jane Austen’s artwork is not known to the staff we asked.

There is a big danger that when finding a lot of Ms Davie’s statements failing to stand up to close scrutiny that we cast doubt over all of them. Without looking at anything else, and without any supporting evidence anyway, it is reasonable already to be inclined to disbelieve, or doubt, all the other assertions made by Elizabeth Davie. However, some of them may be true, but which ones?

When I first read Dr Chapman’s reply it struck me as an odd choice of words: to say that someone definitely did not cross a particular river. Other ideas came as I was considering the novel. It also seemed that the Gardiners and Elizabeth took an odd route from Meryton to Derbyshire.

Gardiner’s route to Derbyshire

Here is a diagram showing the major points mentioned as being included in their journey: Oxford, Blenheim, Warwick, Kenelworth, Birmingham and finally Chatsworth, and I’ve connected the dots to emphasise the directions taken as they zagged and zigged across England. Their journey has always struck me as odd even when we think of the large houses to view along the route: Blenheim Palace, Warwick Castle, Stoneleigh Abbey and eventually Chatsworth. Does the mention of Chatsworth in the novel, by the way, serve as a clue to Jane Austen wishing to disguise it’s modelling for Pemberley, or is she ruling it out by making clear that Pemberley and Chatsworth are two separate places? This is a good question without a satisfactory answer.

I digress; back to the odd journey. It’s the last lurch to Birmingham that always confused me. There is no stated reason to go there to view a large house, and it is unlikely that there was one. I found that I began to think again about R W Chapman’s remark and the importance given to the Trent, in conjunction with this journey.

Well what I found out about the River Trent surprised me. Two hundred years ago it was the natural boundary between the north and south of England. Also, “Trent” is a Gaelic word suggesting “severe flooding” and the crossing points for the Trent were by fords, except for a bridge, often in poor repair, at Burton. The other natural feature to add to the Trent’s sheer size and power is that the Trent like the Severn is tidal and has a “bore”; so twice a day there is a surging three to five foot wave coming upstream.

When I was researching for a talk on communications and I looked at how bad weather affected carriages I was struck by the utterance of one seasoned traveller:

“Give me a collision, a broken axle, and an overturn, a runaway team, a drunken coachman, snowstorms howling tempests . . . . . . . . . . but heaven preserve us from floods.”

And I wondered if the initial lurch west of nearly 70 miles to Oxfordshire and the last lurch mainly west of 20 miles to Birmingham was for no other reason than to put the travellers as far WEST as possible where the Trent would have the least amount of water flowing in it and be as far from the sea and the effects of the bore as possible. Jane Austen knew that her audience would expect any north-bound traveller to be wary of floods when crossing the Trent, and the usual way to avoid problems was to cross at Burton where there had been a bridge since, it is suggested, Roman times. Now First Impressions, the original name for Pride and Prejudice was first written in 1797 and so I looked for a reason why Jane Austen might think that the Gardiners would not wish to cross the Great Bridge at Burton which also means going from east to west as the Trent is flowing north at that point and so going to Birmingham would have been a much longer way around.

We should take note of the description given by a Mr Plot around 1700 of an ancient claim to distinction of the Great Bridge being, “the most notorious piece of work of a civil public building in the county or perhaps in England” and that the River Trent divided into three separate channels at Burton and the bridge had 34 arches spanning over 500 yards with water running through. It went in a series of curves as well. The Great Bridge must have been quite a sight.

Also owing to a sudden thaw on 10th February 1795 the Trent rose higher than it had been known before and no mail or wagon passed in or out of the town for two days. Many parts of the bridge were damaged and on Friday 13th February 1795 one of the arches fell in. The website British History On-line mentions regular floods at Burton and significantly has three occurring in the 1790’s. Now as the preceding one was 1771 and the next 1830, then we must assume these three mentions of floods were significant rather than just the regular minor seasonal flooding of the Trent that was just to be expected. Major floods in the 1790’s may have influenced Jane Austen’s thoughts about crossing the Trent at Burton and she might have been influenced by all these reports of difficulties and fairly negative news. Lots of large floods which would swamp the land around Burton and the bridge may have actually still been under on-going repair when she wrote her first drafts. Although these problems may well have diminished by the time Jane Austen revised the book for publishing over ten years later she may have felt there was no need to alter this part.

A Route Avoiding Burton?

As we have already mentioned Jane Austen together with her sister Cassandra and her Mother visited Jane’s cousin Edward Cooper Rector at St Michael and All Angels at Hamstall Ridware in Staffordshire. They had been staying in Stoneleigh Abbey with their relations the wealthy Leigh family, where they would have visited Kenilworth Castle and Warwick Castle, as both were only a few miles away. Their visit was made in 1806 and we know from her diaries that Edward Cooper’s Mother-in-law, Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys (a friend of Mrs Austen), visited in 1805 and her diaries show a tour was made into Derbyshire to see The Peak, Matlock and Dovedale. So, why not view Chatsworth while they were there?

Before we leap, as I did, to an instant conclusion that a repeat visit in the following year must have been made by the Austens and Coopers, I have Deidre le Faye to thank for the report that within one week of the Austens’ arrival all eight of the Cooper children went down with whooping cough. As their visit only lasted five weeks it seems unlikely that any such visit could have been managed unless they went straight away which is very unlikely. However, they had all the time they wished to talk about the earlier trip and discuss it with maps, magazines and books of reference. Jane Austen could have found out everything she needed to know about Chatsworth for her novel from the Coopers. This may well just be speculation but it seems more probable than just possible.

It also explains, to me at least, why the Gardiners took their route through Birmingham, which was at that time a noisy, dirty rapidly sprawling and major manufacturing centre and hardly a tourist attraction. However, if you come to it from Kenilworth it lines up with the road north through Lichfield to Hamstall Ridware and an easy crossing of the Trent, which is probably the way the Austens went. Jane Austen has a habit of using her practical experience to flavour her novels. She also knew how to get to Derbyshire from Hamstall by following the Cooper’s route north towards Uttoxeter and then Ashbourne and Debyshire.

For Elizabeth to get back at a rush following news of Lydia’s escapades and in the timings allowed by the novel and the relative speeds (8 mph in summer means the 150 or so miles would take just over 16 hours) of the carriages of the day with regular changes of horses and only one overnight stop they must have gone back by a more direct route and chanced the crossing of the River Trent at Burton. Look at me! Discussing a journey only ever made on paper!

Willersley Castle

Elizabeth Jenkins mentions during her long demolition job on the Notice that the Duke of Devonshire’s family had their own views on which house in the neighbourhood would be a good model for Pemberley. She says,”Sir William Makins has been told by Mary, Duchess of Devonshire, that in the Chatsworth neighbourhood it used to be said that Willersley, near Cromford, was the original of Pemberley.”

The Rev Mr R Ward who published one of the early 19th century Guides to the Peak of Derbyshire gave descriptions of both Chatsworth and Willersley Castle, and it is more than possible that Jane Austen would have had access to this guide, making a northern tour unnecessary. In The Rev Ward’s description of Willersley Castle he mentions the winding river at the front of the house – beyond it is seen a lawn on the farther side and on a very elevated part of which stands Willersley Castle, backed by high ground and wood. Ward then describes a stone bridge with three arches, and goes on to say that behind this and further to the east, rises a very elevated woody country.

Willersley Castle, which is now a Christian Guild Hotel, was built in the late 18th Century by the industrialist Sir Richard Arkwright. It is sited at Cromford on the River Derwent and stands on the slopes of “Wild Cat Tor” which is 400 feet above sea level. I found it interesting that the Wikipedia Page for Willersley Castle says he bought the estate from Thomas Hallet Hodges for £8,864 in 1782. However, the Wikipedia Page on Sir Richard Arkwright says he paid £20,000 to William Nightingale (Florence Nightingale’s father) in 1788. I’ve mentioned the inconsistency to Wikipedia ages ago but I can see no movement to correct either page. When I mentioned this curious discrepancy to the hotel staff they compounded the confusion by saying it was thought the land was sold by the 5th Duke of Devonshire.

When Sir Richard Arkwright died in 1792 he left £500,000, which at 5% interest on Government Securities would have generated an income of £25,000 pa. This puts him into Darcy’s league if a little better placed.

I have been to Willersley Castle and although many features are a good fit for Pemberley it has some drawbacks. It does not have a ‘picture gallery’ or a great staircase. If the house is viewed by carriage from the cliffs opposite then, without travelling many miles out of the way, there is no quick way down, other than a one-way plummet. There is also no way you can see the River Derwent from the ground floor of the Castle as the ground drops away quickly on a convex slope. But in a novel it doesn’t have to fit exactly, does it? Artistic licence?

Painting of Willersley Castle

When Kevin George, the General Manager at this hotel, supplied information he said this painting was the work of, “a chap called Whittle” and Thomas Whittle is the right period and this is his style – but I am no art expert – and I show it because it confirms what is possible with a little artistic licence because a painting or a book does not have to stick to facts if the artist does not wish to.

Where’s “Wild Cat Tor” gone? A physical feature you can see from miles away.

Donald Greene

It was at this point that I came across Donald Greene and found he had written an essay entitled, “The Original of Pemberley?” Donald Greene was aged 83 when he died in 1997 and he was a literary critic, English Professor and scholar of British literature particularly the eighteenth century period, and was a noted expert on Samuel Johnson. Greene was Canadian by birth and took his MA at University College London and seems to have spent his teaching and academic life at various American universities.

His essay demonstrates meticulous research and I found myself following in the footsteps of a master as he danced through the available information on this subject including what I have already seen from Elizabeth Jenkins and Elizabeth Davie. I do not have time to go through all that Donald Greene has to say, these are only selected highlights.

He agrees with the demolition job done by Elizabeth Jenkins on Elizabeth Davie, but points out that she said little about the claim that “The description of Pemberley is a faithful portrait of Chatsworth” and I agree with Donald Greene that this is “the acid test”.

The first item he establishes is that the fictitious name Lambton is in all probability Old Brampton, as it was then known, a village five miles east of Chatsworth. Now it is part of the urban sprawl to the west of the centre of Chesterfield but in 1812 it was a distinct and separate community.

As we can see from this map the road from Bakewell to Old Brampton takes us close to Chatsworth.

Donald Greene is not easily deflected from testing the narrative describing Pemberley against Chatsworth’s physical features. However, before we get into a comparison between Jane Austen’s description of Pemberley and its grounds I would like you to see an extract from the novel at the start of Chapter 43, as this description is all important, you need to have it fresh in your minds:

Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first appearance of Pemberley Woods with some perturbation; and when at length they turned in at the lodge, her spirits were in a high flutter.

The park was very large, and contained great variety of ground. They entered it in one of its lowest points, and drove for some time through a beautiful wood stretching over a wide extent.

Elizabeth’s mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view. They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!

They descended the hill, crossed the bridge, and drove to the door; and, while examining the nearer aspect of the house, all her apprehensions of meeting its owner returned. She dreaded lest the chambermaid had been mistaken. On applying to see the place, they were admitted into the hall; and Elizabeth, as they waited for the housekeeper, had leisure to wonder at her being where she was.

The housekeeper came; a respectable-looking elderly woman, much less fine, and more civil, than she had any notion of finding her. They followed her into the dining-parlour. It was a large, well-proportioned room, handsomely fitted up. Elizabeth, after slightly surveying it, went to a window to enjoy its prospect. The hill, crowned with wood, from which they had descended, receiving increased abruptness from the distance, was a beautiful object. Every disposition of the ground was good; and she looked on the whole scene — the river, the trees scattered on its banks, and the winding of the valley, as far as she could trace it — with delight.

Topography of Chatsworth

Greene suggests the actual route making use of detailed maps shown below. I will refer to key passages from the book and give you Greene’s remarks on the physical route. The correspondence is staggering, I assure you.

Chatsworth House with Hunting Tower (photograph by Paul Collins) used as Pemberley in the scenes for Joe Wright’s 2005 P&P

  • Novel: they turned in at the lodge. Greene: the lodge is still there – a substantial 18th C stone building called Beeley Lodge which is 350 feet above sea level.
  • Novel: They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley. Greene: The road (B6012) here rises 150 feet to the 500 foot level at a “spur” and the wood indeed does still cease at this point “A” affording an impressive view of Chatsworth across the valley
  • Novel: standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance Greene: The steep slopes behind the house are densely wooded and there are two unobtrusive weirs that effect this “swelling” of the River Derwent at that point.
  • Novel: They descended the hill, crossed the bridge, and drove to the door; Greene: The road does descend from this point to a lovely bridge built by James Paine in 1762 when the 4th Duke of Devonshire transformed Chatsworth by turning it to face the river instead of the hillside, and the entrance was then, as now, on the north.
  • Novel: On applying to see the place, they were admitted into the hall . . . . . .   The housekeeper came; . . . . . . . . . . . . . They followed her into the dining-parlour Greene: The ‘dining-parlour’ would have been what in the 19th Century was called the buffet room, the lower dining room or the morning room; it is now called the Lower Library, and is used by the present Duke and Duchess as their private sitting room.
  • We now have the prospect from a window
  • Novel: Elizabeth, after slightly surveying it, went to a window to enjoy its prospect. The hill, crowned with wood, from which they had descended, receiving increased abruptness from the distance, was a beautiful object. Every disposition of the ground was good; and she looked on the whole scene — the river, the trees scattered on its banks, and the winding of the valley, as far as she could trace it Greene: The windows of this room do face west, looking across the Derwent at the hill from which they had descended and the view or the river, trees and valley is exactly as Elizabeth describes.

There seems to be an exact match between Pemberley, as described through the eyes of the Gardiners and Elizabeth, with the actual layout and topography of Chatsworth’s grounds and Park. The description of what can be seen from inside the house, especially, does create the suspicion, a strong suspicion in my case, that Jane Austen actually saw, or closely questioned a keen observer who saw, what she describes through Elizabeth’s eyes. Therefore, we could conclude that Jane Austen, or someone she talked closely to, must have toured Chatsworth, but as nobody left any evidence, then we have no proof.

Wentworth Woodhouse

Wentworth Woodhouse is the largest private home in England, and with the longest frontage (606 feet long) or façade in Europe. At the 2013 JASNA AGM and Conference held at the end of September in Minneapolis with a theme devoted to Pride and Prejudice and all things Jane Austen, Professor Janine Barchus presented ideas on Wentworth Woodhouse being the model for Pemberley. It is a notion that has a lot going for it especially with the connection of names. It was owned by Earl Fitzwilliam and listed amongst his relations we have the D’Arcy’s an old aristocratic family from the north of England. However, I have my doubts based on geography. Wentworth Woodhouse is in Yorkshire, near Rotherham, and is therefore considerably more than 3 miles from Bakewell, and topography seems an issue again. Where is our rising ground, our stream in front, the thickly wooded hills steeply rising behind, a three-arched bridge to cross and finally stables to walk around the corner of the house from for Darcy to surprise his visitors on the lawn, these can all be looked for in vain. Then there is the question of size. Wentworth Woodhouse had a park of only 180 acres, although the Estate comprised an additional 15,000 acres. Pemberley has a Park ten miles around. As a circle this gives a diameter of just over three miles and an area of just over 5000 acres. If instead we made the Park square with edges 2.5 miles long the acreage becomes 4000 acres and still far too large for Wentworth Woodhouse. No Phaeton and pony required for a mere 180 acres which is just over a quarter of a square mile in area. So Wentworth Woodhouse is amongst the runners, but it is not my favourite.

Co-incidences and Similarities with Chatsworth

  • When Elizabeth replies to Mrs Gardiner’s suggestion that they visit Pemberley her reply is, “She must own that she was tired of great houses; after going over so many, she really had no pleasure in fine carpets and satin curtains”. As Elizabeth had just been to Blenheim Palace, Warwick Castle and we suppose Stoneleigh Abbey then this comment places Pemberley as being in the same class. Jane Austen was very familiar with the distinctions between a “Great House” and a superior gentleman’s residence. Pemberley contains a Picture Gallery and a Great Staircase which are typically found in “Great Houses”, and are found in Chatsworth.
  • When Elizabeth and her aunt return Georgiana’s visit they are shown into a saloon which might be the present Ante-Library (then the little dining room) at Chatsworth. Elizabeth is able to see a “prospect” of the Pemberley grounds not yet encountered, and the windows, “admitted a most refreshing view of the high woody hills, and of the beautiful oaks and Spanish chestnuts which were scattered over the intermediate lawn.” This room does look to the east, facing the hillside, and the trees described are still there.
  • It really would be easier to buy Chatsworth/Pemberley than to find similar ground and build another
  • Chatsworth has a large library that is the work of many generations
  • The Palladian stables are exactly where they need to be to have Darcy appear round the corner from them
  • They, Pemberley and Chatsworth, each have a park that is about ten miles around. There are very few houses in England with a Park that to go around you need a Phaeton and pony.
  • Pemberley has a Great Staircase and a Picture Gallery, which together with the 5000 acres of Park make it too grand to be just a “superior gentleman’s residence” and very few houses fit this description as well as Chatsworth
  • The route walked by the party fits the park and river at Chatsworth exactly.
  • It is often said that Jane Austen, who was an avid follower of the theatre and its performers’ careers, based the looks, at least, of Elizabeth Bennet on the slim, athletic and attractively dark-eyed Dorethea Jordan who was mistress to the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV. They had ten children and never married but they were all well looked after. So Dorothy Jordan rose from the lower-classes to fascinate one of the most illustrious personages in the land!
  • The 6th Duke was single, and “One of the most illustrious personages in this land” as described by Mr Collins in his letter to Mr Bennet. He was also the most eligible bachelor in England.
  • His father, the 5th Duke, had just died so he inherited in 1811
  • His father, the 5th Duke, was well known for having Georgiana and Elizabeth his wife and mistress living in the same house, Chatsworth. The two ladies apparently got along well for over twenty years of this, and could presumably tut tut to each other about illegitimate children appearing on all sides. However these French sounding goings on contrast well with Jane Austen giving Elizabeth the idea about her marriage to Darcy, when she fears that Lydia’s marriage to Wickham may have ruined its prospect, “But no such happy marriage could now teach the admiring multitude what connubial felicity really was” – Is this Jane Austen being typically ironic by comparing an idyllic marriage for the 6th Duke with the 5th Duke’s more complex arrangements?
  • The 6th Duke’s mother had died some years earlier, as had Lady Anne Darcy.
  • He had a sister called Georgiana
  • His mother’s maiden name was Fitzwilliam, and as mentioned above Earl Fitzwilliam lived 25 miles east of Chatsworth at Wentworth Woodhouse. Jane Austen characters again: Capt Wentworth from Persuasion and Emma Woodhouse the principal character in

Did Jane Austen look out of that Lower Library window?

Well, although I am now inclined to think there is good circumstantial evidence for the notion I have to concede that there is absolutely no proof at all, only conjecture.

So, does Pemberley equal Chatsworth after all?  I am more inclined to believe it is than when I started on this quest. We’ll never know for sure.

If only Jane Austen had etched something on the Duke of Devonshire’s windows in the Lower Library, as she was apparently prone to do!

Panoramic view of Chatsworth House and Park. An oil on canvas by Peter Tilemans (1684 – 1734) at the turn of the 17th/18th Century. Counting animals in the foreground shows the ideas of “picturesque” had not yet taken hold!

 

c2020 Jane Austen in Vermont, c2013 Chris Sandrawich

Jane Austen in The Midlands ~ the 2013 JASNA Tour to the UK ~ by Christopher Sandrawich

Gentle Readers: I welcome today Christopher Sandrawich with his post on the JASNA tour to the UK last July 2013. Part of last year’s trip took in the Midlands, and the Jane Austen Society Midlands hosted the group for a few days… Come join Chris as they trek about Hamtsall Ridware, Stoneleigh Abbey, Chatsworth, etc. and meet the likes of Edward Cooper, Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys, John Gisborn, William Wilberforce, and more …

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Jane Austen Society North America (JASNA) UK Tour 2013

Towards the end of 2012 Hugh Whittaker, Managing Director of Pathfinders, who was organising the JASNA tour of the UK asked David Selwyn for help in the Midlands. David directed him to me for assistance and I happily pledged the full and immediate support of The Jane Austen Society Midlands. I did this in the same way that a blank cheque is signed, and if I had been aware from the outset of the full count of time and energy that was to be spent I may have been less sanguine. However, our efforts were not only well received but it was a real pleasure to meet so many enthusiastic Jane Austen lovers from the other side of ‘the pond’. In a hot July under azure skies in the lovely countryside around Hamstall it was great to talk to such a diverse bunch of warm, friendly, and keenly interested Jane Austen devotees who, “just like us”, love her novels. Their most frequent question, however, was “Where is the air-conditioning?”

Whenever I think of Americans touring any part of Europe I show my age by fondly recalling the 1969 romantic comedy, “If it’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” which had as its premise the country-hopping approach of ‘Whirlwind Tours’ taking in as many cities and culture as possible in the time allowed. To see if in the intervening half-century our American visitors have adopted a more relaxed style let’s review their itinerary, or schedule, and find out:

  • Sunday 14th July: Arrive Heathrow, meet up and have dinner.
  • Monday 15th July: Coach to Stamford, and then Hamstall Ridware to hear a talk from JASM and then on to Buxton.
  • Tuesday 16th July: Trip to view Lyme Park and Longnor; then return to Buxton.
  • Wednesday 17th July: Visit Bakewell, then guided tour of Chatsworth House, meet JASM then back to Buxton.
  • Thursday 18th July: Travel to Stoneleigh Abbey (guided ‘Austen Tour’ of house and view Costume Exhibition) then on to Adlestrop before going to Winchester.
  • Friday 19th July: Walking tour of Winchester, coach to Steventon and St Nicholas Church and hear a talk on Steventon “Then and Now” before going to Chawton Village and private tours of the House and Library. In the evening meet Hampshire members of the Jane Austen Society. Hotel in Winchester.
  • Saturday 20th July: Ceremony at Jane Austen’s grave, Winchester Cathedral, followed by a walk to 8 College Street. Return to Chawton for the JAS AGM, then evensong at St Nicholas Church.
  • Sunday 21st July: Visit the Close of Salisbury Cathedral followed by a tour of Wilton House, Wiltshire. Journey to Bath via Lacock.
  • Monday 22nd July: Guided walking tour of Bath visiting houses where Jane Austen lived, the pump room, the Jane Austen Centre and the Assembly Rooms for tea.
  • Tuesday 23rd July: Free Day to explore Bath further. Attend a private Regency Supper with Austen-themed entertainment in an elegant Bath Townhouse.
  • Wednesday 24th July: Travel to Brighton and tour the Royal Pavilion. Explore the campgrounds used by the militia during the Napoleonic wars. Free time to explore Brighton then to a country-house hotel for farewell dinner.
  • Thursday 25th July: Transport to Gatwick or Heathrow or onto London for those extending their stay.

It all seems ‘helter-skelter’ enough!

I regret that this commentary’s structure on the JASNA tour is less of a narrative and more a series of lists, like the one above.

Meeting JASNA at Hamstall Ridware

shoulderofmuttonpub

Shoulder of Mutton Pub in Hamstall Ridware

Carol Taylor and I had arranged to meet their bus at the Shoulder of Mutton pub for refreshments, but they were delayed owing to a bizarre accident. A very large tractor and trailer ran into a ditch to avoid colliding head-on with their bus, and completely blocked the road. Anyone who has driven through those narrow country lanes can appreciate their bus driver’s reluctance to reverse for any distance. Through the use of mobile phones, help was requested and given, and after a further detour they disembarked finally, and headed inside making full use of the pub’s many facilities. They seemed pleased to have made it unharmed but were bemused by the absence of air-conditioning. Our explanations that England is seldom hot enough for long enough to warrant air-cooling, evoked a mild look of surprised consternation. In preparation we had organised a package of information for each of them which seems such a waste not to share with you in turn. Included in their package was an enlarged copy on heavy paper of Carol’s wonderful sketch of The Rectory which appears in Transactions Issue No 10 and which was very well received.

Staffordshire_UK_location_map_svg-wp

Stattfordshire, UK (Wikipedia)

I addressed the tour party and mentioned that there were several “Ridwares” in the area and this one is denoted as Hamstall Ridware. The place name comes from a Celtic word “Rhyd” meaning “Ford” and an Anglo Saxon word “Wara” meaning “Dwellers” and Hamstall Ridware is two miles north of a fording point across the River Trent. Also included (for them) was a photocopy of Edward Cooper’s likeness taken from Transactions Issue No 3 plus the following:

The Reverend Edward Cooper, first cousin to Jane Austen,
Rector of the Church of St Michael and All Angels, Hamstall Ridware

Cooper Portrait-JAHouse Museum

Portrait of Edward Cooper, by T. Barber (1819)
from the Jane Austen House Museum blog

  • Edward and Jane were cousins because their mothers were sisters and granddaughters of Theophilus Leigh of Adlestrop.
  • The Rev Cooper wrote evangelical and uncompromising sermons and he saw “eye to eye” with his Bishop, Henry Ryder.
  • Voltaire said that, “Anglican clergy had no major vice save avarice” and it seems even a friendly bishop had occasion to reprimand the Reverend Edward Cooper for keeping his curate, the Reverend John Riland, at Yoxall, on a miserly stipend.
  • For all Jane Austen’s seeming dislike of her cousin, and his letters of “cold comfort”, Edward Cooper made many good friends at Hamstall.  Even before he and his wife had moved up from Harpsden he had befriended Edward Riley who was to be his new neighbour.  By the summer of 1800, when his parents-in-law paid their first visit to Staffordshire, Cooper’s acquaintance had swelled to include the inhabitants of most of the great houses in the vicinity, as well as the clergymen of the many surrounding villages and several from the cathedral town of Lichfield, just eight miles distant.  Besides the fact that he was a well-educated man, Edward Cooper was very wealthy, having inherited the fortune of his grandfather, the goldsmith and banker, Gislingham Cooper; so he would have been quite at home among the local gentry.  He appears to have chosen his closest friends from among those of evangelical persuasion, some of whom had also met or were deeply interested in the life and work of Samuel Johnson.  These points may be of special interest to readers of Mansfield Park.
  • Adlestrop, a Cotswold Village, features the Manor House, Adlestrop Park, – which is a gothic mansion ‘improved’ by Repton – property of James Henry Leigh (the Leigh family had lots of ancestral lands). At the nearby Rectory lived the Reverend Thomas Leigh (Mrs Austen’s cousin) who on the death of his remote relative in 1806, the Honorary Mary Leigh, went to Stoneleigh Abbey in the company of Mrs George Austen with her daughters Cassandra and Jane. After the family interests were settled the Austen’s visited Hamstall Ridware and the Coopers in the late summer of 1806 and stayed about five weeks.

Adlestrop Park (astoft) and Adlestrop House – formerly the Rectory (geographUK)

  •  The proximity of church, rectory and manor house could not have escaped Jane Austen’s notice. The river and the stewponds immediately beyond the churchyard could prefigure Delaford in Sense and Sensibility. Left out of the novel is the tower, originally an outlook tower, now preserved as a ‘folly’.
  • Also, we have Sense and Sensibility character names with people known to, or friends of, the Coopers: Ferrars, spelt with two “e’s” but still with an ‘F’, Dashwood, Palmer and Jennings. Also, the Austens would have passed through Middleton on their journey from Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire to Hamstall, and in addition Lord Middleton was a distant relation of Mrs Austen and she, herself, was named after the sister of the first Lord Middleton – Cassandra Willoughby.

StoneleighAbbey-wp
Stoneleigh Abbey, Warwickshire (Wikipedia) 

  • Stoneleigh Abbey was maintained and added to over time by the wealth of the Leigh family and has an odd mix of styles: it has an Elizabethan East Wing, an 18th Century West Wing and a 14th Century Gate House. Its rooms are altogether lighter and more colourful than one might expect – and one can easily imagine Catherine Morland having to swallow her disappointment at the shortage of Gothic Horrors.
  • Just how far we can go to claiming that Stoneleigh Abbey as the model for Northanger Abbey is aided by the existence of a now concealed staircase leading from the stable yard that might have been the model for Henry Tilney to ascend and surprise Catherine when she was seeking Mrs Tilney’s bedroom.
  • What is more credible is the chapel at Stoneleigh Abbey being the model for the chapel at Sotherton Court in Mansfield Park. From the vantage point of the chapel balcony one sees, “the profusion of mahogany and the crimson velvet cushions appearing over the ledge of the family balcony above” and as Fanny Price noted, “no aisles, no inscription, no banners.”
  • Despite all of this the wall-plaque at Stoneleigh Abbey misspells the Austen name!
  • John and Millicent Gisborne were close friends of Edward Cooper.  They lived at Holly Bush, a beautiful and commodious house at Newborough in Needwood Forest, just two miles from Hamstall and a mile from Yoxall Lodge, the home of John’s older brother.  A deeply religious man, John Gisborne shared with Edward Cooper more than their evangelical persuasion.  They read the same books, Edward Cooper sometimes guiding his friend in the choice of reading matter and discussing it with him during long walks in the forest.  The younger Gisborne had inherited from his mother a keen interest in botany, which he pursued with unabated vigour all his life, corresponding with most of the leading botanists of the day.  He married the step-daughter of Erasmus Darwin. (Scientist, inventor, poet, and physician at Lichfield, Darwin was co-founder of the Lunar Society in Birmingham.  The experiments, discoveries and inventions of this group of men did much to advance the industrial revolution in England.)  Darwin’s own interest in botany, and the many thoughts his own experiments and discoveries gave rise to, he put into verse in his much-celebrated, sometimes controversial Botanic Garden, which Mrs. Lybbe Powys mentions in her journal.  Darwin’s son-in-law, John Gisborne, wrote two poems which won him some acclaim.  They are partly a celebration of Nature, but, as in the poetry of his brother, Erasmus Darwin, and of William Cowper, the poet so much loved by the Evangelicals, he reveals the extent to which his peaceful contemplation in the wild led to reflection on greater issues.  Among those that are mentioned in John Gisborne’s Vales of Weaver is the subject of Catherine the Great, whose ‘wickedness’ included the enslavement of the Poles.  Gisborne, contrasts the Empress of Russia with “Immortal Washington … Saviour of his Country, the Supporter of Freedom, and the Benefactor of Mankind.”
  • Slavery was almost an obsession with Edward Cooper’s friends at that time, and small wonder, for William Wilberforce had
    William Wilberforce

    William Wilberforce

    spent many an autumn with the Gisbornes at Yoxall Lodge engaged in abolition work.  He and Gisborne had been at Cambridge together and had shared much companionable conversation late into the night.  However, they had parted company after graduation and only resumed contact when Gisborne heard that Wilberforce had taken up the issue of the slave trade in the House of Commons.  He promptly wrote to Wilberforce: “I have been as busy in town as a member of Parliament preparing himself to maintain the Abolition of the Slave Trade, and no doubt much more usefully employed.  I shall expect to read in the newspapers of your being carbonaded by West Indian planters, barbecued by African merchants, and eaten by Guinea captains; but do not be daunted for – I will write your epitaph.”  And Wilberforce was soon taking advantage of Gisborne’s quiet haven in the forest, where he and Mrs. Gisborne’s brother worked on the vast quantity of evidence on the slave trade, so as to become fully conversant with it and thereby strengthen their arguments.  For much of the day they would work uninterrupted in an upper room, eating little, only coming down to walk in the forest for a half hour before dinner.  There Gisborne would hear his friend’s melodious voice far away among the trees.

[Ed. There is a blog on John Gisborn [is there a blog on everything?] as well as a Brief Memoir  ]

  • On one such visit Wilberforce did take time off to accompany Gisborne to Etruria to call on Josiah Wedgwood who had manufactured a jasper-ware cameo depicting a slave in chains and the words: “Am I not a man and a brother.” Had they not the anti-slavery interest in common Gisborne would have met Wedgwood through his sister-in-law. Millicent Gisborne’s step-father, Erasmus Darwin was family doctor and friend to Wedgwood, another member of the Lunar Society.

Wedgwood-slavery-BM

Josiah Wedgwood – Anti-Slavery Medallion – 1787 – British Museum

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In preparing these notes I have taken extracts from:

1.  King, Gaye.Edward Cooper’s Domain.” JASM Transactions 10 (1999)
2.  Poucher, Neil. “Jane Austen in the Midlands.” JASM Transactions 6 (1995)
3.  King, Gaye. “Jane Austen’s Staffordshire Cousin: Edward Cooper and His Circle.” Persuasions 15 (1993): 252-59.

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The poem Adlestrop by Edward Thomas (1878-1917)

Yes, I remember Adlestrop –
The name because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop – only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

I had included this poem, not only because it is both evocative and beautiful, and suitable reading on a hot English summer’s day, but because through the name, Adlestrop, we have the Theophilus Leigh connection as well as the connections with Edward Cooper’s parish and finally, JASNA were actually to go there as part of their itinerary on this tour. Nevertheless, I was still asked why it was included!

********************

A copy of the memorial to the Reverend Edward Cooper, with notes

IN A VAULT NEAR THIS SPOT ARE DEPOSITED
THE REMAINS OF
THE REV. EDWARD COOPER
WHO, FOR UPWARDS OF 30 YEARS WAS RECTOR
OF THIS PARISH, AND FOR MANY YEARS OF
THE ADJOINING PARISH OF YOXALL ALSO;
IN BOTH WHICH PLACES, (AS A FAITHFUL
MINISTER OF CHRIST,
AND ENDEARED TO ALL HIS PARISHIONERS,)
HE DISCHARGED, WITH UNREMITTING ZEAL,
THE DUTIES OF HIS SACRED OFFICE

HE WAS THE ONLY SON
OF THE REV. EDWARD COOPER L.L.D.
VICAR OF SONNING, BERKS &c. AND PREBENDARY
OF BATH AND WELLS; AND OF JANE HIS WIFE,
GRANDAUGHTER OF THEOPHILUS LEIGH ESQ
OF ADDLESTROP, IN THE COUNTY OF GLOUCESTER
HE WAS FORMERLEY
FELLOW OF ALL SOULS COLLEGE, OXFORD
HE WAS FATHER ALSO.
HE DEPARTED THIS LIFE, ON 26 DAY OF FEB 1833
IN THE 63rd YEAR OF HIS AGE.

“HE   BEING DEAD YET SPEAKETH”

WITHIN THE SAME VAULT ALSO REPOSE THE
REMAINS OF CAROLINE ISABELLA, HIS WIDOW,
ONLY DAUGHTER OF PHILIP LYBBE POWYS, ESQ
OF HARDWICK HOUSE IN THE COUNTY OF OXFORD,
SHE DIED IN THE 63rd YEAR OF HER AGE.

THIS TABLET WAS ERECTED BY THEIR   EIGHT SURVIVING
CHILDREN, AS A TRIBUTE OF
GRATEFUL AFFECTION, AND RESPECT,
TO THE MEMORY OF THEIR
DEEPLY LAMENTED, AND MUCH BELOVED
PARENTS

 

On her visit to her cousin Edward Cooper, in the summer of 1806, Jane Austen would have been familiar with the Church of St Michael and All Angels, Hamstall Ridware. The historic church, dating in part from the 12th Century, stands beside the Rectory on the beautiful site overlooking the River Blythe.

St_Michael's_Church,_Hamstall_Ridware-wp

St Michael and All Angels, Hamstall Ridware (Wikipedia)

This memorial on the east wall of the north aisle of his Church, reveals Edward Cooper’s connection with the Leighs of Adlestrop. The Jane Austen Society Midlands provided funds to have the tablet cleaned and the letters re-blacked. On Sunday, 16th August, 1998 one of the two hymns written by Edward Cooper was sung when the retiring vicar, the Revd, F Finch, rededicated the memorial.

************

Passages from the Diaries of Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys (Caroline Powys
(1738 – 1817)) of Hardwick House AD 1756 – 1808.
Collated with notes by Emily J Climenson in 1899*.

powys-austenonly
Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys (austenonly)

Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys and Jane Austen were contemporaries and this alone makes her diaries fascinating; however, she has another claim on our interest. She was an old friend of Mrs George Austen and her only daughter, Caroline, married Mrs Austen’s nephew, the Reverend Edward Cooper. A point to note is that “Lybbe” is one of Caroline’s husband’s given names, or Christian names as they were then known, and NOT part of his surname. [To avoid confusion please visit: The Persistence of a Genealogy Error, The Evidence, and What Really Happened at the Powys-Lybbe ancestry sitehttp://www.tim.ukpub.net/jane_austen_soc/index.html ]

Hardwick_House-geograph_org_uk_-wpHardwick House is in Whitchurch, near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. In 1909 Hardwick House was bought by Charles Day Rose, and they are both said to be models for “Toad of Toad Hall” although there are other claimants for E H Shepard’s and Kenneth Grahame’s inspirations. In the diaries of Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys there is an entry for Jan 1776, when Jane was less than a month old, which gives first hand information on Oxfordshire, England of the time.

“The most severe frost in my memory began January 7th and lasted till February 2nd. It began to snow about two in the morning as we were returning from a ball at Southcote, and kept snowing for twelve days, tho’ none fell in quantities after the first three days, but from the inconvenience from that on the ground was soon very great, as strong north-east winds blew it up in many places twelve or thirteen foot deep, so that numbers of our cottagers on the common were oblig’d to dig their ways out, and then hedges, gates and stiles being invisible, and all the hollow ways levelled, it was with vast difficulty the poor men could get to the village to buy bread; water they had none, but melted snow for a long time – and wood could not be found – a more particular distress in Oxfordshire, as our poor have always plenty of firing for little trouble.

She goes on to describe the trials and tribulations generally but specifically mentions,

“Two hundred and seventeen men were employed on the Oxford Turnpike between Nettlebed and Benton to cut a road for carriages, but then a chaise could not go with a pair of horses, and very dangerous like driving on glass. A wagon loaded with a family’s goods from London was overturned, a deal of damage done to china &c, but ‘tis astonishing any one would venture to send goods is such a time, or venture themselves”

Several ideas occur on reading this. They kept late hours when going to a dance. The “inclosures” of the commons had not started or reached that part of Oxfordshire yet. The British are never ready for snow – no matter what sort, how much or how little – or when. However, when snow brought England to a silent halt and so most journeys were planned for the summer, in Russia the converse applied as travelling in summer on muddy byways with bogged down carriages was impossible, but the winter snow with sleds made travel for pleasure and business not only possible, but quick and easy. Jane Austen loved Shakespeare and my favourite quotation comes from Hamlet, “Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so”, and snow provides a wonderful example of why this is true. The English look out on the freshly fallen deep drifts and say, “Bother! We are stuck inside” the Russians look out and say, “Great! We can go somewhere!” (In Russian, of course!)

The diary entries that mention the Coopers or Hamstall Ridware are as follows:

14th March 1793: was the day our dear Caroline was married to Mr Cooper, son of the late Dr Cooper, of Sonning, Berks, a match that gave all her friends the highest satisfaction, as there cannot be a more worthy young man. We had all intended to have the ceremony perform’d in London, but found some difficulties about residence, parish, &c., so are determin’d to have it at Fawley; so sent to our son Thomas not to come up, but to meet us there, with Phil and Louisa. I was so affected by the loss of my dear girl (who till latterly I had never parted with for even one night) that I dreaded how I would behave at the time. They all persuaded me not to go with her; so her father, Mr Cooper, and herself went to Fawley the day before, and the ceremony was over before any but our own family knew that it was to be performed there. And Tom, who had been all the week before in parties in our large neighbourhood, was afterwards complimented at keeping a secret even better than a lady! As soon as it was over, Mr Powys and Tom set off for London, and Phil and Louisa for Hardwick, the bride and groom for Sonning.

27th October 1794: Our dear Caroline brought to bed of a son

3rd December 1794: Edward Philip Cooper was christened at Harpsden Church (Mr Cooper then in holy orders, was curate at Harpsden for the Rev Thomas Leigh, rector who was non-resident). My mother, Mr Powys, Mrs Williams and Mr Henry Austen, sponsors. He had been half-christened before.

2nd February 1795: On the 11th managed to drive to Harpsden to see my Caroline, as we had never met since the 23rd December.

25th February 1795 the Fast: My brother being in residence at Bristol, our son, Mr Cooper, preach’d. The frost had lasted eleven weeks on the fast-day.

29th November 1795: Our dear Caroline brought to bed of a daughter, Isabella Mary.   

1st January 1796: At the christening of Isabella Mary (Cooper), at Harpsden, myself and Mrs Leigh godmothers, Dr Powys godfather. Stayed to dinner and supper; not home till two in the morning. Weather very different from last year; quite mild, had no frosts but high winds and rain.

6th July 1796: Stayed with Caroline, Mr Cooper being gone to London to meet his brother, Captain Williams, who soon after had the honour of being knighted by his Majesty for his gallant behaviour at sea.

27th March 1797: Caroline and Cooper went to London to Sir Thomas Williams, to see his new ship, the Endymion, launched                

24th May 1797: Caroline (Cooper) brought to bed of a girl (Cassandra)

7th July 1797: Cassandra Louisa’s christening at Harpsden Church. Mrs Austen and my daughter Louisa godmothers. Dr Isham godfather.

19th December 1797: I went to Harpsden. Mr Powys and Tom went to Bletchingdon Park to shoot, and were robbed by a highwayman only four miles from Henley, on the Oxford Road, just at three o’clock. We hear the poor man was drowned the week after, by trying to escape, (after having robbed a carriage), through some water which was very deep. He behaved civilly, and seemed as he said, greatly distress’d.

23rd December 1797: Edward drove Caroline and myself to Reading in the tandem.

29th January 1798: The Gentlemen’s Club. Caroline and I met the Fawley Court family at the Henley play. All the gentlemen came to the farce; a very full house, and better performers than one could have imagined. “The Jew” and “The Poor Soldier”. The company put £100 into the Henley Bank to answer any demands upon them, and as a surety of their good behaviour. Rather unusual for strollers in general.

14th August 1798: . . .At Canterbury . . . . We were so alarm’d for our dear Cooper (This happened at Newport, Isle of Wight) whose health had been so bad for some time, and who was one of the most affectionate of brothers, that we were quite miserable, and wrote immediately to Caroline that, if they the least wished it, we would return immediately after we received their next letter, and, as that must be some days coming, we were greatly distress’d and hardly knew how to manage, as the very next day had been some time fixed on for us all to set out for our intended tour through the Isle of Thanet;. . . . . . . .

21st August 1798: . . . . . . I had received a letter from Caroline to insist on our not shortening the time of our return, as his (Cooper’s) health was tolerable . . . . . . .

25th August 1798: I could not resist adding this description of what Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys as hostess for her bachelor brother-in-law the Dean of Canterbury provided for dinner for Prince William of Gloucester, nephew of George III, when he visited Kent in the summer of 1798. On this Saturday they sat down fourteen at a table to eat: Salmon Trout Soles, Fricando of Veal, Vegetable Pudding, Raised Giblet Pie, Chickens, Muffin Pudding, Ham, Curry of Rabbits Soup, Preserve of Olives, Open Tart Syllabub, Haunch of Venison, Three Larded Sweetbreads, Raised Jelly, Maccaroni, Peas, Potatoes, Buttered Lobster, Baskets of Pastry, Goose, Custards.

30th January 1799: Went from Hardwick, to stay with Caroline, while Cooper went into Staffordshire to see his living at Hamstall Ridware, that Mrs Leigh (from the Leighs of Addlestrop, Gloucestershire, and Stoneleigh, Warwickshire. Cooper’s mother was a Miss Leigh) had just been so kind as to present him to. The roads were so bad with snow and frost, we were obliged to go round by Caversham, but got safe to Harpsden to dinner.

1st February 1799: It continued snowing, and was so deep we were much alarmed for Cooper on his journey, as he had promised to write; but the Oxford mail had been stopped that day, a circumstance that had not happened for thirteen years.

3rd February 1799: Snow continued, but we were happy in having a letter from Cooper to say he was got safe back to Oxford, having been forced to walk many miles, and hoped by the same method he might be able to get home the next evening. There was no church on the Sunday at Harpsden or Fawley, as no one could get to either. The icicles on the trees hanging down was a most beautiful sight, when the sun shone on them.

4th February 1799: A hard frost. Cooper came by the Oxford stage.

23rd September 1799: Caroline and Cooper went to his new living in Staffordshire for a few days to furnish the house; the four children and two maids came to us. They had been staying the week at the Hall’s, Harpsden Court, previously. .Sunday September 13th was to me one of the most melancholy days I ever experienced, as it was to part me and my dearest Caroline, who was to set off the next day for Staffordshire; and as Mr Cooper was to do duty at Henley Church that day for Mr Townsend, he thought it best they should all lay at Henley, to make the separation less dismal. They would not stay to breakfast, but set off as soon as they got up. The dear little children stay’d till after morning church, and not knowing or feeling any of the anxiety that we did, seem’d perfectly astonished to see us shed tears, and that we did not feel equal pleasure with themselves at the idea of their journey.

7th July 1800:  . . . . . . . From hence we went to dinner at Lichfield, where Mr Cooper sent a servant to meet us, with the key of a gentlemen’s grounds, going through which shortened our way to Hamstall Ridware, where we got to tea. Cooper had walked about a mile from their house on our arrival, at which our dear Caroline ran out to meet us; but after so many months’ absence, she and myself were so overcome, that strangers might have supposed it a parting scene, instead of a most joyful meeting; but my sorrow was soon turned to its contrast, to find them all so well, and pleasantly situated.

9th July 1800: In the evening we went a trout-fishing on the Blythe, a river running at the bottom of a meadow before their house.

10th July 1800: Walk’d up the village to Smith’s the weaver, to see the manner of that work, and ‘tis really curious to see with what astonishing velocity they threw the shuttle. (Power-looms were not introduced till 1807; the shuttle was then thrown, and batten worked by hand.) Hamstall Ridware Church is a rectory dedicated to St Michael, a very neat old spire building of stone, having two side aisles, chancel &c., and makes a magnificent appearance as a village church.

21st July 1800: That evening we all walk’d up to Farmer Cox’s, a very fine high situation, and most extensive views; indeed the prospect all round Hamstall is delightful.

22nd July 1800: We took a long hot walk to the village of Murry, to see a tape manufactury, of which seven gentlemen of the neighbourhood are proprietors. The noise of the machinery is hardly to be borne, tho’ the workpeople told us they themselves hardly heard the noise! Such is use! The calendering part is worth observation, as the tapes all go through the floor of an upper room, and when you go down to the apartment under it, you see them all coming through the ceiling, perfectly smooth and glossy, where the women take them, and roll them in the pieces as we buy them at the haberdasher’s, whereas in the upper room they all looked tumbled and dirty.

28th July 1800:  We all set out early in the morn to see Shuckborough, Mr Anson’s, and Hagley, Lord Curzon’s. We went through Blythberry and Coulton, the latter a village rather remarkable for many of its cottages being built in a marl-pit with woods over it, the roots of its trees growing and hanging loosely over their little gardens, which are deck’d with all manner of flowers, and kept with the greatest neatness.

12th August 1800: All our party went a trout-fishing, but the heat was so intense it was hardly bearable. 

13th August 1800: Mr Cooper and Mr Powys, went to the assizes at Stafford. On their return they entertain’d us with a droll copy of verses on Lord Stafford’s picture being hung up in the town-hall in 1800:-  

“With happy contrivance to honour his chief,
Jack treats his old friend as he treats an old sheep
But with proper respect to the garter and Star,
Instead of the gallows he’s hung at the bar
To remove from this county so foul a disgrace,
Take down the old Peer, and hang Jack in his place”

[Jack is a Mr Sparrow] – [Ed.  Is this perchance a Johnny Depp sighting in 1800?]

14th August 1800:  I walked down to the river Blithe by seven in the morn to see Caroline and the three eldest children bathe, which they did most mornings, having put up a dressing house on the bank.

18th August 1800:  We all passed a dull gloomy day, the following one being upon fixed for leaving our dear relatives. We reached Fawley on Wednesday the 20th by seven o’clock.

7th January 1801: Caroline Cooper was brought to bed of a boy (on my birthday). He was christened Frederick Leigh Cooper.

3rd May 1801:  Our son Cooper preached, as Caroline, himself, and family came to stay with us the week before.

27th May 1801:  The Coopers, to our inexpressible grief, set out with their five dear children to Staffordshire.                                                                                                                                                         

 12th August 1802: After breakfast we set out thro’ Coventry by Kenilworth to Lichfield, where we dined, and reached Hamstall by tea-time, finding all the family (Coopers) perfectly well . . . . . . . . . we returned to Fawley on September 9th

2nd August 1803:  Mr Powys and I set out for our son Cooper’s in Staffordshire, and reached Hamstall on the 3rd about six. Had the inexpressible joy to see Cooper, Caroline, and their six dear children in perfect health.

5th March 1805: Our grandson Warren Cooper, born.

12th August 1805: Mr Powys and myself set off for our son Cooper’s in Staffordshire. We hired a post-chaise for the time at a guinea a week, of Hicks, coachmaker in the Fair Mile (at Henley on Thames)

 14th August 1805: We went out most mornings and evenings in the two donkey-chaises – very clever vehicles indeed. Caroline drove one, and little Edward was so pleased at being postillion to grandmamma, that. Though I sometimes drove myself, he most days rode my donkey, the carriages only holding one person each.

Monday the 26th had been for some time fixed on for us to go to Matlock and Dove Dale. We set out a party of seven; we went through Blithbury and Abbots Bromley. We got to the Rev Mr Stubbs’ at Uttoxeter by half-past one, who asked us to dine with him. We went to see the church, rather an extraordinary one, very ancient, and the pews so oddly managed (This was the case at Shiplake Church, Oxon, before the restoration of 1870. The seats in the first pews in the chancel had to be lifted up to admit persons to the seats behind.) as three or four go through each other, and so narrow that, if those belonging to the outward ones happen to come first, without they are the most slender persons, it’s impossible to pass each other. Caroline and myself, who are not so could not help laughing and saying it was lucky we did not belong to this church . . . . . . . 

September 1805: Mr Powys and myself left Hamstall, to return to Fawley. A dismal parting as usual 

[Note: A criticism often levelled at Jane Austen’s writing is that topical events of the time get little or no mention. Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys was an inveterate diarist and in her earlier entries there is mention of Nelson’s father whom she met in the late 1790’s but Nelson’s greatest victory which cost him his life is not mentioned at all in the collation of her diary entries prepared by Emily J Climenson. This important victory was such a decisive action in the wars against France and Spain, and we can only speculate on reasons why The Battle of Trafalgar 21st October 1805 is not mentioned even in passing. Mrs Lybbe Powys was a close friend of Mrs Cassandra Austen, and Edward Cooper was first cousin not only to Jane Austen but to Charles and Francis Austen who were Captains in the Royal Navy, and Francis was actually in Nelson’s Fleet but missed the action as he was away in the Mediterranean sent for fresh fruit and water. So as well as the interest this had to the nation, Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys had these added personal connections, but it still doesn’t impact on her everyday life so that it rates a mention in her diary? Does the absence of world affairs in Austen’s novels reflect a similar parochial view on life in England at that time, or alternatively does it just reflect the manners and interests of the time? “A woman’s place?”]

14th July 1807: Cooper, Caroline, their eight children, Mrs Morse the governess, and two servants came from Staffordshire to Hardwick 

31st July 1807: Mr Powys and myself went to Hardwick to see the Coopers; the children in high spirits with their five Hardwick cousins, so only saw thirteen together, as Tom’s were not there. The Coopers came to us afterwards. 

1st October 1807: Our dear Caroline Cooper and children set off for Staffordshire.

************* 

Extracts taken from the diaries of Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys and any notes I have added appear “not in italics”.

The visiting party asked many questions and this completed the information exchanges at Hamstall Ridware, although the Reverend Ty Leyland had also organised talks on the history and architecture of the church and its locality, which were also listened to with great interest.

Chatsworth-wp
Chatsworth = ?Pemberley (Wikipedia)

Hil Robinson and I met the party again at Buxton later that day for dinner and conversation. Later in the week Jack and Jan Barber (with Hil and I again) met their party at Chatsworth for cream tea in the Palladian Stables (not a horse in sight) and I entertained the gathered party with my views on whether Chatsworth was in Jane Austen’s mind as the model for Pemberley. This has featured as a talk at our own AGM and my ideas are set out in full elsewhere in Transactions. [Ed. This talk will be posted here once it is published in JASM’s Transactions, so stay tuned….]

The Jane Austen Society Midlands was thanked most warmly for their company and for sharing views on all things Austen with the Jane Austen Society of North America tour party.

Chris Sandrawich, July 2013

*******************

Thank you Chris for this informative [and entertaining!] post on all things Jane Austen and the Midlands – I am, as always, green with Envy!  I have travelled quite a bit in the UK, but alas! not much in the Midlands … one of these days! I am inspired to read all of Caroline Powys’ diaries [albeit noting that Deirdre Le Faye in Jane Austen’s Letters advises caution in using these often inaccurate diaries edited by Climenson], but (in following Jane Austen’s own criticisms) Edward Cooper’s sermons, maybe not so much…

Update: please see the comment below from Ron Dunning re: the Tylney-Long connection – I include here his genealogy chart:

Jane Austen – Catherine Tylney-Long

c2014, Jane Austen in Vermont; text by Chris Sandrawich; images as noted.

Guest Post: Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing at the Courtyard Theatre, by Chris Sandrawich

Gentle Readers: I have posted previously a review of Shakespeare’s Richard III, a review written by Chris Sandrawich of the JAS-Midlands Branch in the UK [ you can read this review here], and I welcome Chris back today with his review of another play in this year’s World Shakespeare Festival. This festival has been an outstanding, stunning event, and because I live Here [and alas! have not seen a single one] and Chris lives There, I am most pleased to have him share his witty and brilliant analysis of the plays he has attended… [the delay in posting entirely my fault – blaming this like everything else on Moving…] – so herewith, without further ado and with my heartfelt Thanks, is Chris on Much Ado About Nothing.

[image: Courtyard Theatre, Stratford – wikipedia]

Much Ado About Nothing at The Courtyard Theatre on 9th August 2012.

Driving south and approaching Stratford we felt an element of sadness that this Play was to be our penultimate visit in the series of six that we had booked and this one would be the only play showing at The Courtyard Theatre.

Getting there in good time is a must for car-parking in Stratford and as we strolled in good time into the paved courtyard space dividing the theatre building from the road the first signs of an Indian influence and a different flavour to the evening were evident as an impending “assault on our senses.” There was a caterwauling of car horns, bangs and shrieks layered with sitars, tablas, as well as western drum kits and reed instruments too varied for my limited musical ear to distinguish which ones, all emerging as a wall of sound from inside the theatre proper. The whiff of spices and burning joss-sticks made me feel once again that I was in my youthful days of the South Kensington of our swinging sixties. The aromas were doing their best but any olfaction was losing against an off-putting drift of a zephyr sufficiently persistent to ruin the overall effect of “something in the air” on what was, for this very wet unseasonable season, a beautifully rare azure skied summer’s evening. Directly in the centre stood a man with a tray selling freshly baked pakoras and samosas, and although we had eaten earlier they seemed too tempting to resist. Just like Oscar Wilde we can resist anything except temptation and gave in gratefully.  We sat on a bench to one side and enjoying the evening sunshine ate these delicious starters. The fascination of the British with Indian food is now remarkably well-entrenched for something which was so negligible it did not exist when I was born in the baby-boom. The relationship of the British with the subcontinent had run for over two centuries without much of an encroachment of curries into a land of roast beef and three veg. At the time I was ushered into the world there were only three, very expensively posh, London West End, Indian restaurants (or so I am informed) and all essentially serving food to those who had been in the Armed Forces based in India or who had lived through the days of the Raj. Even at half my present years, there were easily more fish and chip shops than all the rest put together, and any Briton wanting a taste of the East went to a Chinese Restaurant. Now, and nobody is quite sure why, except that Indian food tastes great, two-thirds of all restaurants are Indian (over 10,000) and they serve over two and a half million customers a week generating a yearly turnover of well over £3 Billion pa. The taste of India is here to stay. Of course, when the British say “Indian food” they include without any discrimination indigenous Pakistani foods, especially Balti dishes. Neither is there any great distinction between the types of Indian food originating in India which varies as does the availability of foodstuffs and spices determined by the sea, forests, plains and mountains that are nearby and the endless variety of cultural and regional differences. From the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to West Bengal these thirty-three distinctively different types of Indian Cuisine (see Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_cuisine) are all merged into an “Indian” for the mostly unknowing but very ‘hungry for a curry’ British. We, the British, do have very cosmopolitan tastes these days. To somebody of my parents’ generation such a description of the amounts of Indian food consumed in these Islands would have seemed as far-fetched as landing a one-ton atomic-powered vehicle on Mars which can motor up a 3000 metre high mountain and which sends back pictures, performs experiments and tests rock samples remotely with a laser gun. Or as the bizarre and outlandish events of seeing in the same wet English summer a winner of the Tour de France and a winner of a men’s Tennis Grand Slam tournament by Britons.

[Samosas at Indian Foods Co]

Polishing off these snacks we idly watched other theatre goers wander about and chatted, as is my wont, to some of them about their experience of The World Shakespeare Festival 2012.  Everyone was very positive and had something good to say about the plays they had chosen to go to. There was this communal feeling of yearning to be able, subject to the constraints of time and expense, to see all the Plays and at all venues. We may not like to concede inevitable defeat in the face of such a commitment, but we all had to choose only some, and give up many, to see. We did so with some regret at what we were missing as well as the great pleasure in what we had seen and heard. There is no doubting the overall success of this venture and I do hope that in future years this “International Flavour” is encouraged and nurtured alongside home-grown talent. We must recognise that Shakespeare is owned by the whole world these days and is studied and played everywhere, phenomenal though that thought is. Normally the British are more tight-lipped than seemed the case in these discussions and I wondered whether there was some overspill of general bonhomie from the feel-good factor of the Olympics. I rather think there was, and I hope it lasts.

Meera Syal as Beatrice

Deciding that, interesting as chatting proved to be, we could wait no longer to explore what this cacophony of sounds was all about we wandered in to look and lurk on a slow dawdle to our seats. The cast, with many associates, were doing their level best to recreate Indian City street scenes (I assume successfully but I have not had any first-hand experience) with vendors, musicians, singer sewing machines, comestibles, bright colours and a generous dollop of paraphernalia seeping in all directions. As the zephyr’s powers failed at the portal we got a lovely whiff of spices and joss-sticks so that our eyes, ears and nostrils were acutely aware of all things Indian. There were no elephants or sacred cows lumbering about but I suppose there are limits! Enjoying the scene we ambled down aisle 5 into seats 20 and 21 on the end of Row A which put us in the stalls front centre. The stage came right up to us, of course, and directly in front of us were steps up onto the stage and so we could surreptitiously hang our feet out onto the first steps and later claim we were onstage, treading those Shakespearean boards at Stratford, during a live performance. It has a similar ring to my saying I was “up at Oxford in the sixties” when in reality I was only there to see Boro play Oxford Town in the third round of the FA Cup in a cold snowy January.

To get a flavour of just how well the cast play and look, and how they dress, and to hear “Benedick” speaking against a background of Indian rhythms then go to http://www.rsc.org.uk/whats-on/much-ado-about-nothing/ and press play.

Much Ado About Nothing

Whenever I think about Much Ado About Nothing I think about another kind of nothing associated with the Play and wonder about what Shakespeare originally intended. The original versions of the Play have many stage directions and in the opening directions there is a mention of Leonato’s wife Innogen. However, she never appears or says anything and so in most versions of the Play in modern times she does not even rate a mention. Shakespeare in his creative passion must originally have had a role in mind, but later found the plot and dialogue had no way of including her and so she is left as much ado about nothing, as well. I still wonder though.

The stage looked magnificent with an imposing edifice at the back of the stage of a family house of someone well-to-do if the numbers of doors, windows and balconies were any indicator. There was an enormous (artificial, of course but nonetheless imposing) tree on the right and around the tree, which is exactly how it has been described to me, depicting the rapid growth of technological industries and usage in India without the necessary time or money to build an infrastructure that keeps such things out of sight; were the coiled wrappings of cables thick and thin and of many colours. This is typical of the pragmatism that makes do whilst allowing the flow of commerce and telecommunications unabated. Actors on stage were involved in comings, goings and all the minutia of filling in the time until the Play proper could begin whilst giving the early arrivals something to look at and listen to.

Courtyard Theatre – image: The Guardian

Chatting to the couple just behind us we learned that this was their third visit this year to see this Play alone and that they simply loved it, especially this production. They had tried sitting both left and right and were now viewing from front and centre. They lived locally and wished to see other plays but each time the subject arose between them they kept returning just like frogs to a pond to see this one again. The lady did say that although the Play had received rave notices she had thought the Times Critic a little picky for adversely commenting that Paul Bhattacharjee (Benedick) and Meera Syal (Beatrice) were a little too ‘long in the tooth’ for the parts suggested. We were unable to establish just how much we could agree on about the critic being mistaken when the Play started. Have you noticed how they never seem to worry about an interesting conversation or two going on out there but just start when they want to? Later, I pondered on the merits of the Times critic’s attack (although I did not actually read what he said) and found that although I could see where he might be coming from I did not agree.

Beatrice and Bendick

Unlike Romeo and Juliet there are no exact mentions of age with Beatrice and Benedick, and although Claudio and Benedick are described as “young lads” of Florence and Padua respectively they do not have to be of the same age bracket. There are many suggestions of Benedick being older than Claudio. When Beatrice says, “Scratching could not make it worse, an ‘twere such a face as yours were” is she describing a young visage? When she later says, “You always end with a jade’s trick: I know you of old” she is not talking of a brief acquaintance. When Benedick says to Claudio, “I can see yet without spectacles . . . . .” is not that a reference to advancing years and an age difference between them? There is also references to Benedick regularly taking up the company of young(er) men, the latest being Claudio, and there is in Elizabethan times (and even with Shakespeare himself it seems) as shown in The Merchant of Venice with Antonio and Bassanio the examples of “close relationships” between an older and a younger man. There are as a counter argument references to “young” or “youth” in the play but such terms are relative. All I know is that having Beatrice and Benedick older than Claudio and Hero as with the Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson film version worked very well and our two leads were brilliant.

Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh as Beatrice and Benedick

The naming of Hero as “Hero” is quite deliberate by Shakespeare to foreshadow her “doubtful chastity” which is part of his plot. The myth of “Hero and Leander” was well known to Elizabethans and Shakespeare himself uses references to them in many of his plays, and Christopher Marlowe had written a poem Hero and Leander in 1598, and the timing of Much Ado About Nothing is generally fixed as 1599, so as usual Shakespeare borrowed from ancient and modern and just about any good story he could get his hands on. What he did with these stories is the real mark of his genius. In the same way with naming characters it is no coincidence, we can infer, that Don John is chosen as our villain when the bastard brother of Phillip II was also called Don John and was a personage well known to Elizabethans.

The Play transfers very well from Italy to India and to Delhi. Messina, Padua and Florence are kept in the text but references to Italy are simply replaced with India and all the rest unchanged with the obvious notable exception of the Friar replaced by the Panditji.

Well the Play rattled along with its wonderful set and fine troupe of actors but as mentioned above Meera Syal and Paul Bhattacharjee were scintillating as the brightly sparkling duellists in language that prickles with the heat of their exchanges and they displayed a great chemistry between them as sparks flew off in their verbal sparring sessions. Whilst tearing down each other’s reputations they did take careful note of exactly what the other was up to at all times and demonstrated a fulsome ambiguity throughout of the real nature of their interest in each other.

In the Kenneth Branagh film alluded to above the parts of Dogberry and Verges are wonderfully played and sent up to the moon and back by Michael Keaton and Ben Elton (who can ever forget their boyishly ‘pretend’ horses and dismounts) and they have ruined forever in Olivier fashion these parts for a generation of actors. Simon Nagra and Bhati Patel did their best, I suppose; but I was unimpressed. Long before Richard Brinsley Sheridan invented Mrs Malaprop in the The Rivals we have Dogberry butchering the English Language and uncannily substituting a similar but wrong word for the one intended. This misuse reaches a high art form as Dogberry urges his charges to be “vigitant” and expressed his hopes that they remain “senseless” of it! For me this difficult part did not quite work for Simon Nagra’s skills, and a lot of the humour was lost in the lack of emphasis and facial expressions needed to bring the audience along with each new twisting verbal cudgel swiped at the passing words.

“Dogberry and Verges with the Watch.” Engraving by Robert Mitchell Meadows, before 1812. Public domain.

The parts of Dogberry and Verges are important enough to require more powerful actors than we saw here to not only make them memorable but to extract all the humour their use of language brings to the play. These absurd officials were stretched by Shakespeare into seemingly unlikely “real people” but the audience of the time recognised only too clearly that these sorts of constables could be met with everywhere. “Hazlitt praised Dogberry, regularly hailed since as an all too convincing depiction of petty officialdom” (as taken from page 309 of The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare Edited by Michael Dobson & Stanley Wells – which Dame Judi Dench describes (and I warmly agree) “A wonderful treasure-house of information and insight”). As further supporting evidence of just how “real” Dogberry and Verges are to their time my Annotated Shakespeare by A L Rowse offers on page 394 a letter from Lord Burghley to Walsingham (Elizabeth’s principal Ministers at the time of the hue and cry over the search for the Babington Conspirators who intended Elizabeth’s death and her replacement by Mary Stuart) which says:

Sir, As I came from London homeward in my coach. I saw at every town’s end the number of ten or twelve standing with long staves, and until I came to Enfield I thought no other of them but that they had stayed for avoiding of the rain, or to drink at some alehouse, for so they did stand under pentices at alehouses. But at Enfield finding a dozen in a plump, when there was no rain, I bethought myself that they were appointed as watchmen, for the apprehending of such as are missing. And thereupon I called some of them to me apart, and asked them wherefore they stood there. And one of them answered, “To take three young men.” And demanding how they should know the persons, one answered with these words, “Marry, my Lord, by intelligence of their favour.” “What mean you by that?” quoth I. “Marry”, said they, “one of the parties hath a hooked nose.” “And have you,” quoth I, “no other mark?” “No,” saith they. And then I asked who appointed them. And they answered one Banks, a head constable, whom I willed to be sent to me. “Surely, sir, whoever had the charge from you hath used the matter negligently. For these watchmen stand so openly in plumps as no suspected person will come near them; and if they be no better instructed but to find three persons by one of them having a hooked nose, they may miss thereof.”

You get from this slice of Elizabethan writing (don’t you just love the ‘standing in plumps’) and reported speech a pretty picture of “idiots in charge”.

It is interesting to note that “pentices”, mentioned by Lord Burghley, is normally used in modern usage to signify Penthouses but in Tudor times it meant a ‘hipped building’ where the upstairs was larger than the ground floor and so there would be an overhang that offered shelter from inclement weather. Don John’s agent in malice, Borachio, actually says to Conrad, “Stand thee close then under this pent-house, for it drizzles rain, and I will, like a true drunkard, utter all to thee.” And confesses to the trick played on Hero whilst the Watch listen. This shows some change of meaning to the word “penthouse” over the centuries, unless the original Penthouses also had an overhang being on the topmost floor. Anyone out there know?

One of the cameos of the evening’s entertainment was the brilliant acting of Anjana Vasan (the maid) who they used instead of the ‘boy’ bid by Benedick to fetch his book from his chamber window to bring to the orchard. She arrives back but is unable to find Benedick hidden as he is from the others. She kneels down in the front centre of the stage in order to get away from the others and not attract their attention or distract them as they circle and try in loud conversation to catch Benedick’s ear.

Anjana Vasan as Maid in Much Ado About Nothing. Photo by Ellie Kurtz.

[Image: RSC website]

Wide-eyed she kneels there drinking in and believing every word of their overblown description of how much Beatrice is fancied to be in love with Benedick. This maid’s face reflects the action as she enters more and more into the supposed turmoil of Beatrice’s mind as her excitement grows and reveals a most delightful range of high-flown passionate expressions as in a crescendo Claudio gets to his speech

Hero thinks surely she will die, for
She says she will die, if he love her not, and
She will die, ere she make her love known,
And she will die, if he woo her, rather than
She will bate on breath of her accustomed crossness

And at each belling of the word die the lovely Anjana’s face was a picture to behold, riven through with Beatrice’s living pain, whilst holding onto Benedick’s book as a kind of talisman in defence all the while, and finally collapsing in a heap as the rest take absolutely no notice of her whatsoever. A marvellous piece of unwritten addition to the Play and the Director and cast should be well pleased with themselves for its inclusion. Well done Anjana Vasan.

When the entire Play was done the cast received from a full house a most rapturous and fully deserved burst of applause. They (apart from my gripes about Dogberry and Verges) were simply wonderful. On the way home we discussed how well the play had worked and just where we had seen the actors perform in other areas. We really could not call anything to mind for the excellent Paul Bhattacharjee although he seemed very familiar to us indeed. As luck would have it and without even planning to have an Indian theme to our week we saw the film, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” the next night and whilst enjoying the main parts we noted how so many of the smaller roles in this film were also being played by first class performers. If you have seen the film there is a wonderful hospital scene in which Maggie Smith’s character is displaying rampant racism and insists upon an English doctor. The Staff Nurse brings her one speaking perfect English and lo and behold there in his pin-stripe suit stood our Benedick from the previous night, Paul Bhattacharjee, this time playing a hospital doctor.  We were also able to compare the attempts at giving us a flavour of a city in India with those from the film and found them, space and expense permitting, pretty close.

Another Triumph seen and heard and once more worth every penny of the £48 per seat, and as we had booked six for a ‘Stratford Pass’ we got 20% off as well.

Chris Sandrawich, 14th September 2012.

The Schedule:

  • 26 July – 15 September (The Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon) – alas! it has already moved to London!
  • 22 September – 27 October (The Noël Coward Theatre, London)
c2012 Jane Austen in Vermont

In Search of Jane Austen ~ Guest Post: A Tour of Worthing, by Chris Sandrawich of JAS-Midlands

Dear Readers: I welcome today Chris Sandrawich of the Jane Austen Society, Midlands, who has kindly provided me with the text of his essay written for Transactions 22 (2011), the JAS Midlands publication, on the subject of the group’s field trip to Worthing last October.  Worthing has figured in the press recently, as well as on a number of Jane Austen blogs [you can view my post here:  Library Passge in Worthing under Threat of Closure ], due to the attempt to close up the “Library Passage” that Jane Austen would have passed through during her stay in Worthing in 1805. [The hearing to prevent this closure has recently been heard by the City Council and all are awaiting their final decision … *]  – it would indeed be a shame to shut down this site that has so recently come to light in relation to Austen and her unfinished novel Sanditon.

But here today is Chris’s take on Worthing and environs – this is long [but worth it!] – and please do comment or ask questions and I will have Chris respond.

The Jane Austen Society Midlands:
Autumn Tour to Worthing 7th – 9th October 2011

 Friday 7th October

     Keele University– Lichfield – Corley Services (M6) –
Worthing- and a late Dinner

Worthing, West Sussex (by the sea) whose motto is, “Ex terra copiam e mari salutem” which translates to “From the land plenty and from the sea health”, was this year’s inspired Tour choice. It is considered with good evidence to be the town on which Jane Austen’s final novel, The Brothers, later becoming known as Sanditon, was to be based; and Jane herself, aged 29, visited the town in 1805. This was after Jane’s father, George Austen, had died on 21st January earlier that year and Jane was staying in Godmersham at her brother’s, Edward Austen Knight, home.  So Jane, with her mother, her sister Cassandra and their intimate friend Martha Lloyd, Jane’s brother Edward along with his wife Elizabeth and their daughter Fanny (who wrote about all this in her diary – see Note 1) and her governess, Ann Sharpe, made up the complete party going to Worthing. Friends of the Austen families were already staying in Worthing, which had a population of around 2500 at this time. The photo below shows Christine Knapman (left) and Janet Clarke in an article appearing in the Worthing Herald on 21st September 2011 written by Neill Barston. You can read the article here: http://www.worthingherald.co.uk/community/pride_over_worthing_links
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There was an additional connection with the area, apart from Sanditon, which was of interest to us concerning Jane and her family.  Edward Austen was adopted as the legal heir of Thomas Knight II, his third cousin, and his wife Catherine Knatchbull, who were childless. Thomas Knight’s mother was Jane Monk who had lived at Buckingham Park in Old Shoreham, adjacent to Worthing. So, some of Edward’s inheritance could have been linked to, or indeed be made up of, local land and farms; but we discovered nothing new on our trip, although since returning I have learned from Janet Clarke (whom I should also thank for many suggestions and corrections to my article) that we could have seen and visited, had time allowed it, Buckingham House and the Monks’ Memorial, and some property in Southwick that had belonged to Jane Monk. Perhaps next time?

Our journey included our usual bus, usual driver and usual picking-up points but not our usual cicerone and architect of this weekend’s sojourn in the deep south. An unlooked-for eye complaint had rendered our Dawn, “hors de combat” and we were left only with the framework and her notes.  Either the notes were brilliant as a script, or Jen (Walton) and Jan (Barber) are better ad libbers than we may credit them with; but we managed without any mayhem. So a big thank-you, from all two dozen plus on the trip who loved their time in Worthing, goes along with our commiserations to Dawn Thomas. The journey south was much delayed by an unwanted opportunity to see how our taxes are used to keep Britain’s roads running smoothly. It’s unfortunate that the work carried out to achieve this long-term goal has the immediate reverse effect. In consequence, we were very late getting to Worthing and both the hotel and our after-dinner-speaker were very good in accommodating the time-shifts required.

Jane may not have had an easy trip either, with eight in the party. It seems likely that they had two coaches and possibly different starting points and times, as Fanny’s letter dated 17th September 1805 lists only, “Papa, Mama, Aunts Cass & Jane” with herself, as setting off from Godmersham that day. It is not known if they were also incommoded with hat-boxes as Lizzy and Jane were with Lydia and Kitty in Pride & Prejudice. Fanny’s diary entries are very interesting and one snippet on 19th September mentions that Jane Austen won 17/- (seventeen shillings or eighty-five pence in today’s money) in a raffle, which may not sound a great deal. However, it would have been enough to buy twenty-four pounds weight in beef-steak. Now there is beef-steak and beef-steak, I suppose, and as an aid for comparison I noted that current prices from Tesco.com has beefsteak at £4.60 a pound. However, fillet steak is nearer £15 a pound. So Jane’s winnings have a purchasing power anywhere between £110 and £360 in October 2011 money. Jane, we are informed, was armed with “A Picture of Worthing” written by the Reverend John Evans (see Note 2) which was the first guide to Worthing.

 A pertinent comment by Louis Simond, (a well-to-do Frenchman, with an English wife, living and working in New York, and my source for English beef prices of the time) who toured the British Isles in 1810-11 (see Note 3) states that, “There is no place of any note in England which has not its printed guide”. The Reverend’s guide published in 1805 takes on more the appearance of a booklet as it includes notes on the surrounding towns too. I wonder what Jane thought when she read it. I certainly found one or two pieces of information contained within it very striking indeed.

Still finding comparisons of the price of things in different centuries fascinating I was beguiled by a remark from the Reverend Evans’ Picture that when talking to the locals he found that an acre of land at that time could be had for “half an anchor or five gallons of brandy” and my mind reeled with the ideas suggested. Firstly, why would anyone go to the trouble of cutting an anchor in half,  as they are made of such stern stuff, and moreover to what possible use could a sailor put one half of an anchor, let alone two of them? You certainly could no longer rely on only half an anchor when dropped over the side to easily fasten itself to the sea-bed. The internet is a great thing for instant information and I found a piece (see Note 4) concerning the life and ‘adventures’ of a certain Darby Doyle, that goes like this in an Irish accent,

I turned round to look at what thript me. “What do you call that?” siz I to the captin who was at my elbow. “Why Darby,” siz he, “that’s half an anchor.” “Have you any use for it?” siz I. “Not in the least,” siz he; “it’s only to fasten boats to.”

and that sums up the uses for half an anchor.

I did ponder the possibility that “half an anchor” was a reference to a sum of money. An exhaustive trawl through the seas of leopards, nobles, crowns, monkeys, ponies, and groats along with many others left me better informed but alas no wiser.  I could find no ‘anchors’ as an expression or name amongst coins, notes or sums of English money.  Secondly, that enormous quantity of brandy is suggestive of smuggling if it seems to be both readily available in barrels and used as a tradable replacement for cash.  As brandy comes from grapes it usually came to England at that time from France or Spain as they were nearest. However, bearing in mind the troubled times with constant war or political tensions then it seems that the entrepreneurship of smuggling was necessary to secure a steady flow. The Reverend as a ‘Parson’ seems to anticipate Kipling’s later poetic suggestion and that to be unsurprised by a large and ready supply of brandy was only natural for Parsons.

(Note, post publication: I am informed by my Editor, Dawn Thomas, that the problem lies in the spelling. Once you write ‘anchor’ as “Anker” then all becomes clear as this dictionary definition shows: “An´ker – a noun – A liquid measure in various countries of Europe. The Dutch anker, formerly also used in England, contained about ten of the old wine gallons, or 8.5 imperial gallons”. Mystery solved, but it does show just how important spelling is!)

A quite astonishing statement appears on page 17 of this guide about the notable Mr Luther who built Warwick House (“Trafalgar House” in Sanditon), the principal house in the Town, which stood opposite to the Colonnade Library (and at that time (1805) was owned by Edward Ogle).  Mr Luther it seems lost at one throw of the dice one hundred thousand pounds.  If we take Mr Darcy’s (a reportedly rich man’s) income of £10,000 pa from Pride & Prejudice as a comparison then at 4% interest it would be equivalent to an investment in fixed-interest securities of £250,000 at that time; and so Mr Luther was rich enough, or foolish enough – take your pick – to venture 40% of a Mr Darcy-size fortune on one throw of the dice.  Also, if we calculate a “beef-steak price index” (adjusting 9d (nine-pence in old money) up to the mid-point current price for beefsteak of £9.80 currently) applied to Mr Luther’s £100,000,  it zooms up to a quite remarkable £26,133,000 to the nearest grand.  Of course picking the price of only one basic foodstuff does not give a sound basis for comparison that would be able to satisfy economists and mathematicians. I share George Bernard Shaw’s views who claimed, “If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion”, and so I’m giving a comparison for fun, rather than on a scientific basis.  It does make reports of Mr Wickham’s gaming in Brighton look singularly tame! However, it is reported that Mr Luther, just like Wickham, gambled with money he did not have, and he only settled half of his debt.  Also, on the subject of money it seems ‘Bathing’ was not cheap. It cost adults one shilling and children six-pence to use the Bathing Machines for each and every dip, delicious (as Fanny described it) or otherwise.

I have no idea of how Dawn micro-manages these things, but coinciding with our trip an article appeared in the magazine Sussex Life October 2011, written by Anthony Edmonds. Under the headline “Jane Austen, Worthing and her ‘sweet Mr Ogle’” he says,

“Jane Austen stayed in Worthing for at least six weeks in late 1805. There she met a man called Edward Ogle, who created the modern town and inspired one of the main characters in her unfinished novel Sanditon.”

You can find out more at www.sussex.greatbritishlife.co.uk., or by reading the Jane Austen Society Report for 2010.  It was of course very likely that Edward Ogle inspired the character, Mr Parker who owned Trafalgar House.

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       “Worthing in the time of Jane Austen” – talk given by Chris Hare

Chris Hare, a local historian, using a few slides gave a most interesting verbal tour of Worthing’s origins and history, paying particular attention to the time of Jane Austen’s visit. These notes are an amalgam of what I heard, or thought I heard, and what I thought after I heard it!

    • A Royal visit in 1798 ‘to take the air’ put Worthing ‘on the map’ by popularising a stay there for health reasons. Princess Amelia, the youngest surviving child and favourite daughter of George III, stayed at Montague Place built c 1780. Provided for the Princess’s protection, there were over one hundred soldiers from the Derbyshire Militia camped locally, and a sloop, the Fly, cruised just off shore.

      Princess Amelia – wikipedia

    • Worthing’s developers were determined to make Worthing everything that Brighton (eleven miles away to the east) was not and this is what principally attracted Princess Amelia, or more probably her father.
    • Jane, and the Austen family, would have received news of the Trafalgar action and Nelson’s victory whilst in Worthing. This would have been of especial interest as two of Jane’s brothers, Francis and Charles, who together with Cassandra and Jane made up the younger half of the Austen children, at that time were Captains in the Royal Navy and Francis was actually with Nelson’s fleet.  Sent for water and provisions Francis missed the Trafalgar action but it would have been some time before news in the combination of newspapers and private letters told his friends and relatives that he was safe, and there were very many killed and injured from all nations involved.  This decisive action was ‘very big news’ at the time and must have been much talked about. By including a Trafalgar House in Sanditon it is probable that Jane was explicitly making the connection. Both Jane’s brothers eventually rose to the rank of Admiral. Sir Francis Austen became Admiral of the Fleet, the most senior position in the Royal Navy, and he was well into his eighties when this final promotion came. So there is hope for us all, yet!
    • Bedford Row, a street typical of Worthing’s new developments, was built 1803–04 and had large bow-fronted windows to capture more light. The buildings were four storeys high, and would have included basements as well as attics in addition. W H Hudson, author and naturalist, stayed there, at ‘Huntingdon House’ No 8 Bedford Row.
    • Around the time of Jane’s visit the Chatsworth Hotel (our base for the weekend), which was initially called the Steyne Hotel (Steyne is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “stony place”), was being built, or planned by George Parsons, as it opened in 1807, and its ballroom was used as the Assembly Rooms.
  • St Mary’s Church, Broadwater, which Jane would have passed on the way into Worthing, was the principal church in the neighbourhood and Jane and family would certainly have gone there for worship.
     
  • Highdown Hill is close to Worthing’s coast and a windmill was sited there to make the most of the coastal winds. It also served a certain Mr Miller, who has a famous tomb we did not manage to visit, and was an infamous local ‘hero’, as a base for a signalling system to smugglers. In Jane Austen’s time the south coast was awash with smugglers and if A Smuggler’s Song by Kipling, “Brandy for the Parson, ‘Baccy for the Clerk;” is taken as gospel pretty much everyone was involved one way or another. This windmill at over 200 feet on high ground near the sea could signal to smugglers’ ships over seventeen miles out; even further, if a ship used its own crow’s nest.  Such traffic could be lurking well over the horizon in mid-channel safely waiting for the signal that the Excise men posted along the shore had gone elsewhere, and that it was safe to come in with ‘the goods’. A man of average height standing on the sands can only see a boat if it is less than three to four miles out at sea.
  • Fig Trees were a tourist attraction in Jane Austen’s time. There are still fig gardens, in South Street Tarring, open to the public on one day a year (see Note 5).  However, the large fig gardens which Jane may have visited dating from about 1745 were largely destroyed in the late 20th Century to make way for development.  West Tarring is a suburb of Worthing, and is a very old village, dating back to Saxon times (earliest ref. around 939AD). It was one of the most important trading towns in this area, and its historical importance is emphasised by having one of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Palaces there.
  • Horace Smith, poet and friend of Shelley, arrived in 1822, so he missed Jane by a distance, in a “Newton Patent Safety Coach”, and I am fascinated to find out what it looked like. Coaches of the time were notoriously top-heavy and prone to overturn. An “overturned carriage” travelling along badly surfaced roads features in the opening paragraphs of Sanditon.

Saturday 8th October:

      Guided walk round Worthing v Solitary stroll to the museum

Janet Clarke, (partly obscured in red towards the right in the photo above) ably assisted by Sue Dawes, took our party on a guided tour of Worthing armed with a lens focused on 1805 and Jane Austen. The picture below shows Warwick Street and Stanford Cottage (known as Stanford’s Cottage in Jane’s time) is a few short strides down an alleyway just off it. Janet pointed out which buildings stood in 1805 and their function at that time. Worthing is compact, its centre easily fitting into a square mile, and contains many Georgian and Regency architectural gems; such as the Colonnade built by Edward Ogle. Changes of use for buildings can take bizarre twists and the remains of the Marine Library, which would have been a lively meeting place in Jane’s day, are now a single storey building and part of the bus station. “Libraries” to Jane and her circle did not only provide reading material, books, magazines, journals, newspapers and so on, but were alive with shops, gossip, cards (including gambling) as well as musical entertainment. This ‘discovery’ has helped me understand why in Chapter 42 of Pride and Prejudice Lydia is reported as having been to a library – the last place (as it has serious books) I would previously have expected her to have any interest in – and why she had seen some beautiful ornaments which made her quite wild! In Jane’s time many houses and buildings stood apart with fields, lawns and grazing sheep and cows in between. It is hard to visualise this in the crowded streets. 

Janet, ever helpful, was able to add a great deal to our understanding of Jane Austen’s Worthing. There are many buildings still standing which Jane would have seen, and for many of them change has occurred. The originals would have had a distinctive ‘creamy yellow’ hue as the bricks made locally from the blue clay described in the Reverend Evan’s guide when fired in the local kilns produced this colour. Regrettably almost all of the buildings have been “improved” with paint, or plaster or rendering over the last two hundred or so years.

  • The Steyne Terrace (where we stayed) although completed after Jane’s stay still has this creamy yellow hue.
  • The Colonnade Library interiors with which Jane would have been familiar were destroyed by fire in 1888 and reconstruction work carried out in 1928 sadly means the buildings would be recognisable only with difficulty by Jane and her party
  • Park House lies between the Colonnade Library and Stanford Cottage and was known as, “Williams Academy” – a link perhaps with “a most respectable Girls Boarding School, or Academy, from Camberwell”, that Mr Parker’s sister suggests in her letter may visit and stay in Sanditon
  • Bath Place took its name from heated indoor baths (long gone down the plughole of history now) built in 1798 ready for Princess Amelia’s visit
  • Montague Place No’s. 2-6 are believed to have been used by Princess Amelia and her entourage, although the Prince Regent on his short visit didn’t think the location grand enough for his sister. The Brighton Pavilion leaves nobody in any doubt as to the Prince’s idea of what is ‘grand enough’ for Royalty.
  • Great Terrace is one of Worthing’s first terraces built facing the sea, and designed as lodging houses for visitors. Jane Austen must surely have had this place in mind for the ‘Short Terrace’ in Sanditon where the academy party stayed. It becomes even more compelling if we compare the descriptions by Reverend Evans of the Terraces in Worthing with Jane’s in Sanditon.

Evans: “A little row of houses on the edge of the beach, pleasantly situated, is denominated, the Terrace, though the number of houses is scarcely sufficient to merit that appellation.”

Austen: “One short row of smart-looking houses called, “The Terrace” with a broad walk in front aspiring to be the Mall of the place.”

Also, anyone looking at the Great Terrace and its corner house can easily imagine Miss Diana Parker settling her new friends, the Miss Beauforts, into it even to the rearrangement of blinds and flowerpots on the upstairs balcony. The present Great Terrace has both a balcony and flowerpots, there for all to witness. The same flowerpots and with Mrs Mary Parker’s cuttings we wondered? 

With regard to the vexed question (at least with me as I was hoping as in the Merchant of Venice that,”truth will come to light . . . at the length truth will out” and I do hope that I am doing rather better than Sir Edward Denham at nailing quotations) of where exactly Princess Amelia stayed, I wrote to the Royal Archives but unhappily they have no information which identifies whereabouts in Worthing she stayed. All Princess Amelia’s letters are simply headed “Worthing”, and so I have nothing new to add, as I had hoped to, with the conflicting information set out below. Janet Clarke mentioned more information than appears in her own guide which suggests that she stayed both at Bedford House and Montague Place.

In D Robert Elleray’s, “A Millennium Encyclopaedia of Worthing History” he states: “Bedford House, formerly in Bedford Row erected in c 1785 as Lane’s House” which would site it right next door to Stanford Cottage, as shown in the photograph below. However, this information conflicts in part with the views of both Chris Hare (local historian) and the Worthing Museum & Art Gallery’s Website which suggest Montague Place (only) was used for the Princess’ visit. There is more conflicting information appearing in, “Worthing Parade” number one (a collection of Sussex articles by various authors, published in 1951) it is stated on page 15 that,

We cannot tell for certain where Princess Amelia stayed in Worthing. One report merely states that she stayed in two houses made into one near the beach while Dr Keate and his family occupied the next house but one. Another account states rather more precisely that she stayed first at No’s 2 – 6 Montague Place and later at Bedford House in Bedford Row (now demolished) . . . . .” 

 this same article also informs us that, “For her protection while she was here a party of one hundred and twenty men of the Derbyshire Militia, under the command of Captain Shuttleworth, arrived the following morning (1st August 1798) from their camp on Clapham (not the one in London) Common and pitched their tents in a nearby field, while at sea an additional protection was provided by the ‘Fly’ Sloop, commanded by Captain Cumberland, which remained cruising off the shore during her visit.”

Chris Hare had drawn my attention to further information about the Princess’ birthday in August and this paragraph is extracted from his writings. Worthing celebrated the event as best it could and the Sussex Weekly Advertiser reported,

“The morning was ushered in with ringing bells; the Fly Sloop, stationed here, displayed her colours, and at one o’clock fired a royal salute, which was answered by a feu-de-joie from the detachment of the Derbyshire Militia, who were marched down to the sands for that purpose. The Princess was carried on the sands in her settee chair, attended by her suite; her Royal Highness was in good spirits and seemed highly pleased with the attentions of Captain Cumberland who kept the sloop under way. The Princess gave orders that the soldiers should be regaled with a sufficient quantity of bread, cheese and ale. At nine o’clock Captain Cumberland made an elegant display of fireworks on board the sloop, which exhibited a very brilliant appearance from the shore to a vast number of spectators; at the conclusion the vessel was illuminated from her ports to her top gallants.”

I had recourse to my dictionary to look up what ‘feu-de-joie’ means and found it to be a military term meaning: “a salute of musketry fired successively by each man in turn along a line and back”, literally: ‘fire of joy’. Of course, you knew that already. However, as you may have noticed previously, I do have occasional difficulty in fully comprehending other people’s descriptions of things; and this definition leaves me perplexed. I’ve never fired a 200-year-old musket, but I understand that it takes time to reload the musket after firing. A musket ball has to be rammed down the barrel and the firing chamber recharged with gunpowder. So if the firing goes from left to right and then immediately from right to left, as the definition implies, then there would be an inconvenient pause and firing would no longer be successive. If the firing sequence was left to right and then left to right again (to give all time to reload) then firing would be continuous but it would no longer fit the definition given. I’m bemused.

Janet also gave us all copies of an excellent local guide (see Note 6), “Jane Austen’s Worthing” Janet designed this useful leaflet but had it published by Verité CM Ltd. Many pictures of sites in Worthing are available on http://www.westsussexpast.org/pictures/ .

For example there are pictures of Stanford Cottage (one is shown below). [You might be interested to know that the local newspaper, The Argus, reported on our guided tour – you can read their newsy article and see a photograph of our group here: http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/9295962.Worthing_s_influence_on_
Jane_Austen_revealed/
 ]

Bedford House & Stanford Cottage, 1907

Here above  is Bedford House (larger and cream faced) and Stanford Cottage, Warwick Street, photographed in 1907 (reproduced with kind permission of West Sussex County Council Library Service) which can be compared to the new Pizza Express Restaurant it has become, shown here: [behind the tree]:

Pizza Express – formerly Stanford Cottage

It takes some imagination, as so much other construction and demolition has taken place over the last century. It helps if you are also told that the view is from the front (the Pizza Express) and from the back (the 1907 photograph). You may, however, find that this does not help at all.

 

 Worthing, prompted by Janet Clarke, have marked Jane’s stay at Stanford Cottage with a blue plaque on the building giving salient details, and you can just see it above the window to the right of the tree in the photo above. It is shown here with more detail.

The Pizza Express has three pictures (or cartoons, as Gill Marchment suggested) inside on the first (second for any American readers) floor with quotations and it takes a feat of one’s memory to accurately place them all. I have shown them in full below and the answers to who said them and where they appear are listed at the end of this article. If you can get any one of them you are doing well and if you get all three (without looking) then can I be in your team for any Jane Austen quiz please? Unfortunately, there are no prizes except self-satisfaction.

1. “I do not want people to be agreeable as it saves me
the trouble of liking them.”

2. “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”

3. “Everybody likes to go their own way – to choose their
own time and manner of devotion.”

The term “Twitten”:

So, what of Worthing the place? It is clear that the town is struggling through the doldrums given the number of estate agents’ signs over empty shop fronts, but it is pleasant enough to stroll through, and you can always find something of interest. For example, the history of English is varied and fascinating and along with so many new words we have some that are very old, and still in use. Worthing has an interesting old Sussex dialect word, twitten (see Note 7), said to be a corruption of ‘betwixt and between’ although the on-line Oxford Dictionary suggests it is an early 19th Century word (unbelievably!) perhaps related to Low German twiete ‘alley, lane’, used for a path or an alleyway. It is still in common use in both East and West Sussex, and oddly enough in Hampstead Garden Suburb. As tussen, steggen or steeg in the Netherlands has a similar meaning it would be all too easy to assume that source as the derivation. Such pathways between buildings have other names around the world, but elsewhere in England twittens are called variously, twitchells (north-west Essex, east Hertfordshire and Nottingham), chares (north-east England, especially Newcastle), ginnels – which can also be spelt jennels or gennels – (Manchester, Oldham, Sheffield and south Yorkshire), opes (Plymouth), jiggers or entry (Liverpool), gitties or jitty (Derbyshire and Leicestershire), snickleways or snicket (York), shuts (Shropshire) and are called vennels in Scotland; but it is not known what our Jane called them, but it is very likely she may have called the “Library Passage” [shown below] a twitten as Jane used it with her family to get from Stanford Cottage to Stafford’s Library, as well as the sea front.

 This fine example of a Worthing twitten is just off Warwick Street, and only a lady’s baseball (see Northanger Abbey) throw from Stanford Cottage. Janet Clarke informed me that this twitten is currently under threat from a bus company, Stagecoach, who owns the land and wish to “stop it up” permanently. [link to post] This twitten now runs from Warwick Street into the bus depot. Of course, anything being an ancient historic “right of way” for the ordinary people of England and Wales does not put off Companies from making such proposals whenever it suits the moment. Look at it again, while you have the chance, and if this twitten through your half-closed eyes and with some imagination resembles a footpath through dense woodland; then, there you have it.

      Broadwater – ‘Old Sanditon’ to visit St Mary’s Church

A short bus-ride from the hotel took us all along to St Mary’s Church, Broadwater, shown just below. The Reverend Evans’ guide describes it as a pleasant one-mile walk across the fields in fine weather but too far for the old and infirm. Therefore, he supported the proposal to build, by public subscription, a Chapel of Ease in Worthing. Jane and her family are bound to have worshipped at St Mary’s, as there was no other suitable church in Worthing at that time. Most of Worthing’s current churches, just like Brighton’s, are non-conformist. Worship has taken place in this beautiful Broadwater church for over 800 years and during restoration work carried out in 1939 a Saxon doorway in the south wall of the chancel was uncovered. A Saxon church on this site is mentioned in the Domesday Book.

We were met very warmly by Christine Colthurst and Helen Craft, Parish Wardens, who gave us a tour of the church and posted a welcoming message on the LED screens in the church. We were also addressed by Councillor Ann Barlow, Mayor of Worthing, who is also a Reader at St Mary’s Church, and she explained the developments which have transformed the inside of this old church with the massive funding required being raised locally from parishioners. The many LED screens giving a continous cycle of information and images on PowerPoint about the church gave a very modern feel to the message of Christianity and we were left wondering, as we often do, what our Jane would make of it all. I gained a few pounds from the plates of biscuits, flapjacks and other mouth-watering dainties that went with the coffee and tea on offer. These lovely ladies can bake for England!

Acting on my own initiative I approached the Lady Mayoress with two suggestions:

(1)  I had noticed from a Worthing Street Map that many English novellists and poets had been honoured by having thoroughfares named after them. We have Shakespeare, Browning, Longfellow (you just cannot keep Americans out), Chaucer, Cowper, Shelley (stayed at 23 Warwick Street), Byron (visited Worthing in 1806), Wordsworth and Milton all with roads named after them. I pointed out that they were all men and the time was ripe for Ladies to have a turn starting with Jane Austen, should any suitable development offer that opportunity.

(2)  St Mary’s Broadwater could display a prayer composed by Jane Austen to commemorate her period of worship there. I commended,

Incline us oh God! to think humbly of ourselves, to be severe only in the examination of our own conduct, to consider our fellow-creatures with kindness, and to judge of all they say and do, with that charity which we would desire from them ourselves.”

that had been discovered amongst Jane Austen’s papers. St Nicholas’ Church Steventon, where Jane Austen worshipped, has an extract from one of Jane’s other prayers on display. Both her father and elder brother James were of course Rectors at St Nicholas. I even offered to pay the costs should my Society decline to foot the bill!

At this early stage both ideas have been merely noted.

      Bramber – St Mary’s House (see Note 8)
(which was built in 1470 and is featured in Simon Jenkins’ book England’s Thousand Best Houses) and Gardens

St Mary’s, again? It can only be the popularity of the name. Any other connection with our previous visit escapes me. Bramber, set in the West Sussex Downlands, is four or five miles inland to the north of Shoreham-by-Sea, which itself acts as a buffer between Worthing and Brighton. Ribbon development in England along connecting roads does tend to blur the boundaries between places. Just one more change since Jane Austen’s time that we need to take into account, as progress remorselessly grinds on. On the way there in the coach we travelled along the Old Shoreham Road and passed ‘The Red Lion Inn’ which, as a Coaching Inn, stood in 1805, and who can say if Jane’s party went in for refreshment. We didn’t have time either! We saw close by a beautifully preserved single-lane wooden bridge (no longer used for vehicles) which Jane and her party would have certainly crossed by coach, and paid a toll, in getting over the River Adur on their way to Worthing. There was no other quick way.

Our party was welcomed by the owners: Peter Thorogood, author and composer, and Roger Linton, curator and designer, who stressed that St Mary’s was still a lived-in home, and has been continuously for over 600 years. We were all given leaflets (Louis Simond is again proved correct about leaflets), that confirms their website as being www.stmarysbramber.co.uk and it is well worth a visit. St Mary’s is a fine example of a late 15th Century timber-framed house, and is a Grade I listed building. The photo [above] is of some of our troupe going in.

The land was originally owned by Lord Bramber; and his wife had connections with Hay-on-Wye. Barbara Erskine has written a book about The Lady of Hay. You can find out more about the original Lady herself and how Lady Bramber built the castle at Hay-on-Wye in a single night. Isn’t myth wonderful? You may wish to visit Wikipedia to find out more by going to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maud_de_Braose.

There are mysteries literally buried at St Mary’s as, because of flooding, some cellars previously giving access to rooms and tunnels under the house are now sealed off. Those who knew what these rooms were used for and just where those tunnels might lead to, perhaps to the church of  St Botolph’s, have now taken their secrets to the grave. There was so much information available to absorb I could not write fast enough. The buildings were owned at one time by the Knights Templar, and became a Benedictine Monks’ Inn at the time St Mary’s was a priory. The Inn was often used as a stopover by pilgrim travellers coming north through France on their journey to St Thomas à Becket’s tomb in Canterbury. After St Mary’s, pilgrims would have travelled on to Lewes, and then Eastbourne and Hastings, before journeying north over the downs towards Ashford and then Canterbury. One wonders if Jane Austen coming south-west from Godmersham (between Ashford and Canterbury) would have shared much of the same roads, at least as far as Hastings. According to her niece Fanny, we know that they stopped at Battle (or Battel as she spelt it) near Hastings, obviously! As the total journey was over eighty miles, and at winter speeds and over many undulations, they could have made only six miles an hour, at best, most of the way. At Battle they could not find lodgings and so diverted north to Horsebridge where they slept overnight. Then they went on to Brighton and Worthing.

I snapped this picture of part of our group, in situ in the Warden’s Room, before my attention was drawn to a notice right behind me requesting we refrain from using the camera. Too late by then! We are in the room with a “Dragon Beam”, (out of sight above my head), which means diagonal, and judging by size it must be bearing quite a lot of the structural forces. The room we are seen going into was the reception room, and was once featured in an episode of Dr Who. The BBC carpenters made a model of the doorframe and door leading to the outside and gardens, presumably of something like balsa wood as in the episode the actors in a tussle crash their way through it. Peter Thorogood said they still had the wrecked door left to them up in the attic, after the carpenters ‘made good’ the original doorway. There were no parties expressing any interest in viewing the remains, but he did not seem too disappointed! Peter was a mine of information. The sea and ships came right up to St Mary’s, which was on a broad tidal estuary, 800 years ago, and he complained that their cellars still flood from time to time, as ‘tongue-in-cheek’ he claimed St Mary’s is ‘built on water’ and the surrounding land at that time was mainly salt marshes and oyster beds. There was a 13th Century ‘stone’ bridge close by and tolls were paid for crossing. Peter claimed the bridge was made from pressed winkles. I assume the builders ate the poor winkles first, although from the winkles’ point of view that is scant consolation.

The coastal drift meant that Bramber and Rye just like Hythe (one of the original Cinque Ports) as with many other places on the Kent coast appeared to gradually move inland. The North Atlantic drift bringing warm water and air from the Caribbean up towards the Arctic and so keeping Murmansk inside the Arctic circle ice-free all year around necessarily causes colder water to come south into the North Sea (German Ocean in Jane’s day). The only easy way out for these billions of gallons is via the English Channel and back into the North Atlantic. People in Worthing say that the east to west (left to right as they view it) flow makes the waters at times look more like a river going past than the sea. It may leave lots of deposits, such as shingle, but in other places it also carries a lot of sand away, despite or because of the groynes, leaving now only pebbles and shingle to walk on. According to Fanny’s diary, she and Aunt Jane walked along ‘the sands’ on Jane’s first evening in Worthing. I suspected poetic licence, because I saw only shingle. We were told that at low tide there is still sand out there, but they would say that, wouldn’t they.

St Mary’s has engraved wood panelling and marquetry everywhere. It would take all day just to view the walls properly. There is an octagonal dining room containing over 80 English costume dolls from different centuries. They also have an Elizabethan trompe l’oeil Painted Room, and a “secret” Victorian music room arranged in a way that Jane and Cassandra could have been well used to. Peter mentioned that the house has other literary connections. Oscar Wilde’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest, which was written in Worthing in 1894, has many names in it associated with St Mary’s, such as one famous owner Hon Algernon Bourke and his wife Gwendolen. ‘Bracknell’, “A handbag!” also figures as Algernon’s cousin Lady Queensberry lived at Bracknell. Her husband, The Marquis of Queensberry and their son, Lord Alfred Douglas, also loom large in Oscar Wilde’s history, but that as they say, is another story. There is also a connection with Sherlock Holmes and The Musgrave Ritual, as St Mary’s was once owned by the wealthy socialite Alfred Musgrave who, it is said, was the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel, which involves a body found in the cellar. They also fancy that Charles II fleeing to France stayed at St Mary’s, and they have named the King’s Room in his honour.

They have five acres of stunningly beautiful gardens which includes in the ‘Terrace Garden’ a Ginkgo Biloba ‘living fossil’ tree, which is the world’s oldest species of deciduous tree, some amusing animal topiary, and a Victorian ‘Secret’ Garden that has a massive 140-foot fruit wall with original heated pineapple pits and store-house. As if this was not enough, they also have an unusual circular English Poetry Garden and Rural Museum, along with a Jubilee Rose garden. It was difficult to take it all in.

      View St Nicholas Church – Old Shoreham

Sad to relate, we were so busy “not taking everything in” at St Mary’s that there was insufficient time to go to St Nicholas Church and take anything in…

[Ed. note: I have added this picture of the unvisited St. Nicholas in Old Shorehan, from wikipedia!]

      
“Regency Brighton, an alternative view” – talk given by Geoff Mead (University of Sussex) Geography teacher and local historian

Geoff Mead, a local historian, using a few slides gave a most interesting talk on Brighton’s origins and history and linked information pertinent to the time of Jane Austen’s visit. These notes are also an amalgam of what I heard, or thought I heard, and what I thought after I heard it!

  • Brighton had a population of 25,000, about ten times the size of Worthing. The oldest building dates from 1650. It was always a marine port and having no sand-bars or rocks presented the local boats with easy access for trade.
  • West Brighton housed the rich with the poor to the east. However, the East had a common and the only place to ‘promenade’ in style and the rich and famous did so with three paid musicians in place playing gentle airs. It was vitally important in the society of the time to both “see” and to “be seen” and to be in the height of fashion doing it.
  • In the Prince Regent’s time Brighton became the biggest resort in Europe, but he only visited four times when King.
  • The original town was surrounded by five large fields called, oddly enough, ‘lanes’, and to the west they were larger and so housed the elegant squares.
  • Marine Pavilion was redeveloped by the Prince to become the Royal Pavilion.
  • London with its pollution, smoke, smog and filth, and its teeming multitude (Louis Simond’s Journal, a mine of information, quotes the 1802 census as finding there were 9,706,378 people in England and Wales, with 899,459 living in London) were only 50 miles away. As the idea of taking the sea air for health gathered pace then Brighton boomed, most of it happening 1811-21. This rapid growth produced large numbers of jobs, and needed more growth to accommodate the builders first, then servants second, with 95% of the seasonally fluctuating population being in rented accommodation. Local flint and countless tons of cobbles from the beach were used in construction. There are also fish in the sea and lamb on the downs, as ready food sources.
  • Typical south coast boats were called “hog boats” or “hoggies” as they were short and fat and had flat bottoms so they could run on to the shingle beach unharmed and float off on the next tide. Although great for loading/unloading they wallowed in rough seas. Sailing in choppy waters must have required careful balancing of both cargo and crew.
  • Up-ended damaged boats along the seashore housing the poor were a common sight. There are 19th Century prints of them in Brighton. Dickens describes one such in David Copperfield with Peggotty, Little Em’ly, Ham and Mrs Gummidge all living in an upturned boat on the beaches in Great Yarmouth. These boats are thought to be the origin of “net shops” on the beach at Hastings. Not to be confused with NetShops the on-line retail store based in Nebraska. How language has changed since Jane’s day!
  • West Street’s reputation suffered at Geoff’s hands when he described it as having, “every species of immorality encamped” and the town of Brighton was notorious for crime as well. Geoff mentioned a quote from Jane Austen which runs, “Here I am once more in this scene of dissipation and vice, and I begin already to find my morals corrupted.” which she wrote from Cork Street (London) in August 1796 to Cassandra. Geoff seemed to suggest that Jane Austen could have said much the same, and possibly more, about Brighton. She did not record it if she did, other than through Mr Bennett’s aversion to Brighton and Lydia (and Mrs Bennett’s) enthusiastic desire to go in Pride & Prejudice, and Lydia’s eventual elopement with Wickham and fall from grace.
  • Overcrowding was a big issue. Often each house contained at least two families with an official health report revealing 96 families were dwelling in 40 houses visited. There was no sewage system or drains anywhere with cesspits being employed to take all the waste. House building for the poor stretched outwards from the water-cut valleys or bournes and up in terraces towards the downs. The cesspits, of course, allowed seepage through the chalk outwards and downwards. A nightmarish thought, but inevitably fever in Brighton was a way of life, and death.
  • We know Jane and her party spent some time in Brighton; it would have been odd if they had not, but what they did there is shrouded in mystery for me at least.

Sunday 9th October

      Tour of Brighton Pavilion

Many have said this before, but only a visit really gets across just how much of an assault on the visual senses Brighton Pavilion is; especially, the unique interior. It’s typical of European arrogance of the time, however, to design almost everything based on Chinese art and culture but with only Chinese artefacts to go from. None of the artists, builders and creators had actually been to the Far East, let alone were oriental! We had a wonderful tour with a very well-informed guide and I would not be alone in recommending everyone to visit. I am not sure who that is going in carrying the red bag, or even if they are from our party.

                  The Thistle Hotel for lunch; then free time in Brighton
and finally Homeward Bound

We had lunch here (above] – and it seems somebody erected a pillar right in front of me just as I took the photo), and even if the outside is uninviting, the food and service were excellent and our table on the first floor offered a splendid view of the sea. Over an aperitif in the lounge Hil (Robinson) and I met a couple of jovial ladies wearing wonderful red hats with strange items and objects stuck in them. It turns out that there was more than one Literary Society in Brighton on that day.

These ladies were from a Red Hat Society and they seemed just the right sort of people to evoke the ideas set out in Jenny Joseph’s Warning. It’s a pity we missed the rest of them as they seemed such fun. Oh how I too long to have just the right kind of stick to run along public railings, and I’m already hoarding pencils; perhaps I should also get a red hat that doesn’t go! Pointless really as the only way for me, a mere man, to get into The British Red Hatters involves more changes than I am ready for. The ‘free time’ was uneventful for me as I found somewhere to sit

“The Author ~ Waiting & Reading with George IV”

(here I am on the right as Bob and Pam Vincent snapped me resting under the statue of George IV, dismiss any thoughts about, “like patience on a monument”, if you would be so kind) and while away the time reading books, describing the Pavilion and the extensive gardens, purchased from the Pavilion shop. At this stage in the yomping stakes my knees were no longer speaking to me. Gill (Marchment, who I believe you can just see over my left shoulder, in a manner of speaking), Suzanne (Williams) and Alison (Prescott) willingly gave up their own free time to scour Brighton’s shops in search of a ‘consolation present’ for Dawn Thomas as a “Get Well Soon” from us all and came up with a wonderful framed old print of a ‘View of the Great Terrace and Little Terrace’ on the front in Worthing. The view is either from the pier (built well after Jane’s time) or from a boat as suggested in “Aquatic Excursions” by the Reverend Evans. His judgement of distance seems not to be as sage as his fellow fictional future cleric, Edmund, in Mansfield Park. Edmund when walking in Mr Rushworth’s grounds and woods, with Fanny and Mary Crawford in attendance, responds to Mary Crawford,

“ ‘Not half a mile,’ was his sturdy answer; for he was not yet so much in love as to measure distance, or reckon time, with feminine lawlessness.”

The Reverend Evans claims, “At a distance of three or four miles on the sea, Worthing appears to advantage; its new buildings glisten in the eye . . .“ After all the business with ‘half an anchor’ (as well as his claim that there is lots of sand on the 14 miles of beaches around Worthing even though there are many other sources backing both him and Fanny on their claims about golden sands), I’m beginning to have serious doubts about both the Reverend and his Guide. At that distance passengers in a boat, without powerful telescopes, when viewing Worthing would see no more than a distant smudge on the horizon, if indeed land was still in view. If he claims Worthing appears to advantage then this may be his idea of a ‘practical joke’ as if he did indeed not think much of Worthing after all. It could also be that he has no realistic notions about distances or the curvature of the earth. I reckon the latter, but I’ll leave you to judge for yourself. The picture [below], shows a few of the group boarding the bus for the north-west and home. If some of them look less than sprightly it’s because we packed a lot into a wonderful weekend walking tour of Worthing and its surrounds. You can make out the exterior Pavilion Garden Wall to the left.

*****************************

  Notes:

1. I am grateful to Francis Short who has extracted entries from Fanny Knight’s diary September 1805, from records held in the Centre for Kentish Studies Maidstone, including Catalogue Ref. C104/6

2.  A Picture of Worthing, John Evans A.M. , Amazon, ISBN 9 7811790023 47

3.  Louis Simond’s book is available as a digital copy on Google and is called, “Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great Britain during 1810 and 1811.”
http://books.google.com/books/about/Journal_of_a_tour_and_residence_in_Great.html?id=4z0JAAAAIAAJ

4.  Extract from The Dublin Penny Journal Volume 1 Issue 1 by Philip Dixon Hardy see http://books.google.co.uk/books

5.  Website: http://tarring.inthepast.org.uk/fig_garden

6.  Jane Austen’s Worthing – A Local Guide, Janet Clarke, 2011, Verité CM Ltd. I am grateful for all Janet Clarke’s help and research.

7.  Website: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Alley

8.  St Mary’s Bramber A Sussex House and Gardens, Peter Thorogood, The Bramber Press, 1998, ISBN  0 9526786 40 and St Mary’s Bramber A Pictorial Souvenir, Peter Thorogood, The Bramber Press, 1998, ISBN 952 6786 67

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Answers to the ‘Cartoons’ in the Pizza Express (formerly Stanford’s Cottage): how well did you score?

[1] Taken from Jane Austen’s letter to her sister Cassandra on Monday night December 24th 1798. “Miss Blackford is agreeable enough. I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”

[2] Taken from ‘Emma’ Chapter 9: with Emma in conversation with her Father. “That is the case with us all, papa. One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”

[3] Taken from ‘Mansfield Park’ Chapter 9: with Miss Mary Crawford directing her remarks to Edmund, and with Fanny in attendance, “At any rate, it is safer to leave people to their own devices on such subjects. Everybody likes to go their own way – to chuse their own time and manner of devotion.”

By Chris Sandrawich – Membership Secretary
Jane Austen Society Midlands
October 2011.

************************

Thank you Chris for allowing me to publish this! Do hope that people are now putting Worthing on their “Jane Austen must-sees” itinerary – hoping the city shall be overrun and the Library Passage shall be left as it is – how Jane saw it…

[West Sussex, England – wikipedia]

*The Library Passage: this update from Chris on what you can do re: the Library Passage closure: write to any of the key players in the  UK Government involved in Transport:

1. Rt Hon Justine Greening MP – Secretary of State for Transport
2. Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP – Minister of State for Transport
3. Norman Baker MP – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport {who is, I notice, the MP for Lewes in East Sussex, so there is a local connection we might be able to use}
4. Mike Penning MP – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport 

Their address is:
Dept for Transport, Great Minster House,
33 Horseferry Road,
London SW1P 4DR

alternatively you can write to them at:
House of Commons, London. SW1A 0AA

Copyright @2011 Chris Sandrawich, Transactions 22 (2011): 41-63. [all photographs courtesy of Chris Sandrawich; other images as noted]

@2012 Jane Austen in Vermont