Sunday, 3 September 2017

Out and About in Jane Austen’s Bath

With the Jane Austen Festival just around the corner, we’ve been looking at some of the classic places to visit if you want to explore Jane Austen’s life in Bath.

Naturally, the Jane Austen Centre on Gay Street is a good place to start to get an overview of the author’s life, but there are plenty of other places in Bath that are worth visiting if you want to get closer to Miss Austen.

One of these you might easily assume would be Bath Abbey; surely she went there on a regular basis? But while it’s an incredible building and well-worth a visit (we especially recommend going on one of the “Tower Tours” which take you up to see the bells, the clock, and the view over Bath), it’s not actually somewhere that there’s any evidence Jane ever went.

If you’d like to visit the place where Jane went to church then the place to go is St. Swithins Church, just off from the Paragon. This is where Jane’s father had his first job as a clergyman, and so where the Austen family went to worship when they lived in and visited Bath (the Abbey was considered to be far too crowded!) You can still visit the grave of Jane’s father at St. Swithins (Jane is in Winchester Cathedral).

Next, if you’re visiting St. Swithins, then just around the corner are the famous Assembly Rooms, which Jane writes about in Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. The layout is largely unchanged from the layout of the building as Jane knew it - with the octagonal card room, the ball room and the tea room all still in residence. The decoration is also close to that which Jane would have known and the chandeliers are the same which would have been hanging up in Jane’s day. Admittedly they have since been adapted for electric light, but the structure with its crystals are still the originals.

On the other hand, if you’re more keen to visit the houses which Jane stayed in then you’ll have a good walk; they’re a bit spread out!

First she stayed at number 1 the Paragon where her rich relatives the Leigh-Perrots lived. Next she returned two years later to stay with her brother, Edward, when he was staying at number 13 Queen Square - it’s now private offices.

However, the first house which she lived in was 4 Sydney Place, opposite the Holburne Museum (which was Sydney Hotel in Jane’s time, and the ideal place to go for tea, reading the papers and for the occasional concert). After that she also lived at Trim Street, Green Park Buildings, and number 25 Gay Street.

You might like to visit the exteriors of one or two of the aforementioned homes, but if you do visit all of these places, apart from getting a good leg-stretch, you’ll also likely work up a bit of an appetite. This is perfect; as you’re sure to spot more than a couple of restaurants on your walk that you’ll want to return to!

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