Follow in Austen’s footsteps for some inspired group days out

Date Posted: 15/01/2013

Chawton House - Jane Austen Sense & Sensibility

Pictured: Chawton House Library in Hampshire, where Austen wrote Sense and Sensibility.

As literary fans look forward to the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, discover and explore the places that inspired the works of one of England’s popular writers.

From Hampshire and Bath to Oxford and Derbyshire, a variety of UK destinations appear in Austen’s writing. These locations featured in the life of Jane Austen as well as her characters, so why not get inspired and organise a group trip. 

Steventon and Oxford: Becoming Jane

Jane Austen was born in 1775 in the Hampshire village of Steventon. The village comprises a cluster of houses and a largely unchanged church, which marks a starting point for any Austen fan. Like Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, Jane was a keen walker and often made the journey to Popham Lane - where the family collected their letters - in north Walton, now more commonly known as the Wheatsheaf Inn.

In the summer of 1783, Jane was sent to Oxford with her sister Cassandra to be educated, while her eldest brother James was at St John's College. Visitors to Oxford can explore St John's and the Bodleian Library, which has some original Jane Austen manuscripts.

Jane also briefly studied in Southampton and Reading before schooling was curtailed due to constraints on the family finances. Jane returned to the family home at Steventon Rectory in 1787, where she remained for her young adulthood and discovered her passion for writing, penning several short stories and poems.

Bath: A walking tour and the Jane Austen Festival

Aged 26, Jane moved with her family to Bath, where they lived for five years in a series of regency townhouses. The city's Jane Austen Centre will appeal to fans, as you can learn of Jane's experience in the city and its influence on her writing.

Jane Austen Festival Bath - Ideal for Group Trips

Pictured: The Jane Austen Festival in Bath will take place from 19th to 21st September.

The Jane Austen Centre also offers Austen city tours every Saturday and Sunday, and groups can take time to go on a walking tour around Bath to discover the city’s Georgian Architecture and its heritage. The houses where Jane lived and the settings for the novels Northanger Abbey and Persuasion can all be seen within a mile of the Jane Austen Centre. Tours are led by expert guides and cost £6 per person.

Group travel organisers interested in the heritage of Bath won’t want to miss the annual Jane Austen Festival. Running from19th to 21st September, this year’s festival promises over 60 events, highlights of which include the Grand Regency Promenade, led by the 32nd Cornwall Regiment and the Worcester Yeomanry Cavalry; productions by the Artifice Theatre Company held at the Guildhall and the Old Theatre, and the Regency Costumed Masked Ball in the Pump Rooms.

Hampshire: Jane Austen’s House Museum and Chawton House

Following the death of her father, Jane returned to Hampshire in 1809, moving to a village cottage on the Chawton House estate. It was in Chawton that Jane spent her most prolific writing years, and where she published her first novel, Sense and Sensibility.

Today, the house is Jane Austen's House Museum, containing many of the Austens belongings and furniture as well as some original letters and manuscripts. To mark the anniversary of Pride and Prejudice, the museum is hosting two exhibitions. The Story of Pride and Prejudice will run from January to March, and features a trail of the novel’s illustrations around the house. She Had Dressed With More Than Usual Care is an exhibition of the costumes worn in the 1995 BBC adaptation starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, running from September until December. Adult tickets cost £7.50.

Chatsworth House - Inspiration for Mr Darcy's Pemberly

Pictured: Chatsworth House in Derbyshire is supposedly the inspiration behind Mr Darcy's Pemberly. (Photo Credit: VisitBritain, Martin Brent).

Chawton House, whose church houses the graves of Jane's mother and sister, holds a collection of women’s writing which group guests can see. Guided tours take place every Tuesday and Thursday at 2.30pm and include an exploration of the house and library. Adult tickets cost £6.

Winchester Cathedral

Jane became ill and travelled to Winchester in 1817 to be near her physician. Here, she stayed in a house on College Street, until she died on 18th July aged 41 and was laid to rest in Winchester Cathedral.

In the cathedral today, an illustrated exhibition runs throughout the year offering group visitors an insight into Jane Austen’s life and history. You can walk through the exhibition at your own pace and see Jane's memorial stone as well as the wall-mounted brass plaque that was added in 1872 to further address her literary achievements. Alternatively, fans can take a private tour with one of the cathedral's guides.

Additional events planned at Winchester Cathedral this year include a regency-style cream tea with a Jane Austen performance, and a Jane Austen and the Navy lunch with a guest speaker. 

Derbyshire, Berkshire, Kent and Wiltshire

The Derbyshire town of Bakewell is considered to be the inspiration behind Lambton. It is believed that Jane Austen once stayed in local hotel The Rutland Arms whilst visiting the area and revising the final chapters of Pride and Prejudice.

Pemberley, Mr Darcy's grand home in Pride and Prejudice, was supposedly based on Chatsworth House, also in Derbyshire. The ancestral home of the Duke of Devonshire and an iconic landmark in the Derwent Valley, Chatsworth has approximately 300 rooms open to the public as well as the gardens. The house can be visited throughout the year with benefits for pre-booked groups.

Groombridge Place Kent - Film Production Pride & Prejudice

Pictured: Groombridge Place in Kent features in the 2005 film production of Pride and Prejudice.

The 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice (starring Kiera Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen) set Pemberley at Chatsworth. Another star of this film was Basildon Park in Berkshire, which featured as the location for Darcy and Elizabeth's first meeting at Netherfield.  The house is also the setting for the film's sumptuous ballroom scenes, which take place in Basildon's dining room. Entry to Basildon Park costs £10 per adult or £9 each when travelling as a group. Parties of over 15 people require advanced booking.

Groups can also opt to visit two film locations depicting the Bennet family home, the first being Groombridge Place in Kent (in the 2005 film), and the second being Luckington Court in Wiltshire (as seen in the six-part BBC adaptation of the novel).

This list of sites was compiled by VisitEngland. Group travel organisers can visit the website of England’s official tourist board for further advice on planning a group visit to any of the featured sites and attractions.

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