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 …


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


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.


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.

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.


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


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.


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







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 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*.

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 = ?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.

8 thoughts on “Jane Austen in The Midlands ~ the 2013 JASNA Tour to the UK ~ by Christopher Sandrawich

  1. Thanks so much Chris for the recap of our great time in the Midlands. You were a very entertaining lecturer & this area was one, after several trips to the UK, I was very keen to visit. Now, if we could only have just a little of that blistering heat to warm us this winter, LOL!


    • So glad you found this Sue – a nice recollection for you on your trip – how I envied you going, especially the trek to the Midlands! You could always write something up if you would like – do you have grand pictures? – would be happy to post anything… Thanks for stopping by!


  2. Chris, this sounds a great tour. Starting it at The Leg of Mutton pub,, a tour de force!!!
    Being a southerner, i know of the Austen connections in the Midlands and the references to the novels but up until now, having just read your article, merely the bare bones of it.
    I love the way you have made all the links to local history, local characters and of course the famous, Wedgewood and Wilberforce and so on..The Rev Cooper; well what can I say!!!? It puts Austen into a much richer context.

    I concur with your analysis of JASNA’s itinerary.”If it’s Tuesday it must be……!
    However i hope the purpose of a guided trip like this encourages people to come back and explore on their own. I always think that a guided tour should be the precursor to a deeper and more sustained personal adventure.

    Love the fact you have picked up on air conditioning!! ha! ha! Good explanation for the lack of it by the way. Yes,, I have had requests in the past to turn on the air conditioning in my car However, in the past,as my car was over sixteen years old, and a cheaper model, I didn’t have it. My new car does have air conditioning by the way.. It is always a thing of amusement this reliance on air conditioning that ,,”some,” people have. Of course its all about climate.
    I have also learned about, Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys. I had never heard of her.
    Thank you for your comprehensive report.
    All the best,


  3. I am posting this for Ron Dunning:

    Christopher has written a fine and very detailed account of a British person’s observations of a JASNA tour. Just thinking about the itinerary makes me dizzy (and perhaps a little travel-sick)! The first observation that I was planning to make was on Tim Powys-Lybbe’s campaign to divert the Janeite community away from its attachment to the name Lybbe-Powys. The battle may already have been lost, but Christopher it is noble of you to keep up the fight!

    I wonder whether the Jacobean Aston Hall in Birmingham would make a good setting in a future film adaptation. Even if not its builder, Thomas Holte, was one of George Austen’s great-great-great-grandfathers, on his maternal side. The Ferrers of Tamworth Castle were in that line of ancestors too. (One of my intentions, so far unfulfilled, is to contact the Midlands group on the Austens’ Midlands ancestry …)

    Now, as for Middleton … There is, as Christopher has said, a strong tradition in the Warwickshire village of Middleton – the seat of Francis Willoughby, the renowned naturalist – that Jane visited there on the trip to Staffordshire in 1806 with her mother and sister. Middleton certainly lies in a direct line, as the crow flies, from their stop at Stoneleigh to Hamstall Ridware. If they did visit, it may have been because Mrs Austen knew of a family relationship; she was certainly considered to have been proud of her ancestors.

    Janine Barchas, in her Matters of Fact in Jane Austen, speculates that in choosing the names of Darcy, Wentworth, Woodhouse, FitzWilliam, Tilney, etc., Jane was alluding “to actual high-profile politicians and contemporary celebrities as well as to famous historical figures and landed estates.” The Willoughbys of Middleton were Mrs Austen’s cousins, and I think that Jane may well have heard about the family relationship from her. Emma Willoughby (née Barnard), the wife of the noted naturalist Francis Willoughby of Middleton, was Cassandra Leigh’s great-great-aunt; Emma’s sister Elizabeth Brydges (née Barnard) was her great-grandmother through her daughter Mary, who married Theophilus Leigh. Elizabeth was also the mother of James Bridges, the Duke of Chandos, who married Emma’s daughter Cassandra Willoughby (James and Cassandra were cousins).

    After the death of Francis Willoughby Emma married again, to Sir Josiah Child – supreme governor of the East India Company, an early monetarist, and a rapaciously wealthy financier to 17th century royalty. Emma and Sir Josiah’s son, Richard Child, became the Earl Tylney of Castlemaine, and one of Richard’s great-granddaughters was Catherine Tylney-Long. Catherine inherited a vast estate and fortune in 1794 at the age of 5, and at 18 was reputedly the richest commoner in England. Janine Barchas speculates that Jane, in choosing the name of Catherine Tilney, had this relation in mind. Catherine Tylney-Long was Jane Austen’s 4th cousin. Very few of us have any idea about our fourth cousins, but based on the circumstantial evidence, I suspect that Jane did know that they had a connection

    Ron has sent me the genealogy chart for the Austen / Tylney-Long connection – I have put this in the post above as I cannot do it in the comments… Thank you Ron for supplying this additional information! – I am quite dizzy trying to make all the connections!


  4. Wow! What a wonderful post! Thanks so much — it was so chock full of lovely tidbits that I have to go back and read it again. I couldn’t take it all in the first time through. Enjoyed Ron Dunning’s thoughts too. I so appreciate the time and attention that goes into posts of this nature in general, and the information helps fill an area of my “knowledge” of Jane Austen in which I am sadly lacking. (Not to mention I am currently rereading the Letters, and love all the details that affect my understanding of those.)


    • Yes, Tess, I find that re-reading the letters gives so much information so easy to gloss over – they seem like her novels, where almost every word is filled with meaning…

      Thanks as always for stopping by…


  5. “Very few of us have any idea about our fourth cousins, but based on the circumstantial evidence, I suspect that Jane did know that they had a connection.”

    Well, I’m not convinced about all these slim family connections.Ron, You say that Cassandra (mother) Austen was proud of her family links. She may well have been. But I wonder how much she was aware of the greater spread of her family connections. Did people in the 18th century keep all this knowledge in their heads, past down anecdotally? Or did they keep vast written ,family trees? There would be evidence of such.if they did. Maybe the fact they had no television or internet, they were able to fill their time remembering???

    As an aside, I was contacted by a second cousin recently who lives in Northern Ireland who is exploring our shared family history. Until she got in contact with me I had no idea she existed!!! She had no idea I existed until she found a blog post of mine by accident and realised the link. I must add, we are getting on like a house on fire!!!!


    • This is a reply from Ron Dunning to Tony:
      Hi Tony

      I’m normally sceptical about Jane’s knowledge of fourth (and beyond) cousins. In fact I absolutely regret mentioning the coincidence of some 13th-century forebears whose names turn up in P&P – there’s no way she could have known about them, and I’m annoyed that someone has taken up the idea and mentioned it at JASNA meetings. But if the ladies _did_ call at Middleton (and I’ve spoken to Deirdre Le Faye about this, who hasn’t come across any record) there might just have been a reason. Elizabeth Barnard was no further back than Mrs Austen’s great-grandmother; and the family saved a letter that she wrote to Mary Brydges, her grandmother, advising her on how to behave while her parents were abroad (Elizabeth was married to the 8th Lord Chandos, the ambassador to Constantinople). And the descendants of Elizabeth’s sister Emma were as notorious as any. The letter, by the way, is printed in the 1870 Memoir of Jane Austen.

      Note that I am still discussing circumstantial evidence. It’s not a big deal to me either way, and I certainly won’t be arguing strongly. However if Jane was aware that Catherine T-L was a descendant of Emma, that would add extra frisson to Janine Barchas’s theory.


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