Box Hill in Jane Austen’s Emma ~ Guest Post by Tony Grant

Gentle Readers: Today I welcome Tony Grant who has written for us a post on Box Hill. I had the pleasure this spring to spend a day with Tony, as he squired me around Southampton, Portsmouth and Box Hill – it was a rainy, quite miserable day, but the touring was grand, the company terrific! I’ve been to most of the Jane Austen sites – but not to anything we saw this day, from the Dolphin Inn to The Victory, and to the top of Box Hill – it was a world-wind tour of Jane, History, and Geology all rolled into one – Tony here tells of Box Hill, the infamous location that Austen chooses to place her Emma in one of her more self-illuminating “badly-done” scenes… with heartfelt thanks to Tony for the tour to the heart of it all…

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

A view of Box Hill, Surrey - George Lambert

A view of Box Hill, Surrey – George Lambert

Box Hill in Jane Austen’s Emma

On Monday 26th May this year, Deb Barnum [a.k.a. Jane Austen in Vermont] and I drove up to the top of Box Hill. The quickest route is to come off The London Road, known as the A24, which sweeps past the base of Box Hill, paralleling the River Mole, which itself, arcs around Box Hill to the south and west. The A24 leads south from Epsom towards Dorking. A mile before Dorking we turned left at Rykas Café, which is a popular venue for motorcyclists. We took a small B road, overhung with trees. An old rusty sign leaning out of the hedgerow on the left pointed its finger to the summit of Box Hill. We turned into a wooded and high hedged lane which began to immediately rise steeply, bending towards the right. We passed a weathered red brick cottage on the left, set within a ragged, vibrant country garden surrounded by high, smoothly manicured hedges bulging and swelling outwards in billowing shapes. The road soon opened out onto steeply rising chalk grassland. A precipitous drop on our right formed and a steep incline to our left reached upwards.

Box Hill summit 1Mist and cloud swirled around us as we mounted the hill along the switch back road. The corners made us turn almost back on ourselves but always took us to steeper and higher levels. The drop to the right revealed hedges of box and scrub, clinging tightly to the side of the hill, interspersed with finely cropped grasses. Chalky outcrops appeared to our left as we rose higher and higher amongst the mist and low clouds. As we neared the summit, trees and woodland gathered around us again. The squat whitewashed National Trust shop and café appeared in front of us and a car park was situated on the left amongst Scots Pines and firs.

We parked the car and I showed Deb the way to the viewpoint we had come to see. We were seven hundred and thirty-five feet above the River Mole and Dorking town was to our right. We could see far into the distance across the

Town of Dorking below

Town of Dorking below

woodlands and fields of Surrey. I suggested Deb take the part of Emma Woodhouse, who in Jane Austen’s novel of that name, visited this very spot with her friends and neighbours but she would have nothing of it. She would be Mrs Elton and nobody else. Deb stood and acclaimed the world standing high on the stone viewing plinth Leopold Salomons had erected in 1914, arms wide to the sky.

It was very near here that Emma Woodhouse and Mrs Elton and their party of friends alighted to picnic at the top of Box Hill in Jane Austen’s novel, Emma. The groups from Highbury and Hartfield, in the novel, have an inauspicious start to their trip, an inauspicious execution of it and an inauspicious end to it. It is a turning point in all their lives. The surface veneer begins to slip from various relationships. Reality begins to poke through Emmas carefully stage managed attempts of conducting other people’s lives. Nothing becomes certain. The Sucklings do not arrive at Hartfield and Mrs Elton’s plan of visiting Box Hill to show the Sucklings the views seems to lose its purpose but she has another thought and becomes adamant about the trip going ahead. The Sucklings can go another time. Mrs Elton’s idea about a trip to Box Hill has an effect on Emma. Emma does not want to be outdone. She has never visited Box Hill before and decides that,

emma-picnic1

“she wished to see what everybody found so well worth seeing…”

She discusses the trip with the amiable Mr Weston. He is perhaps too amenable and accommodating. In discussion with Mrs Elton he gets the approval of that lady that the two parties, hers and Emma’s join together for one combined trip to Box Hill. Emma is unhappy with the arrangement but as they will all go in different carriages with the people of their own choice perhaps it will not be so bad, she reasons. It would have been better if the horse that was to pull Emma’s carriage had stayed lame of course and so preventing Emma from going, but a quick recovery from this condition, inconveniently perhaps, gave no excuse for Emma not to proceed. A lame horse is a rather lame Jane Austen joke, I think, sprung in the midst of such serious matters. Tongue in cheek comes to mind – a joke at Emma’s expense between Austen and the reader.

Seven miles were travelled in expectation of enjoyment, and everybody had a burst of admiration on first arriving; but in the general amount of the day there was deficiency. There was a languor, a want of spirits, a want of unison, which could not be got over. They separated too much into parties.

This is an interesting passage because Jane Austen seems uncertain. She lists a litany of possible causes for the lack of harmony. She can’t herself decide on one exact cause. This adds realism to the situation. We cannot explain everything in real life and neither can Austen in this scene in Emma.

Austen has Frank Churchill perpetrate, perhaps, a cruel joke, to divert attention from himself and Emma. He asks the ultimate psychoanalysts question, in Emma’s name of course. He whispers to her:

“Our companions are excessively stupid. What shall we do to rouse them? Any nonsense will serve. They shall talk….”

And then for all to hear,

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am ordered by Miss Woodhouse (who, wherever she is, presides,) to say that she desires to know what you are all thinking of.”

Emma immediately tries to nervously laugh the question off. She is taken unawares by this and denies she has anything to do with any such request. There is a desperation in her voice. There is almost fear. She knows she could not, “stand the brunt,” of such raw honesty.

“Let me hear any thing rather than what you are all thinking of.”

There are one or two perhaps, (glancing at Mr Weston and Harriet,) whose thoughts I might not be afraid of knowing.”

Who can or would want to express their real thoughts at the drop of a hat? Is it possible for anybody to express their exact thoughts as they are thinking them? Our relationships would be very strange and probably be put under incredible stresses if we did. Emma is naïve to think even that the thoughts of Mr Weston and Harriet would bear hearing. Our subconscious level is below manners and the social veneer we all carry. It would be delving into our primal depths. This is the sort of thing that Sigmund Freud tried to study and explore. Frank Churchill is being cruel and he knows that nobody would answer this, certainly not himself. Imagine what sort of story would be written if everybody told their thoughts? It is almost the final nail in the coffin of harmony and wellbeing amongst the group on Box Hill.

On the top of Box Hill

Deb as Mrs Elton

Deb and I certainly didn’t even approach such a question. Deb, as I said before was just happy to be Mrs Elton and of course Mrs Elton and Mr Elton walked away on their own at Frank Churchill’s question. I wonder what Mrs Elton thought about it?   Maybe Deb knows. As for my first suggestion to Deb to play Emma on the top of Box Hill; Emma is obviously an anti-hero. Neither Deb nor anybody else I have spoken to, would willingly be an Emma.

Geology:

Standing high on Box Hill you notice the thinness of the grass under your feet. You see flints sticking out of the pathways and white chalk is revealed in patches everywhere. Box Hill is a geological phenomenon. The cretaceous chalk that comprises Box Hill, was laid down as the microscopic calcareous bodies of plankton on the floor of a tropical sea between 100 and 65 million years ago. Globally chalk is a rare rock formation so it makes the North Downs, of which Box Hill is part, a unique geological area. Originally it was laid as a horizontal chalk platform of uniform thickness. During the period the Alps were formed, about 50 million years ago, upheavals in the Earth’s crust forced this chalk layer into a vast dome. The northern most edge was where the North Downs are now. The dome stretched over to France. The British Isles were joined to the mainland of Europe then. Chalk, being a porous and relatively soft rock, it has been eroded and worn down by the actions of water. All that remains are the North Downs stretching from Guildford in Surrey, just south of London into the northern part Kent and The South Downs stretching from a line formed by the Itchen River between Southampton and Winchester in the west to The Cliffs of Dover on the coast of Kent in the East.

 Box Hill Bridge, Dorking – by Alfred Charles Jerome Collins
image: Dorking Museum

On the steep chalk slopes of Box Hill, the 394 feet escarpment and on the sides of the surrounding valleys, downland plants flourish. Because chalk is porous it hardly ever dries out, even in drought conditions which might affect the surrounding landscape. This means plants always have a ready water supply. It is said that plants on chalk downland have a brighter richer colour because of this. Plants such as hawk weed rock rose, bird’s foot trefoil, milkwort, squinancywort and dwarf thistle all thrive in this environment. Box woodland, which is extremely ancient, grows on the steep chalky, thin soiled slopes. It is one of the only trees that will grow in these conditions. The escarpments and valley sides face southwards which means it is often a hot exposed environment. Box Hill derives its name from the box that grows on it. Box has been around since probably the end of the Ice Age and perhaps before that. The characteristics of chalk downland are unique to Box Hill’s geology. There are dry valleys cut into the north side of the hill. This is where the River Mole, which runs under the escarpment of Box Hill has cut its course in the past and where drainage streams and rivulets flowed into it, but because the rocks are porous any streams and rivulets that remain are no longer on the surface but underground. Chalk is easily eroded so it gives a gentle undulating quality to the general landscape. On the steep slopes there are patches of bare chalk and these can gleam white in the sunshine.

Chalk from the North Downs has been quarried in the past. Surrey County Council had a quarry at Brockham nearby to Box Hill. It was used to quarry chalk that could be burned in kilns to produce lime and cement. These quarries, many of them now abandoned have been left to regenerate, plants and wild life and some are now places of special scientific interest. The quarries, because they have sides cut into the chalk, show the structure of the chalk particularly well.

Black Welsh Mountain Sheep - Box HIll

Black Welsh Mountain Sheep – Box Hill

image: National Trust – Box Hill

Chalk Down land is a special type of grassland habitat that is actually man made. Over centuries, sheep and cattle have been grazed on them. This has deforested the downland to a certain extent allowed unique wild flowers and animals, only found on downland, to flourish. To keep Box Hill’s downland quality a flock of sheep and a herd of cattle are grazed on it. The sheep on Box hill are Black Welsh Mountain sheep. There are twenty eight sheep, which are moved around the hill on a rotation.  Because sheep are ‘nibblers’ they leave the grass short and even. There are also cattle, which graze very differently. Cows use their tongues to rip plants up, which leads to more tufted grassland. The breed used on Box Hill are called Belted Galloway cattle. They can be recognised by their fluffy black bodies with a thick white belt around their middles. Four males graze Box Hill and nearby Headley Heath is grazed by three males and nine females. The animals are moved around Box Hill all the time.  If it ceased to be a grassland habitat, trees and woodland would take over and cover it. This would occur through a natural process called succession. This downland supports a great diversity of invertebrates including fourty one species of rare butterflies. The soil is good for snails too. Snails require the calcium in the chalk to form shells.

Box Hill FortHistory:

Box Hill has a varied history. The old fort, that can still be seen at the top of Box Hill, was built in the 1890’s and is one of thirteen that were built across the North Downs, collectively known as the London Defence System.. They were to be the last defence of London if Britain was ever invaded. In the late 1890’s there was a treaty with France called the entente cordial but Germany was beginning to increase its strength and many of the stresses and strains that eventually lead to the first world war were beginning to stir. Previously, in the 1860’s, during Palmerstone’s premiership, many forts had also been built around the coast of Britain to defend from a perceived threat from France then. The forts on Box Hill and across the North Downs were never used. I have visited and actually stayed in one of the forts, the fort on The Hogsback just outside of Guildford. It is owned by Surrey County Council and is used for parties of school children to stay at to enable them to explore and study wildlife and local history. The fort on The Hogs back contained officers quarters just outside the ramparts of the fort and a barracks for a small contingent of soldiers inside. The forts were basically armouries for storing shells, and explosives. They comprised of strongly reinforced chambers with specially constructed shelving. The one on The Hogsback had a large area of flat land in front of it on which  artillery could be positioned if required. These forts were situated high on the downs,as much as  seven hundred feet above the surrounding countryside. The one on the top of Box Hill is dilapidated now and barred from entry. A rare breed of bats has lodged itself inside the fort and cannot be disturbed. To continue the military theme, there are stepping stones that cross the River Mole at the base of Box Hill. During the second world war they were removed to impede invading forces crossing the river. In the area you can also see examples of pill boxes, which were concrete bunkers installed with heavy machine guns and concrete tank traps. Interestingly at the top of Guildford High Street, next to the railway line cutting, hidden amongst dense trees, nowadays you can see a whole swathe of Second World War tank traps covered in ivy and moss.

Burford Hotel

Burford Hotel

Literary Connections:

JohnKeats1819_hires

John Keats in 1819, by Joseph Severn – wikipedia

Box Hill has inspired a number of classic authors, not just Jane Austen as I mentioned at the start. John Keats, Daniel Defoe, George Meredith and Robert Louis Stevenson all visited Box Hill. J. M Barrie used to sit on one of the slopes of Box Hill getting inspiration for Peter Pan.

The Romantic Movement, led by William Wordsworth, popularised communing with nature and Box Hill became a popular place to visit. John Keats completed his poem Endymion (1816) while staying at the Burford Hotel next to Box Hill. Its famous opening lines have inspired generations,

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us….”

John Logie Baird, the inventor of television, lived in the Swiss Cottage at the top of Box Hill. In the 1930’s he conducted his early experiments in television from the top to the valley below.

John Logie Baird

John Logie Baird

The strangest individual connected with Box Hill is Major Peter Labelliere. He requested that he be buried upside down on the top of the hill. He believed that the world would go topsy-turvy and that one day he would be the right way up. His other dying wish was that youngest son and daughter of his land lady should dance on his coffin.

One thing you notice, as a driver, on Box Hill is when you descend, especially, winding along the switch back road on steep sided slopes and cliffs that the road surface has had strange, almost aboriginal markings painted on it. Here and there are the hoops of the Olympic movement. In 2012, The Olympics came to London. However, many events were not confined to the capital. The cycling road races were staged in the beautiful leafy, countryside of Surrey. Box Hill was the steepest part of the long distance cycling road race, hence the artistic markings that still adorn the road surface of the road..

On our way back to London, I drove Deb towards Kingston. We passed through an area called Malden Rushett, near the Chessington World of Adventures. There is a small industrial estate, farming land, a pub called The Blue Anchor and an extensive garden centre in Malden Rushett nowadays. The long straight road that passes through this area from Dorking to Kingston was a coaching road in the 18th century. Nothing apart from fields with cattle and maybe wheat growing would have existed there then. If you look on a map you can measure from Malden Rushett cross roads, seven miles to Box Hill, sixteen miles to London, twelve miles to Richmond and nine miles to Kingston – the exact distances from Highbury and Hartfield that Jane Austen reveals in Emma.   I mentioned this to Deb as we drove along. I think she was impressed.

the view we saw in the mist

the view we saw in the mist

top of Box Hill in the mist

top of Box Hill in the mist

The Esteemed Author

The Esteemed Author

All images c2014 Tony Grant unless otherwise noted.

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

Travels with Ron Dunning ~ Jane Austen’s Horsmonden from on High

Gentle Readers: I welcome today Ron Dunning, author of the Jane Austen’s Family Website. Ron had written here before on Horsmonden in “Jane Austen and the Huguenots” – but today he tells of a hot air balloon ride he and his wife Helena took in 2008 where he took these wonderful pictures of Kent and the surrounding countryside – enjoy the ride!

*******

17 Sheep

Sheep

Horsmonden from on High

by Ron Dunning

For my birthday in the spring of 2008 Helena, my wife, bought me a ticket for a hot-air balloon flight. I preferred to share the pleasure, so I waited till her birthday a few months later, and bought one for her.  The weather that summer was very wet, and it wasn’t possible to book a flight until early October. We chose a launch site in Wadhurst, on the Sussex border with Kent, an area that we know and love, on what turned out to be a golden Indian summer’s afternoon.

The direction of a balloon’s flight is entirely dependent on the wind. I had given no prior thought to the fact that the Austens’ ancestral heartland of Goudhurst and Horsmonden lay only some ten miles away, but the wind took us, at 12 mph, precisely in that direction. I only realised that this was our on our route as we passed over St Margaret of Antioch in Pisidia – Horsmonden’s parish church, with its collection of Austen graves and memorial brasses.

Till then I had simply been enjoying the wonderfully calm experience. (Even though a balloon flies a few thousand feet above ground level its passengers aren’t troubled by wind, since it is blown along at the same speed as the air.) Now I began to scan the horizon for Broadford, and possibly even Grovehurst, the Austen houses. I couldn’t find Broadford. It may have been possible to see it, but I wouldn’t have recognised it from the south, the direction from which we were travelling, since I’d only ever seen the front, which faces north.

Grovehurst lies at least a mile further beyond the village, in wooded country. The wind, and our so ground speed, had dropped. I spent the next fifteen minutes straining my eyes for a glimpse of the house, to no avail. Then, just as we were descending in search of a landing site in a friendly farmer’s field, and as the pilot was announcing a Gypsy site to the left, and as I had quite given up on spotting it, there was Grovehurst on the right. The pilot turned the balloon through 360 degrees (I don’t know how he managed that!) for everyone to see, and marked the Austen’s ancestral home on his map to show future passengers.

I don’t believe that there is any record of Jane Austen’s visiting Horsmonden, where her grandfather William Austen was born. His heroic mother, Elizabeth Weller, had to take a housekeeping job at Sevenoaks School in 1708 to keep her family together, and that broke the Austens’ relationship with the village. It would not be an anachronism to imagine Jane, if she had visited, seeing her ancestral home by air – on 19 September 1783 Pilatre De Rozier, a scientist, launched the first hot air balloon called ‘Aerostat Reveillon.’ The first manned flight came two months later on November 21, with a balloon made by two French brothers, Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier.

At that time, when the fastest land transport proceeded at the rate of a trotting horse, ascending in a balloon and flying with the wind would have struck most people as terrifying and mad. As it happens my wife, who is normally fearless, asked me if I too had been worried. I confess that my imagination is generally vividly aware of consequences – and there we were at 2000 feet, with no parachutes, in a wicker laundry basket! But I was so absorbed in reconnaissance that I had forgotten to give the danger any thought.

Arrival

Arrival

Still a Blank Slate

Still a Blank Slate

Taking Shape

Taking Shape I

Taking Shape

Taking Shape II

Inflation

Inflation

Inflation II

Inflation II

Firing up

Firing up

Rising Up

Rising Up

Rising Up II

Rising Up II

Lifting Off

Lifting Off

Aloft

Aloft

Neighbour

Neighbour!

Bayham Abbey Ruins

Bayham Abbey Ruins

Lamberhurst

Lamberhurst

Bewl Water

Bewl Water

St Margaret of Antioch in Pisidia

St Margaret of Antioch in Pisidia

Horsmonden

Horsmonden

Grovehurst

Grovehurst

Kent

Kent

Groundlings

Groundlings

Pursuit Vehicle

Pursuit Vehicle

Landing Strip

Landing Strip

Skid Marks

Skid Marks

Packing Up

Packing Up

Stowing Away

Stowing Away

**********

Thank you Ron for this beautiful travelogue of Kent from the air!

I have to add that I have won a raffle only one time in my life, and that was for a hot-air balloon ride – it was quite the adventure, a totally unique experience of floating above the world without the usual noisy airplane sounds, so quiet and peaceful that I never wanted it to end – but we had a sudden wind pick-up and took off away from the tracer car [and my family who were following – my son, 7 years old at the time thought I had disappeared into the ether, never to be seen again; my nearly teenaged daughter was hoping beyond hope that was true!] and had a quite dramatic crash landing at a reservoir, all diving out of the basket to keep the balloon from falling into the water – but alas! my pictures, though quite lovely of the Connecticut countryside, are all on slides and do not, believe it or not, have anything to do with Jane Austen…

Anyone want to comment on Ron’s journey and photographs? or add any of your own ballooning adventures [whether Jane Austen-related or not!]?

Text and images copyright by Ronald Dunning, with thanks!

c 2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

Reblogged from Nan Quick: The Chelsea Flower Show of 2014: Contemplating the Biggest Pop-Up Gardens in the World.

This is a lovely [and long!] post from Nan Quick with fabulous pictures on the Chelsea Flower show. I arrived in London on the last day of the show but didn’t get there – so this feels like I did after all! Thank you Nan for such an in-depth view!

nanquick

The Daily Telegraph Garden, at the 2014  Chelsea Flower Show. This is just a portion of the elegant space designed by Tommaso del Buono and Paul Gazerwitz. Tommaso grew up in Florence, and Paul in New York, and together they have an international practice, based in Shoreditch, East London. Here, a giant panel of Nocino Travertine Limestone punctuates a tall, green hedge. Low topiaries, pruned into pincushion shapes, flank a bench that floats in front of the limestone. The Daily Telegraph Garden, at the 2014
Chelsea Flower Show. This is just a portion of the elegant space designed by Tommaso del Buono and Paul Gazerwitz. Tommaso grew up in Florence, and Paul in New York, and together they have an international practice, based in Shoreditch, East London. Here, a giant panel of Nocino Travertine Limestone punctuates a tall, green hedge. Low topiaries, pruned into pincushion shapes, flank a bench that floats in front of the limestone.

Late July 2014.

September of 2008: As I was displaying my garden furniture in a rather grotty convention hall in Birmingham, England, I was invited by a representative of the Royal Horticultural Society to exhibit my designs at their next Chelsea Flower Show. And so, in May of 2009, I found myself and my creations arranged in an elegant tent, on the grounds that surround Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital, in London. I’d…

View original post 7,436 more words

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

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

*********

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

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.

A Road by Any Other Name ~ Jane Austen Takes Over Worthing!

Breaking Jane Austen News!

From The Argus [Surrey, UK]:

Visitors to a new Worthing housing estate are in for a literary experience.

Three streets at the Barratt Homes development, The Fieldings  have been given names connected to celebrated author Jane Austen.

The Fieldings

The Fieldings

 [Image from the Barratt Homes website]

Austen found inspiration for many scenes and characters in her final and unfinished novel Sanditon when she visited the town in 1805.

Members of the Jane Austen Society contacted Worthing Borough Council calling for a street name in the town for the author.  [it is the JAS-Midlands Branch that spearheaded this effort under the leadership of Chris Sandrawich.]

Barratt Homes have now unveiled the street names as Austen Gate, Sanditon Way and Chawton Gate on the estate.  [There is also a block of flats called Mansfield Court.]

Society members and descendants of the author gathered in Worthing to mark the unveiling.

JAS-Midlands Branch

JAS-Midlands Branch

Barratt southern counties sales director Lynnette St Quintin said: “Where we build new homes and create new communities, it is important they are reflective of local history. The Worthing connection with Jane Austen is certainly one for everyone to be proud of.”

[Source:  http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/10667516.Jane_Austen_gives_inspiration_to_Worthing_roads/]

One wonders with “The Fieldings” so named if there might also be a Joseph Andrews Avenue or a Tom Jones Junction, or how about Bow Street Runners Boulevard … even Jane Austen would like that I think!

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

You might recall last year’s efforts regarding the Library Passage in Worthing: this street naming is a partial result of the JAS’s hopes to have some recognition of Jane Austen in the area.  There is more to come in a future post from Chris Sandrawich, so stay-tuned, and on your next trek to England be sure to put Worthing on your itinerary; better yet, buy a home here at Chawton Gate!

 c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

 

Touring with Jane Austen ~ Marble Hill House, Twickenham, and Richmond

Enquiring Minds: Tony Grant of London Calling, and a regular contributor to Jane Austen’s World, had written a post for me on Marble Hill House in Twickenham – but alas! I have been so delayed in getting this on the blog that we agreed he should post it himself and I will link to it… so herewith the tale of Marble Hill House, home to Henrietta Howard, mistress of George II. This all started with a conversation over Joshua Reynolds’s house, which led to Richmond Hill, and then on to Henrietta Howard and Marble Hill House, and then Pope and Swift, Horace Walpole, John Gay and the Scriblerus Club, a bit on Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott and on to Dickens and Virginia and Leonard Woolf, and of course Jane Austen gets her required mention – you get the idea – this is cram-packed with literary tourism and as always, Tony’s fine photographs…

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

The Thames from Richmond Hill

The Thames from Richmond Hill

The River Thames wends its tortuous way across England from Thames Head in Gloucestershire until it reaches the southernmost part of the North Sea. Its journey stretches for 215 miles. Finally the wide Thames Estuary which pours its contents into The North Sea is bordered on the north bank by the Essex coast and Southend on Sea and at its southern bank by the Kent coast, Sheerness and the entrance to the Medway.

Along its course The Thames passes though some beautiful English countryside before it enters the Greater London area passing by Sunbury and on to Hampton, then Hampton Court, Kingston upon Thames, Twickenham and Richmond. At last it reaches the centre of London with its iconic landmarks. The Thames, from London along its whole length, has a long history of Iron Age villages, Roman habitation, Saxon towns, and mediaeval settlements, Tudor Palaces and Georgian and Victorian Villas.  London itself began as a Roman settlement for trade, built at the nearest bridging point to the coast   where they had their port called Ritupiae (Richborough). They wanted to penetrate the hinterland north of the Thames. Indeed the names Thames which was Celtic in origin but had its Roman equivalent (Tamesas recorded in Latin as Tamesis)  and London (Londinium) come to us from Roman times.

Over the centuries the Thames outside of London has provided a beautiful Arcadian retreat for the wealthy, the famous, the aristocracy and the monarchy away from the stench and diseases prevalent in many periods of London’s history. They built palaces and grand houses and villas with adjoining estates and landscaped parks to relax and take their leisure in. Marble Hill House is a Palladian Villa built between 1724 and 1729, very close to Richmond upon Thames but on the northern bank of the Thames near Twickenham. It was built for George II’s mistress, Henrietta Howard….

Henrietta Howard

Henrietta Howard

 Continue reading…

Thank you Tony for this sun-drenched tour through London!

For more on Marble Hill House, etc,  you can look here:

Marble Hill House

Marble Hill House

…and not to be confused with our very own MARBLE HOUSE, the William Vanderbilt’s summer “cottage” in Newport, Rhode Island:

Marble House, Newport, RI

Marble House, Newport, RI

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

Touring with Jane Austen ~ Bath, England

Gentle Readers who love to travel, especially those who love to follow in Jane Austen’s Footsteps:  I am linking to this post by Nan Quick, one of our JASNA members from New Hampshire.  She had emailed me recently to tell me of her website for armchair travelers, with one of her posts on Jane Austen’s Bath … I append it here – with lovely pictures and lively commentary, how perfect to visit such a place as this, when so many of us are snowed-in! So with dreams of warmer climes and Jane Austen hovering nearby, here you go…

Bath 1 - Nan Q

I really wanted to call this Armchair Traveler Chapter “Jane Austen’s Bath.” But holding forth about Jane’s bathing habits would have given me ammunition for a brief and not very interesting article. So, instead it’ll be “Jane Austen AND Bath.” I’ll try to describe the City as it was during the times when she lived there, and I’ll show you many of the locations that she used in two of her books. Happily, the built world of today’s Bath is largely unchanged from Jane’s time. Over the past two centuries the City’s fame has protected it from indiscriminate “improvements,” and so visiting Bath today gives a fairly good impression of what Jane’s days there might have been like.

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re Austen-informed, and have thus read NORTHANGER ABBEY and PERSUASION, which are called Austen’s Bath novels.

On May 28th, 2011 I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon in Bath. Of course, in England, the weather has a mind of its own, and storms from a place called “Bill’s Mother’s” descended. Here’s how it is with Bill: the locals always say bad weather is blown in from a mythical place called “Bill’s Mother’s.” I thought you should know, just in case you go to Bath and people start talking weather. On that Saturday my British friends and I were rained upon, blown about, and generally frozen; late May felt like early March. But I’d asked Anne and David and Janet (who you’ve met in my earlier Armchair Traveler pieces) to make the long round-trip drive on the traffic-jammed M5 with me from the Midlands down to Bath, expressly so I could make the following words REAL to myself:

“The Crescent,” “Milsom Street,” “Pulteney Street,” “The Pump Yard.” I also wanted to clear my confusion, once and for all, about all those infernal ROOMS that Austen’s characters scurried between: the Upper Rooms, or the New Assembly Rooms; the Lower Rooms; and the Pump Room. Even though my time there was short, and the weather awful, I managed to get a sense of the lay of the land, which is what I’d like to share with you.

Continue reading…

Bath 2 - Nan Q
[Images from Nan Quick.com]

Nan has also written a post on CONTEMPLATING THE GENIUS OF PLACE, & THE PLACES OF GENIUSES —

  • Liverpool (Gormley, McCartney, Lennon) ;
  • The Ruins at Witley Court ;
  • and ending with Chawton and Jane Austen’s House

This is a long post, so if Jane is your only interest, then scroll through it to the end – but I advise you see read the whole thing – I was in a Liverpool a few years ago and it was very nice to re-live that trip – so thank you Nan!