Tour of Steventon Jane Austen's Birthplace with Richard Tanner
The Jane Austen Detectives visited the small village of North Waltham in North Hampshire where we met author and local historian, Richard Tanner.
We were interested to hear that Richard was encouraged by his friends to write about the Steventon after finding connections to Jane Austen whilst researching his first book on North Waltham. This resulted in the publication of his second book, 'Steventon - Jane Austen's Birthplace'.
Richard's tour started in North Waltham where we ventured on foot to the Wheatsheaf Inn. During Jane's time, this doubled up as a former coaching-station and post-house. This was an important place for Jane as she was able to walk and collect the family mail.
Richard took us upland to Steventon Manor which was once owned by the Austen's friends the Digweed's. From the Manor, we walked to Steventon Church where George Austen was the Rector for forty years succeeded by his son James in 1801. In the church, Richard pointed out numerous memorials dedicated to the Austen family.
As we drove down the valley, our attention was drawn to a water pump which was the location of the original Rectory which was destroyed and re-built.The Rectory had been extended to accommodate servants and live-in students and the Austen family in order to generate extra income. Both Jane and her sister Cassandra were educated in the Rectory before heading to Oxford, Southampton and Reading for their extended education.
The second part of Richard's tour focused on the surrounding villages of Ashe and Deane where during Jane Austen's young adult years, she often walked through the Hampshire countryside visiting her friends the Holders at Ashe Park and Mrs Lefroy at Ashe House. On one of her visits to Ashe, Jane met Mrs Lefroy's nephew Tom Lefroy who became the subject of her affections. Jane was also known to have dined and attended parties in many of the large country Hampshire homes including Deane House, home of the Harwoods.
From walking in Jane's footsteps, the Jane Austen Detectives have discovered that her life in provincial Hampshire did not hinder Jane from enjoying the pleasures and delights of a happy family, fine food, good company and dancing in her friends homes.
Richard's engaging tour ended with afternoon tea in the Georgian built Oakley Hall outside Basingstoke, originally owned by Jane's friends the Bramston's. We all enjoyed drinking tea, eating egg and cress sandwiches followed by scones with jam and cream in the oak panelled room, a magnificent end to an Austen tour.
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