It was the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath this week and I was fortunate enough to go for a two days and a night at the beginning of the week.
Bath is the most amazing city, so beautiful. I took part in two of the organised activities; on monday night I attended a regency food tasting evening presented by a Jane enthusiast and it was most entertaining. There were a few people there in regency dress which was exciting. On the tuesday morning I went on an organised walk around where Jane would have walked herself during her time living in Bath (between 1801 and 1806). There are many activities organised over the week period such as dance lessons and balls so I am certain that I am going to go back next year and do more. This was just a taster.
I have attached various pictures with associated description. I have many of Bath so if you are interested to see more then do email me.
I photographed some of the recipes mentioned at the food talk so that you could see some examples of what Jane would have eaten during this time.
The young lady who presented actually had made her own variations of these recipes to taste which I actually didnt think were too bad! She did mention a few times how at the turn of the 19th century there was very limited storage and meat therefore went rancid very quickly so the meals were very rich in spices to try to conceal the rotten taste of the meat! I also thought that the use of language and variations in spelling was very interesting. One point raised was that recipes were not documented how we are used to, i.e. with a list of ingredients, instead it was often just a paragraph of words with little punctuation as seen in these photographs.
She also gave us a couple of recipes to take home for White Soup and Gooseberry Tart (email me if you would like a copy) and also made me aware of a poem called "Puddings Without Rhyme or Reason" written by Cassandra Austen (Jane's mother). It can be read on the Jane Austen Centre website . It makes us aware that Jane was not the only talented writer in the family.
The walk on tuesday morning started in Laura Place (where Lady Dalrymple - Sir Walter's cousin in Persuasion- lived) and walked up Great Pulteney Street towards Sydney Place where Jane Austen resided. There are two interesting facts about Great Pulteney Street; William Wilberforce lived here during the same period and it was highly likely that Jane and Cassandra would have passed him frequently on their walks. Also, Great Pulteney Street actually converges with a Henrietta Street at Laura Place. The mystical me is ignited here as Henrietta Street in Dublin houses the Law Library of King's Inns which holds the Stained glass window of Thomas Lefroy coat of arms ! I like finding signs when most would say it is just sheer coincidence.
Great Pulteney Street, Bath
Next we walked into Sydney Place and saw where Jane Austen and her family lived. There is a plaque on the wall. It still is a stunning part of Bath. The tour guide was explaining that rental prices in Great Pulteney Street where William Wilberforce lived would have been highly expensive and probably more than what the Austen's could afford. By simply walking 1 minute off the main street meant that they could afford to rent but still in the very plush and highly popular area of Bath. It was very very strange to stand on the steps where Jane herself would have stood. It was an amazing sense of uplifting.
The Austen's lease on 4 Sydney Place ended in 1804 and they moved to Green Park Buildings (no longer exists) and Mr Austen died a few months later. Mrs Austen, Cassandra and Jane lost their income and moved to lodgings at 25 Gay Street, which unfortunately I did not photograph but it is the same street as where The Jane Austen Centre now stands (pic below). They left Bath for good in 1806 to go to Southampton with Jane’s brother Frank and his family.
The next photos are just of the beautiful landscape surrounding where she lived. It fascinated me to consider how far she would have walked so frequently. There are lots of hills around there and wonderful areas to walk. We know she loved walking and she must have spent a great deal of time strolling considering she was not spending her time writing over this time which poses the question of what was going through her mind during these years?
The picture on the right shows where Sir Walter Elliot in Persuasion lived, Camden Place on the Crescent.
It is believed that Jane's uncle James Leigh-Perrot (her mothers brother) showed Jane the canal (seen in the picture on the bottom right)
The picture above left is of the pump rooms (next to the great Roman Baths) which Jane and her characters would have been very familiar with. Edward, Jane's brother, used the healing baths when he visited Bath as he was suffering from gout. Jane wrote in a letter to Cassandra...
'He was better yesterday than he had been for two or three days before...He drinks at the Hetling pump...is to bathe tomorrow.'
'Edward has been pretty well this last week, and as the waters have never disagreed with him in any respect, we are inclined to hope he will derive advantage from them in the end'.
I really like the lamp posts in Bath and I took care to take a photo with the one which had The Jane Austen Centre sign displayed. As mentioned above, The Jane Austen Centre is at 40 Gay Street, along the same street as Jane herself lived after her father died.
I ended my trip at St Swithin’s church, Walcot (below right), where Jane’s parents married and her father is buried.
I had a wonderful two days and I urge all of you to visit the wonderful city if you can. I end with my quote of the week, spoken by Catherine Morland to Mr Tilney in chapter 10 of Northanger Abbey:
"Oh! Who can ever be tired of Bath?"
Pics: Taken by myself 20th and 21st Sept 2010