Wanderer at Large: Hampshire & Dorset – Jane Austen Country

A tour guide’s all-time favourite UK places.

Sponsored by Your London Tours.

This September, Visit Britain, the marketing arm of the British tourist industry, is launching its ‘Great British Staycation Campaign’ to encourage people to holiday in the UK.

Soul City Wanderer (aka Frank Molloy) is one of the UK’s most accredited and experienced tour guides. Over three decades he has visited nearly every part of the country, touring many of the places that Great Britain and Ireland has to offer.

In a new blog series, he will list his all-time favourite five places by area (spiralling out from London*). These are personal choices, some obvious, some obscure.

This week, the area south-west of London that includes the counties of Hampshire and Dorset.

Jane Austen’s Cottage, Chawton.

Jane Austen Country

Active from 1800-16, Jane Austen only completed six novels before being cruelly stuck down by illness in her early 40s. However, the romantic and humorous nature of her works ensured she became one of the most widely-read authors in English literature.

The village of Steventon in Hampshire is the birth-place of Austen, and where she spent her first 25 years. Here she drafted Pride & Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Sense & Sensibility. The 12th century parish church has changed little since Jane attended and contains memorials to the Austen family.

In the village of Chawton is the 17th century house where Austen spent the productive part of her writing career.  It is now a small private museum and has been welcoming visiting Austen fans since as far back as 1947. Nearby is the manor house once owned by her brother.

The historic Hampshire city of Winchester appeared as a movie location for the film version of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  You can still see the house where Austen lived during the last months of her terminal illness. On July 18, 1817, Jane Austen died in the town.

Finally, take a tour of Winchester Cathedral, one of the UK’s oldest cathedrals, built in 1097. Jane Austen is buried here. Her brother Henry’s connections meant she could be interred in the cathedral, a building she greatly admired. Her modest funeral was attended by just four people. Henry composed the inscription on her gravestone in the north aisle. It makes no mention of her writing.

Places recommended for lunch include Cassandra’s Cup tea-room, Chawton; Greyfriars Inn, Chawton; Wykeham Arms, Kingsgate Street, Winchester; La Place Bistro, Great Minster Street, Winchester; and the Chesil Rectory, Jewry Street, Winchester;

Jane Austen’s Hampshire: there’s no promise of a meeting with a modern-day Darcy, but you’re pretty much guaranteed an enjoyable day out.

Note: All sites mentioned were operating pre-lockdown. Please check relevant websites before embarking on any potential visit. Another recommendation will appear tomorrow.

For the very best in guided private tours of the UK visit www.yourlondontours.com

*Operators in the UK tour industry often separate the areas of the country according to what touring can be achieved in a region in one day. As a London-based operator, my ‘map’ spirals outwards from the capital and is separated thus:

  1. London
  2. Northern Home Counties (Beds/Herts/Cambs)
  3. Eastern Home Counties (Essex/Suffolk)
  4. Southern Home Counties (Kent, Surrey, Sussex)
  5. Western Home Counties (Ox/Berks/Bucks)
  6. South coast (Hants/Dorset)
  7. Western England (Somerset/Gloucs/Wilts)
  8. South West England (Devon & Cornwall)
  9. Wales (north & south)
  10. Welsh Borders (Herefordshire/Shropshire/Cheshire)
  11. Western Midlands (Brum/Worcs/Warks/Staffs)
  12. Eastern Midlands (Northants/Leics/Rutland/Hunts)
  13. Northern Midlands (Notts/Derbys)
  14. East coast (Norfolk/Lincs)
  15. Yorks (all ridings)
  16. North West (Manchester/Merseyside/Lancs/Lakes/Cumbria)
  17. North East (Durham/Tyne & Wear/Northumberland)
  18. Southern Scotland (Borders/Lowlands)
  19. Northern Scotland (Highlands/Islands)
  20. Ireland (Northern/Southern)

Published by Soul City Wanderer

Soul City Wanderer is the alias of London journalist and author Frank Molloy, a writer on the city’s history and culture. Born south of the river, he has an MA in London history (Birkbeck) and lectures at various institutions including the Museum of London and the National Portrait Gallery. He is also a fully-qualified Blue Badge Guide (MITG), Westminster Guide and City of London Guide.

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