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Sunday, August 15, 2010

In the Footsteps of Jane in London

This book by Anne-Marie Edwards turned out to be an invaluable resource during my UK trip in July.

The book provides an excellent guide to walking tours to most of the places relevant to Jane Austen’s life: Steventon, Godmersham, Bath, Lyme, Southampton, Chawton, Great Bookham, London, Winchester and more. I used the book as a guide mainly while visiting London and Bath, as I simply wouldn’t have known where to start! The instructions were fairly simple to follow; however, I used an extra map to help me on my walks as the maps provided in the book weren’t all that clear.

In London, I followed the guide and started my walking tour from Piccadilly. The walk is around 5 miles in length, a detail which I failed to notice as I started walking!

Coaches to London from the south and west of England used to stop in Piccadilly, close to the entrance to the Burlington Arcade. From Piccadilly I turned to Old Bond Street.


The area is now, of course, dotted with designer boutiques, but the architecture is as it used to be in the Georgian times. Jane spent a lot of time in the Mayfair area and may have passed these buildings on her outings.


It was in Mayfair that Jane set most of the London scenes in Sense and Sensibility.  It was here in Old Bond Street that Willoughby sent the letter that broke Marianne’s heart.

From Cork Street I turned to Clifford Street, which retains a strong period feel.

These attractive eighteenth-century houses with their rows of Georgian windows, pillared doorways and lovely wrought iron work make this area look so authentic that one feels like one is in a movie set! I could almost hear the clanking sounds of the passing coaches…

From Clifford Street, I turned to Savile Row, then into Vigo Street and finally to Sackville Street, before entering Piccadilly again.

Having crossed Piccadilly Circus, I walked towards Charing Cross Road. Across from St Martin’s Lane, there was a small arched entrance on the right, leading to Goodwin’s Court.


On this narrow lane, you can see typical rounded bows of eighteenth-century terraces facing each other. These buildings now house small boutiques and salons, but in the alleyway, there is nothing to remind you of the modern times.

Can you spot the carriage lamps and the lovely brass fittings on the door?

From there, I entered into Bedfordbury.


From Bedford Court, I turned to Bedford Street. I then turned to Henrietta Street near Covent Garden, which is where Jane’s brother, Henry, lived, at Number 10 (below, on the right). At the time, Henry was a banker, and his bank was situated downstairs. Jane visited Henry here after the death of his wife, Eliza in 1813, and again in 1814.

From Henrietta Street, I started walking towards the Strand. As I walked down the Mall, I passed Carlton Terrace, which stands on the site of Carlton House, Prince Regent’s London home, where Jane visited the Prince’s librarian in 1815. 

I passed Buckingham Palace, which in Jane’s time was the Queen’s house. I walked through Green Park towards Hyde Park Corner. It was again a lovely, sunny day with plenty of people enjoying the sun, relaxing with picnics in the park. Jane saw the parks very much how we seem them today.

A few blisters later, I walked towards Sloane Street in Knightsbridge, where Jane first stayed with Henry and Eliza in 1811. In Jane’s time, Sloane street was an isolated development in a marshy area; it is now a wide road with plenty of designer boutiques in and around it. The house where Jane stayed has since been reconstructed in Victorian style. Here Jane reworked and edited Sense and Sensibility.

My last stop was Hans Place off Hans Street, which in Jane’s time was surrounded by fields. From Henrietta Street, Henry moved to Hans Place, which is now a beautiful, Victorian crescent with plenty of greenery in the middle. Perhaps Henry’s original house resembled the small, brown Georgian house in the right-hand corner.


Henry’s house was at number 23, Hans Place.


Seeing Jane’s name printed on a plaque brought a smile to my face, and this was a wonderful way to end my tour. Despite the length of the walk, the tour was definitely worth it – a lovely way to do sightseeing across London!

Just make sure to wear some good shoes on your tour!


References: Edwards, A-M. (1991). In the Steps of Jane Austen – Walking Tours of Austen’s England. Wisconsin: Jones Books.


  1. Anna, I'm EVEN MORE impressed.
    You are a really dedicated fan.
    Somebody after my own heart.

    I tend to use Jane's own letters when planning a Jane journey. I use the Deirdre le Faye collection of letters, with the notes and references Deidre has collated.I think they are invaluable
    Also I find Claire Tomlin's, Jane Austen, A Life, absolutely invaluable. Of course, then there are the novels. In Bath, you can almost use Northanger Abbey and Persuasion as tourist guides in themselves.

    Emma is great for exploring Surrey. I happen to live in Wimbledon which is the north part of Surrey so I know all the places well anyway. Also as far as, Sense and Sensibility goes, I can get to the London sites within 20 minutes on the tube or commuter train to Waterloo.

    I was born and lived my early life in Southampton. So I need say no more on that point.


  2. Just a thought, Anna.I noticed you are going to write a post about your trip to Bath. I've been to Bath twice very recently , once for a family trip and secondly for work. I'm going to write a stream of consciousnous post for Jane Austen Today about Bath( Alan Ginsberg style). I'm going to combine it with quotes from Jane's letters and quotes from Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
    Please don't let that put you off. I think you have a fresh, exciting style.I like your sense of adventure. It is all an adventure, isn't it????? Go for it Anna!!!!!


  3. This post reminds me so much of my walks in Mayfair. Very nice description of your walk!

  4. @Tony: thanks for giving me ideas for resources. I've got some of these books in my collection and it's great how you can get so much info just by reading her letters and novels.
    Are you planning to post/have you posted on Southampton? That would be interesting :)
    Thanks for the motivating words, Tony!!

    @Vic: Glad you enjoyed the post :) Mayfair is amazing.

  5. Yes, Anna. I've written a post about Southampton, based mostly on the letters she wrote while living there and some of the people she got to know. It's on my Blog, London Calling. If you put Jane Austen into the search box you should see it listed.


Would love for you to add some valuable comments and feedback!