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.