The grand country estates and locations used in the film adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels often lead her fans into believing that “our Jane” lived in some of Britain’s finest homes. But where, oh where, did Jane Austen call home?
The Steventon Rectory was Jane Austen’s birthplace. She lived at Steventon until she was five and twenty, from 1775-1801. It was a 17th Century property surrounding by large fields and sporting an attached farm. The Rectory is no longer standing, but St Nicholas Church, where Reverend Austen was the rector, can be seen. However, please remember that if you go to Hampshire that St Nicholas burned down and was rebuilt in 1872.
In 1800, Reverend Austen considered retirement. Because the Austens had met and married in Bath, the resort city became their destination. In May 1801, the Austens moved into a temporary “home.” In September, they found more permanent accommodations. They finally moved into 4 Sydney Place. There’s a plaque outside the house to commemorate Jane Austen’s years at the house. Because it was much smaller than their Steventon home, the Austens sold off Reverend Austen’s library and the pianoforte.
Southampton and Godmersham
With the passing of Reverend Austen in 1805, Jane, her mother, and her sister Cassandra found themselves in poor financial straits. The Austen took on the support of their mother and sisters. In 1806, the women moved in with Frank Austen and his new wife in Southampton. In 1808, they went to stay with Edward Austen at his Godmersham estate in Kent.
In 1808, Edward lost his wife to childbirth. After this tragedy, he offered a six-bedroom cottage on another of his estates to his family. The women moved into the Chawton cottage in Hampshire, which was close to the Steventon property upon which they had once lived. By this time, James Austen was the Steventon rector. Jane published four novels while living at Chawton. She finished a fifth and started a sixth one during those years.
By 1816, Jane was no longer able to write. Her illness had progressed. In May 1817, her family took Jane to Winchester so that she might be near her physician, Giles King Lyford. They moved in with their old friends, the Biggs, at 10 College Street. In July 1817, Jane Austen lost her fight with her illness. She passed peacefully. She is buried at Winchester Cathedral.