Follow in the footsteps of Jane Austen in Hampshire
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that when you’re in Hampshire you’re in Jane Austen county. Her silhouette features on many a sign of Jane Austen’s birthplace. She is of course one of England’s literary heroes whose 6 main novels have been published in over 40 languages worldwide. Pride and Prejudice alone has sold over 20 million copies.
Tourists come in their droves to feel close to Jane Austen in Hampshire. After all she was born here and also died here. As well as the obvious places, I’ll also share a couple of hidden gems which will help you to follow in her footsteps.
You could easily spend a few days here finding out more about Jane Austen, and perhaps finding your own writing inspiration. My guide will take you from her birthplace in Steventon, to her final resting place in Winchester Cathedral, with a few stops for food and drink on the way.
Starting in Steventon - Jane Austen’s birthplace
The first place to discover Jane Austen in Hampshire must be her birthplace; the tiny village of Steventon in the north of the county. It was here in 1775 that Jane was born to Reverend George Austen, clergyman at Steventon Church. She stayed here until she was sent away to school in Oxford, at the young age of six. Jane and her siblings would have spent many hours playing in the fields and woodland, much of which is unchanged.
The church here looks particularly beautiful in early Spring with the clusters of snowdrops and daffodils. It’s the starting point of a fantastic walk called the Three Churches Walk. The 6 mile loop takes in Steventon, Ashe and Deane churches via fields and woodland footpaths. It’s mainly flat and easygoing, though not suitable for pushchairs.
Along the route I’d recommend a stop at the nearby Palm Brasserie. The service is excellent and the dining areas are spacious and adorned with Austen quotes. Depending on when you pass, there’s a fantastic afternoon tea option as well as lunch offers and set menus.
Bronze in Basingstoke
As the nearest large town to Steventon; Basingstoke has also claimed the credit for Jane Austen’s birthplace. In 2017 a bronze statue of her was placed outside the Willis Museum to commemorate her 200th anniversary. It is apparently life-sized which I find incredible because it really is quite small.
Whilst you’re checking out the statue, you may as well enjoy a couple of Basingstoke’s small businesses. Just a couple of minutes away down Church Street is Willow’s coffee house. They serve great quality local coffee and cakes and they also showcase lots of gifts and jewellery from nearby businesses.
There’s also Bar Gabardine, a new bar in the Top of the Town which has a beautiful living wall, and for cocktails you can’t beat the Duck and Tipple on Wote Street where they make the perfect espresso martini.
Jane Austen's House, Chawton
The main place to learn more about Jane Austen in Hampshire is at her Chawton residence where she lived from 1809 until May 1817 when she left to seek medical treatment in Winchester. It is said that she wrote and revised her six main novels whilst living here, with her mother, sisters and their friend Martha Lloyd.
The house is now a museum and one of the world’s most treasured literary sites. If you visit you’ll find first editions of her books and see the small table where she wrote. The garden area is lovingly kept with the plants and flowers of Jane’s time.
You can spend a good couple of hours here learning more about the life of Jane Austen and see some of her jewellery and letters which she exchanged with her family. There is an extensive gift collection in the shop too.
The House run several events throughout the year, in person and virtually. These include creative writing workshops, guided tours and book clubs. It’s worth visiting their website for more details.
'The Great House' - Chawton House and Gardens
Just down the road from Jane Austen’s House is Chawton House, which belonged to her brother Edward. Jane spend a lot of time here as well, walking around the grounds and referred to it in her letters as ‘The Great House’.
An annual ticket here is a very reasonable £10, worth it for the beautiful gardens alone. Follow the Garden Trail, discovering the highlights alongside some of the best Jane Austen quotes.
There are regular special events held here too, such as Snowdrop Sundays, an opportunity to see a carpet of Spring flowers. And enjoy food and drink at the Old Kitchen Tearooms.
Walking the Jane Austen Trail
Once you’ve explored Chawton, you could walk the Jane Austen Trail to Alton. It’s well signposted with her silhouette and there’s a PDF available with points of interest on route. If you prefer a longer route then try the Writers Way which is dedicated to other famous Hampshire authors such as Gilbert White. This route is 13 miles and suitable for cyclists and horse-riders too.
For food and drink there’s The Greyfriar which serves an excellent menu, and White’s café in Selborne for more casual dining.
Netley or Northanger?
It is said that Netley Abbey provided the inspiration for Northanger Abbey, which wasn’t actually published until after her death. Jane reportedly spent many hours exploring the Southampton area and you can follow in her footsteps by visiting Netley Abbey which is now owned by English Heritage.
Entry is free to this 13th Century church.
Her final resting place - Winchester Cathedral
Following a period of ill health, Jane sought medical treatment in Winchester, and it was here in July 1817 that she died aged 41. Her remains are in the North Aisle of the Cathedral and you can visit the floor marker. There’s a brass memorial here too.
There’s much to see in Winchester whilst you’re here. Try the City Mill, a National Trust property which mills its own flour still. There are many independent shops, restaurants and bars too.
For brunch I’d recommend Ashby’s, The Orangery and Josie’s and for dinner it would have to be The Shoal for incredible fish and gelato. Go to In Cognito, Green’s bar or the Cabinet Rooms for exceptional cocktails.
I hope you enjoy your discovery of Jane Austen in Hampshire. If you’d like any recommendations of places to stay nearby then please do get in touch.
‘To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.’ – Jane Austen