Authors At Home: Holiday at Jane Austen’s Bath Residence

The turbulence caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has put paid to any international holidays for me this year. Though the UK government is encouraging all its citizens to take a staycation (a term I’ve come to loathe ), I think I’ll stay put for now.

But if physical travel is off the cards, I can still indulge in some day dreaming and virtual travel.

Italy would be top of my list. Sunshine, stunning scenery, more heritage sites than anywhere else in the world plus yummy ice-cream and real coffee. Oh and some rather nice red wine to sip while the sun goes down. What more could I want?

But it isn’t going to happen. Italy will just have to get along without me this year.

So I’ve reigned myself in and looked closer to home.

Did you know you could rent a house once occupied by Jane Austen?

Nope, neither did I. Not surprisingly it’s in the city of Bath in south west England, a place that, as every Austen fan knows, features in several of her books.

In the Georgian era it was the place to be seen: a thriving spa resort of grand crescents and colonnaded buildings with balls and concerts in the Assembly Rooms providing plenty of opportunities to socialise (and meet prospective marriage partners).

Jane Austen Takes Up Residence

The Austens had relatives in Bath and visited the city regularly. Jane’s first visit was in 1797 when her family stayed at 1 The Paragon. On a later visit in 1799, they were in Bath for two months during the summer when they stayed at 13 Queen Square.

In 1801 Jane Austen’s father George unexpectedly announced his decision to retire from his life as an Anglican rector ministry and to move from Steventon in Hampshire, to Bath.

The family took over the lease on a house at 4 Sydney Place, a fashionable part of Bath close to Great Pulteney Street.

Front view of a house in Bath occupied by Jane Austen . Shows steps leading to an arched door.

Directly opposite the house were The Pleasure Gardens (now called Sydney Gardens), a public space where visitors could stroll among flower beds and trees, and admire the view from one of the elegant iron bridges. It was a place for the fashionable people of Bath to be seen as they attended the many balls, supper parties, concerts and musical breakfasts held within the grounds.

We don’t know how far Jane Austen participated in the many diversions Bath had to offer since because her sister Cassandra destroyed all of her sister’s letters from this period. But it’s reputed that, while at Sydney Place, Jane Austen worked on her first (but unfinished) novel The Watsons.

When the lease ran out in 1804, the Austen family moved to Green Park Buildings, where they lived until shortly after Jane’s father, George Austen died suddenly in 1805. The Austens left the city for good in 1806, to Southampton and then Chawton in Hampshire, where Jane Austen lived until her death in 1817.

Spend The Night In Austen’s House

Today, 4 Sydney Place, has been significantly modernised and is available to rent via Airbnb as a two bedroom flat with a central outdoor courtyard. A plaque showing the association with Jane Eyre is visible to the left of the door.

The living room features distressed blue panelling, flagstone flooring, traditional furnishings and walls full of framed paintings.

By way of homage to its former tenant, a wooden writing desk sits in an alcove in the dining area.

It’s tempting to imagine this bedroom was once occupied by Jane Austen herself but I suspect, given the size, it was more likely to have been her parents’ room.

I was expecting the rental price to be quite steep given the Austen connection and the fact that accommodation in Bath tends to be on the pricey side. But I was pleasantly surprised. I’m so tempted to put my name down for next year. Anyone care to join me?

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on August 23, 2020, in Authors At Home and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. I’d be in if I could travel!

    • Well at least we can travel right now fairly freely within the UK itself but psychologically I’m not ready for it. Prefer to stay close to home for now

      • We have some border closures, though from the ACT we CAN travel to most other parts of Australia. Getting back is the issue if we go to a trouble spot (plus of course the risk to ourselves if we go to a trouble spot.) My concern is that if I go somewhere, and it is identified as a trouble spot while I’m there, I will then have to self-isolate for two weeks and would, rightly, not be allowed to visit my Dad in aged care. That would be awful for him as I am his only visitor. There’s no other family here.

        • Oh Sue that would be dreadful if your trip resulted in the loss of your father’s lifeline to the outside world. I understand people in UK who want to get a holiday as a way of relieving the stress of lockdown etc but I also wonder whether it’s really worth it. The government has on more than one occasion announced eleventh hour changes to the countries where people can visit and not have to self isolate on return. so people have gone away and then either had to rush back before the deadline or go into self isolation for 2 weeks on their return. I’m staying put!

        • Yes, that’s exactly the thing, it can happen while you are away… And they’ll just say “if you’ve been to X you can’t visit”.

  2. Oh my gosh, what an opportunity! And Bath is such a beautiful place.
    I also hate the term ‘staycation’, especially if it’s used for holidaying in the UK – it’s only a staycation if you stay at home! 90% of my holidays are in the UK as it is.

  3. I’m in, Karen! Pick me, pick me! 🙋‍♀️

  4. This sounds like such a fun place to stay!

  5. I live in Bath and I actually had no idea you could go and stay where Jane lived! That’s quite tempting, even though it’s just down the road from me haha. If you really love Jane once we’re out of pandemic times I recommend coming here for the Jane Austen Festival. There’re loads of plays and talks, but the best part is they do this march through the city with everybody all dressed up in their best 19th century style outfits. It looks like a BBC adaptation or something all over the city – it’s fun.

  6. It’s very pretty and I’d love to visit Bath one day – though I can’t say that interior seems at all Austen-like! 😀

  7. I would join you in a heartbeat if they ever lower our bridge over the moat to get off this island!!🐧🤠

  8. Looks like a lovely getaway and glad it’s an OK price. The place we used to have a week in in Cornwall has doubled its prices and is not now suitable for us because of that.

  9. That sounds like a fun get away! 🙌😍

  10. Sydney Gardens is a little gem. You’d be close to the Holburne museum whose café’s gardens have a lovely view of the park. I’ll meet you there for coffee!

    • When we met up in Cardiff back in Jan or Feb, we said we’d come to you in Bath for lunch next time, little imagining that it would be several months before we could actually do that

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