Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Jane Austen was here



If you recall, I avoided Jane Austen at school. However, this is not to say I don’t love the film adaptations. Favourite of all is Lost in Austen, a quirky rethinking.


Imagine my surprise to find that Miss Austen spent a formative three weeks at Stoneleigh Abbey, just five minutes’ drive from where we live.

It is no longer an abbey, Downton fans, but a Jacobean mansion and Georgian ‘extension’ that makes St Pancras look like the corner shop. There is much that inspired the author, from the chapel, to portraits of family members and, no doubt, the fabulous grounds.

To our delight, there was ...

  • A west wing!
  • an orangerie
  • references to Bonnie Prince Charlie
  • fabulous furnishings
  • exotic chandeliers
  • panelled gentleman’s quarters
  • classic chapel
  • manicured lawns ...

I would go on, but you should take a visit for yourself. Our guide was brilliant. By the way, there are more pictures on Pinterest.


They are happy to regale you with quirky details that should appeal. The impressive facade of the West Wing was designed by Francis Smith of Warwick and dates from 1726. It’s fascinating to learn that the owners started to run out of money and decided not to panel behind the mirrors (these being less expensive than the oak).

The places simply oozes history and charm. It’s eerie that it’s been on our doorstep this whole time.

I’m already planning the sequel of  the Regency-inspired fantasy True Haven, so I know where to start.

By Pamela Kelt

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