The House of Fiction

By Phyllis Richardson

A cultural exploration of British houses in fiction from Shandy Hall to Manderley

Friday, 20 June 2014

Stoneleigh Abbey and Jane Austen


I know there's quite a lot of Jane Austen material about but I'm particularly keen to be going to Stoneleigh Abbey, in Warwickshire this weekend. The Abbey was inherited by a relative of Jane Austen's mother, the Reverend Thomas Leigh, and Jane visited with her mother in August 1806. Many people feel that Stoneleigh was the model for Mansfied Park. But it is Jane's mother's reaction to the Abbey that I am most taken by. During her visit with Jane she wrote a long letter to her daughter-in-law Mary detailing the house, the food, the servants. She seems utterly star-struck, writing, 'we found ourselves on Tuesday (that is yesterday se'nnight) eating fish, venison, and all manner of good things, in a large and noble parlour, hung round with family portraits.' She also talks about the number of windows (45!) and describes the different rooms, including, 'the state-bedchamber - an alarming apartment, with its high, dark crimson velvet bed, just fit for an heroine.' So there we are.

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