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A Pride and Prejudice Pilgrimage.

The homage of a new convert.

"What" one might ask, "would induce a middle-aged chartered engineer to perambulate the country in search of the locations used for a Jane Austen film?"
It is not a long story. Both my sisters read English at university but failed to instil in me a desire to read novels, especially not "classics". Science, Engineering and the odd biography provided quite enough reading material. Then, in autumn 1995, the BBC put on their six-part TV serial of Pride and Prejudice and it all changed. I was not the only one affected. I recall reports in the papers of massive sales of the video to people who could not wait for the transmission of the last episode to find out the ending. Jane Austen's house at Chawton has been besieged by visitors ever since.

Being slightly methodical, I deemed it a good idea to buy and read the book. It was just as enjoyable as the film. The English is precise, the grammar as I had been taught and the characters believable (allowing for a little exaggeration). It has the advantage over modern historical novels in that Jane Austen did not have to do any research in order to describe her times, for instance, their dependence on the post for communication. I also read her other books and bought the videos.

Then I found the book that had been written by the script editor and producer of the BBC series. This describes the background to the production and names most of the film locations. A plan began to devise itself in my mind. How would it be if I were to visit all (well, nearly all) the sites of special Austenite interest? Many of the places are owned by the National Trust so their handbook was consulted to discover the opening days and times which determined the itinerary. The result was a five-day tour in September 1996.

 

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Meriton Assembly Rooms

MONDAY. A leisurely start was made to allow the worst of the traffic on the M25 to subside. West down the M4 to junction 17. South about ten miles to Laycock arriving in time for lunch at the Red Lion,now recovered from being the Assembly Rooms of Meriton. The charm of the main street was sadly reduced by the clutter of parked cars but the buildings were recognisable from the film. The scene of the fateful first meeting with Wickham could easily be discerned. In the afternoon, after viewing Laycock Abbey, I decided to reconnoitre the estate which had been Longbourn, Luckington Court. This is a short distance from the B4040, about 3 miles north of the M4 and equidistant from Junctions 17 and 18. As it is private, I had not been able to find out its opening times beforehand. To my disappointment I found that the gardens and church are only open on Wednesday afternoons. I retired to a former coaching inn at Melksham for the night.

 

'Longbourn', Luckington Court

Luckington Court

TUESDAY. As Bath was so near, a slight detour was made from Pride and Prejudice to Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. The Assembly Rooms at Bath impress one with their sheer elegance. The windows are high to afford good ventilation and prevent the plebs from looking in. The ball room is large enough for a thousand people to dance. It was not difficult to imagine Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth at the concert there. To me, the visual attraction of Bath stems from the uniformity of the architecture resulting from the development of the city over a short period of time in which there was affluence enough to indulge good taste. The source of the wealth is best not enquired into. One of the houses in the Circus has had the garden restored to its original Georgian design. The feature most obvious to the modern eye is the absence of grass- the lawn mower had not yet been invented. The area not used for flower and herb beds is covered in gravel. After lunch at the pub in Luckington I made another foray to "Longbourn" and photographed it as best I could from non-intrusive public viewpoints. It has a quiet situation well away from main roads and must have been a delightful place for the film makers to work in. From Longbourn I set out towards Derbyshire, as the Gardiners and Elizabeth had done before me, but I stopped off at a cousin's near Birmingham.

 

WEDNESDAY. To Derby itself in the morning for another family visit. After lunch west by way of the A50 to Sudbury Hall where the interior scenes of Pemberley were shot. The long gallery there is no longer the site for Darcy's portrait and is, apparently, an anachronism for its date of building. It reminded me of the gallery at Knole in Kent where the house is Tudor. The grand staircase that featured in the film is not open to visitors for fear of damage to the decorations but the "music room" and the library where Darcy paid off Wickham were on view. Some of the costumes from the film were on display with musical accompaniment. As with the other National Trust houses I visited, I found the staff ever ready to point out where the filming had been done. It seems that the numbers of visitors to these places have vastly increased thanks to the film: and I had thought what an original idea my tour would be!
From Sudbury via Ashbourne to Rowsley, between Matlock and Bakewell, to stay at an hotel which had once been a lodge for Chatsworth. If I had had more time I would have made a small detour along the B5054 to Hartington which had provided the Inn at Lampton scenes.

 

'Pemberley outside scenes', Lyme Court

'Pemberley outside scenes', Lyme Court

THURSDAY. Lyme Park, where the outside scenes of Pemberley were shot, is to the south of the A6 between New Mills and Hazel Grove, south-east of Manchester.The grounds are open at 8 a.m. and the gardens at 11a.m. The house itself is closed to the public while rewiring is in progress but this was of no consequence as the interior did not feature in the film. It was hard to find the spot from which the first breathtaking view of the house, across the lake, was filmed and, in the park of over a thousand acres, I did not have enough time to find the small lake in which Darcy took the plunge (unauthorised by Jane Austen).

'Pemberley?', Chatsworth

'Pemberley?', Chatsworth

I walked along the path and up the series of steps where Darcy and Elizabeth had their embarrassed conversation then took to my carriage and set out for Chatsworth.Although Chatsworth is mentioned in its own right by Jane Austen it is believed by some to be the model for Pemberley. It certainly is "a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills." I was intrigued to discover that in 1800 both the Duchess of Devonshire and her daughter were named Georgiana.

The Gardiner's Coach

The Gardiner's Coach

Just south of Chatsworth,at Darley Dale, there is a carriage museum. I had decided to visit it because carriages are about the only objects in Jane Austen's books that can be considered as engineering items. I was very pleased to find that the actual carriage used by the Gardiners and Elizabeth is owned by this museum and on show there.

 

FRIDAY. To Bakewell in the morning to purchase some of their famous puddings. Would you believe it? There are two "Original Pudding Shops." In an antique shop there I found a copy of "The New Bath Guide" printed in 1791, which I bought.
'Rosings', Belton House

'Rosings', Belton House

South-east to Grantham arriving at Belton House, just north of the town, in time for a quick lunch before the house opened at 1 o'clock. This National Trust property provided the grand residence of Lady Catherine de Burgh, Rosings.
Rosings , Belton House Gardens

Rosings

I photographed the imposing drive, lined with barrel-shaped bushes, up which the Hunsford party approached with trepidation. I had to choose my shot very carefully so as to hide the gardeners' mini tractor behind one of the statues. The "throne room" where Lady Catherine held audiences with lesser mortals is called the Hondecoeter Room in honour of the Dutch artist who painted the huge pictures which cover the walls. The adjacent room no longer has a piano in it for Elizabeth to play.

The staircase up which Darcy ran to avoid the enquiries of his aunt actually leads away from the bedroom he arrives in. This, the Blue Bedroom, has benefited from the film-makers' visit because the new curtains purchased for the film have been left in place. The desk where Darcy wrote his letter of explanation to Elizabeth is still there. They used the real furniture of the house and not a film "prop." in that instance.
From Belton House it is about twenty miles south to Teigh which is about five miles due north of Oakham and was the location for Mr.Collins' parsonage at HunsfordAs with Luckington Court, this is a private house

'Hunsford Parsonage', Teigh

Hunsford Parsonage', Teigh

so I contented myself with a photograph from the road. The drive is not long so the door from which Darcy emerged in high dudgeon after his rejection is clearly visible. Southwards a few miles to Uppingham for afternoon tea with another relation, then home.

It was a most enjoyable week. The weather was favourable most days. It was pleasing to walk in the footsteps of the famous though fictitious characters. While one is unlikely ever to meet the human stars of the film, the architectural stars remain fixed for all to see.

 

Anthony Finney
Oak Cottage, 17 Greenhurst Lane, Oxted, Surrey RHS 0LD

Street Maps I do intend to find the places on the maps and set pointers to the right places on the page that this leads to. But in case you are desperate to follow the trail now, here is the helpful site.

I get enquiries about how to get to Chawton, what bus, what train. There are no buses, there are no trains. Once you get to Alton, you have to either walk or get a taxi. However, all is not lost, Road map of Chawton
List of taxi firms in Alton
Very many thanks to www.Alton.org for giving me these details. Hope they help you enjoy your day at Chawton. Remember me to Tom Carpenter at Jane Austen's House.

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