Jane Austen is BIG in Bath. Wherever you go there’s some reference to the writer and if you love the two books she set in the city (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion) then you’ll also be aware of many sights that would have been familiar to Jane, even now.
Austen has more connections with the city than you may first think. Her mother, Cassandra Leigh was from a well-known Bath family, and when she married the Reverend George Austen, she did so at St Swithun’s Church, Walcot, Bath in 1764 (and where George was later buried).
Though Austen herself had grown up in Hampshire (born 1775 – the same year that the Royal Crescent in Bath was completed), the family visited her mother’s relations in the city, firstly in 1799, when they stayed in Queen’s Square.
It is widely recorded that Jane didn’t think much of Bath personally, but this was, in my opinion, because of two important incidents in her life. Firstly, her father’s decision to up and move them away from the familiar surroundings of Steventon into the bustling city was probably quite a wrench for a country girl like Jane. It’s one thing to visit a city, another to live there. Secondly, it was in Bath that her father sadly passed away in 1805 leaving the family in dire straits. No wonder Jane did not view Bath as pleasingly as the many visitors to the city regard it today.
However much Jane herself disliked the city, she evokes late 18th and early 19th Century life here, with much colour and vivacity. It is for this she is remembered in Bath and is the reason for the wonderful Jane Austen Festival that takes place annually.
This year’s festival occurs from Friday 11th September until Sunday 20th September and is ten days packed full of Regency fun and activities.
You can enjoy walking tours, coach trips and workshops to learn to dance, play the harp or even create your own bonnet. Recitals, film shows, plays and a Festival Fayre are all to look forward to as well. From breakfast until dinner there is something on for all you Austen fans.
The most famous part of the Jane Austen Festival is the spectacular Grand Regency Costumed Promenade, that starts from 11am at the Assembly Rooms on Saturday 12th September, and wends its way through the city. Hear the drummers and pipers play and watch the ladies and gentlemen of fashion promenade through the streets as they once did 200 years ago.
Last year’s Grand Promenade actually broke the Guinness World Record for most Regency costumed participants – 550 in total walking through Bath. What a sight! You too can join in if you want to. Participants must sign up and pay £10 (which goes towards the Festival’s Charity), plus bring their own costume to wear. All entrants must begin assembling at 10.30am outside the Assembly Rooms. The Promenade begins at 11am sharp, and you don’t want to be late!
Of course you can still walk about and enjoy the city Jane Austen knew at any time of year. Immerse yourself in her world at The Jane Austen Museum in Gay Street, a street where she once actually lived. You can also walk around to other locations where she and her family once resided, such as on The Paragon at the home of her aunt and uncle, the Leigh-Perrot’s. You can see the plaque to Jane at the house she lived in for three years at Sydney Place, and step into the ballroom at the stunning Assembly Rooms where she once danced.
If you’re looking for accommodation for this year’s Jane Austen Festival, then hurry and book your room soon. Many of our guests book year upon year to stay at The Bailbrook Lodge, and you can understand why when they can enjoy an historic setting (alas we are a few years out to have been known by Jane but we are still an early 19th Century Grade II listed building), beautiful garden, FREE parking, en-suite rooms and a delicious home cooked breakfast every day, accompanied by champagne!
Prices start from as little as £89.00 per room per night, with free parking and champagne breakfast. You can upgrade your room to one of our Four Poster luxury bedrooms from as little as £20 per night, simply ask at the time of booking.