One off documentary Jane Austen: Behind Closed Doors premieres soon on BBC Two. Throughout her novels Jane Austen is well known for her use of houses and property as central themes. Equally, Jane’s own life was shaped by the places she lived in and visited.
Now, in a fresh take on Jane Austen, Lucy Worsley traces the houses Jane lived in to show just how much they influenced her work. Embarking on a road trip across England Lucy visits properties that still exist – and uses clever detective work to bring to life those that have disappeared.
Beginning her expedition at Stoneleigh Abbey, Warwickshire, Lucy sets the scene by recreating a carriage journey the cash-strapped Austens completed to visit a recently widowed relative. The Austens unsuccessfully tried to secure a share of the inheritance during this trip and, as Lucy discovers, Jane spent much of her life in this form of limbo – moving between riches and genteel poverty. It was this experience of living between two worlds that would inform much of her writing.
After this revelation, Lucy travels from Jane’s birthplace in Steventon, Hampshire, to her brother’s grand property, Godmersham Park (a potential inspiration for Mr Darcy’s Pemberley). Lucy takes in the seaside resort of Lyme Regis (a setting for Persuasion) and both Bath and Southampton, where Jane’s position and financial security became ever more perilous.
This is the story of the houses that made Jane Austen and the tales these locations inspired.
Pictured is Lucy Worsley in the drawing room of 1 Royal Crescent in Bath.