The Jane Austen Centre
Inside, it wasn't quite what I had expected. I expected a place known as a Centre to have more in the way of scholarship and study than the few exhibits they had. A somewhat period costumed guide gives an introductory talk on Jane Austen's life and times. If you've studied Jane Austen or read any biographies or blogs, the talk doesn't say anything new or fascinating. The guide I had recited the basic facts in a bored voice. They don’t exchange in a dialogue about Jane Austen, her life and times or her works at all. Then you can go on your way and see the exhibits.
The exhibits are fun. They have displays of reproductions of period clothing which were very nice. I liked being able to examine them up close. You can also get an overview of period etiquette and taste rout cakes, a cookie that was popular then. You can dress up in period costume minus the undergarments. I don't think the dresses look right without the proper undergarments so I passed on playing dress up.
You can also practice writing with a quill pen. It’s much harder than it looks and I know understand why the tell-tale sign of a writer was ink-stained fingers! I certainly had inky fingers after my pitiful attempt at writing with a quill pen.
They had images of Jane beginning with the only real one – a sketch by her sister Cassandra and then there’s a new one done by a forensic artist based on descriptions by her family and friends.
They also have an exhibit on movie memorabilia.
Upstairs is a Regency Tea Room where you can have tea under the watchful gaze of Mr. Darcy (aka Colin Firth). It can be very busy around lunchtime but put in your party number and go sit in the square to wait. It only took about 20 minutes for them to have room for me. I had Lady Catherine’s Cream Tea with two scones, butter, jam, clotted cream and a pot of Jane Austen blend tea. It was delicious and the atmosphere was charming (especially Mr. Darcy!).