Thursday, October 10, 2013

Jane Austen Festival Day Five - Part 1

Jane Austen Festival Day Five - Part 1

Carriage to Meryton


The carriage aka mini van took us up the hills and outside of Bath and on to the Cotswolds. We saw sheep grazing in the park on the way out of Bath. It looked very similar to what Jane Austen would have seen when she lived there. 

The Costswolds is the largest Area of Outstanding Beauty in Britain consisting of a high plateau and wooded valleys. Cot is an Anlgo-Saxon word for shelter like a cottage and Wold us a Saxon word for rolling hills. Before Jane Austen’s time this area was most open grazing land for sheep but in her lifetime the Enclosure Acts led to building dry-stone walls.

First stop: Castle Combe, a very tiny village. There’s not much here except a medieval church, a market cross and a manor house. This village was used in the movie War Horse.We walked along the street viewing the beautiful, quaint old buildings. This is how tourists envision England! The village looks like something out of a fairy tale or period drama with stone buildings, ivy covered doors and a tea shop in the center of town.

Next stop : Lacock! Lacock is best known to period drama fans. It was used as Meryton in Pride and Prejudice (1995) and Cranford. Lacock in Jane Austen’s time sat on one of the main roads from London to Bath. Lacock Abbey was founded in 1232 by Ella, Countess of Salisbury. After Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1539, the Abbey became a private home. Here Henry Fox Talbot invented photography in 1835. The whole village is owned by the National Trust and is a popular location for filming period movies and TV mini series like Pride and Prejudice 1995, Cranford, Emma 1996 and Harry Potter.

We started at the Manger Barn and followed the guide around town a bit. The guide pointed out the sites like High Street and the National Trust Shop used in Pride and Prejudice. Colin Firth rode his horse along the street in the mini series. The Red Lion Pub was used in P&P as the Meryton Assembly Rooms exterior. It’s also used in Cranford as their new store, Johnson’s. The film crew added a bay window over the original ground floor windows. The Lacock Bakery was also used in Cranford. Miss Poole (Imelda Staunton) lived next door and a garden was built for her parrot to take regular airings. We stopped in the old Tithe barn to see an exhibit on the films and TV series filmed here.

I took a look around the Abbey grounds. It’s very pretty. The Abbey was used in the first three Harry Potter movies. I wanted to go to the Abbey to see where Harry Potter was filmed and see the Pride and Prejudice exhibit, but there wasn’t much time. I walked around the grounds and browsed the gift shop. They had a small exhibit on Henry Fox Talbot, the father of modern photography who took some of the first photographs out his window. I picked up a print of one of his photos for the photographer in my family.

Then on to the last stop: Corsham, a Cotswolds village. In Jane Austen’s time it was an important source of Bath stone. Corsham was the inspiration for Charles Dickens' novel The Pickwick Papers; it is thought that he borrowed the name from Moses Pickwick, a coachman who was born in Pickwick, lived in the "Hare and Hounds" inn, and ran coaches between Bath and London. Corsham Court, a royal Saxon Manor House is here and has been part of Lord Methuen’s estate since 1745. Standing on a former Saxon Royal Manor, it is based on an Elizabethan manor home from 1582. The house has an extensive collection of Old Masters, rooms furnished by Robert Adam and Thomas Chippendale, and parks landscaped by Capability Brown and Humphry Repton. The house is open to the public all year round excluding December and is famed locally for its peacocks, which sometimes freely wander about the streets.

On the way back we stopped at Beechan Cliff, a spot where Catherine Morland walks with Henry Tilney and gets a lecture on the picturesque. In the 18th century, wealthy British men went on a Grand Tour on Europe and much admired the villas and landscapes of Italy and France. When they came home, they hired landscape architects to copy what they had seen on the Grand Tour. Jane Austen was a country woman. She understood the beauty of the English countryside and poked fun at the picturesque craze in her novels. We could see the church where Jane Austen’s parents were married. It’s hard to imagine walking all the way up that steep hill even with stairs. It’s even harder to imagine climbing up there in a dress! The view is magnificent and worth the hike. It's so easy to see Bath as it was in the nineteenth century because not much as changed. Jane Austen loved the country but there's much to be said for Bath and the surrounding area.

I saw a lot of beautiful places this day. They would have been more beautiful in the sunlight but it wasn't raining so I'm grateful for that. The Cotswolds are the loveliest place I've ever seen in England and I'd love to visit more places there some day.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave comments and or suggestions for QNPoohBear, the modern bluestocking.