In the News: Archaeologists Unearth Steventon Rectory

December 16, 2011 at 9:36 PM (Jane Austen in the News)

The following is from an article on the BBC News website.


16 December 2011 Last updated at 09:01 GMT

Remains of Jane Austen’s Steventon home unearthed

Archaeologists in Hampshire have uncovered signs of the house where Jane Austen spent more than half of her life.

The Austen family lived in the rectory in Steventon, near Basingstoke, from 1775 to 1801, where the writer began three of her novels.

Contemporary drawings of Steventon rectory

Contemporary drawings showed different views of the Austens’ house

The house was demolished early in the 19th Century soon after Austen and her family moved to Bath.

Volunteers involved in the dig hope to gain an insight into life in the house.

Debbie Charlton, of archaeologists Archaeo Briton, who led the dig, said: “Our main focus for the project is putting together the puzzle of what Jane’s first home was like.”

Although the original shape of the building was recorded on a local map in the early 1800s, it was not to scale and the few drawings made by different artists appear contradictory.

Archaeological dig in Steventon
The excavation was undertaken by a team of volunteers

Austen’s social life while she lived at Steventon is said to have provided her with material for her novels.

While at Steventon, she started to pen the drafts that became Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey.

They were later completed when the family returned to Hampshire to live in the village of Chawton, near Winchester.

The house there is now a museum and tourist attraction.

Maureen Stiller, of the Jane Austen Society, said: “Experience went into writing her novels, so obviously the people she met and things she did must have fed into her work. This is where it all started.

“I hope the Austen devotees are going to be excited – it gives us a bit more insight into the proportions of the rectory and hopefully a bit of the social life.”

Portrait of Jane Austen by British painter Ozias Humphry
Jane Austen lived at Steventon from 1775 to 1801

Having completed the archaeological excavations, the project volunteers will collate the finds for display at the Willis Museum at Basingstoke next year.

Ms Charlton said: “It’s been fantastic and a wonderful opportunity. It’s been a joy – every day has brought some excitement.”

The work was carried out with a £10,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and supported by The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Foundation.


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Jane Austen in the news again. Well, in the UK’s ‘Daily Mail’.

December 5, 2011 at 6:38 PM (Jane Austen in the News)

I hope my Fellow Janeites are getting into the festive spirit now that the Silly Season is upon us. Apologies to my Fellow Perth Janeites that I will not be with you this weekend for our gathering as I am off to Melbourne tomorrow. However, before I hop on the plane, I wanted to share this article with you, which was tweeted to followers of Chawton House (@ChawtonHouse) 46 minutes ago. The following is the article copied from the UK’s Daily Mail website.


Is this what Jane Austen really looked like? Newly discovered sketch could be lost portrait of 19th century novelist

Last updated at 2:06 AM on 5th December 2011

Read more:

The author of a forthcoming biography on Jane Austen believes she has unearthed a previously undiscovered portrait of the novelist.

Dr Paula Byrne was midway through her new book when her husband surprised her with a portrait of a female writer bought at auction, according to the Christmas Radio Times.

She spotted the long, straight ‘Austen nose’ seen in images of the writer’s father and brothers, and enlisted the help of a team of experts and the BBC to test her as yet unproven thesis that the woman is the famous author, who died in 1817 aged 41.

New look: Paula Byrne is convinced that the woman in this sketch is one of Britain’s best-loved authors. Her find is the subject of a new BBC2 documentary, Jane Austen: The Unseen Portrait?, to be broadcast on Boxing Day in the UK.

The only known images with proven provenance of the author of Sense And Sensibility, Pride And Prejudice and Emma to date are an 1810 sketch by Austen’s sister Cassandra – in which the writer is said to look a little cross – and an ‘idealised’ portrait used as the frontispiece to the Austen memoir written by her nephew in 1870.

Dr Byrne, whose Austen biography, The Real Jane Austen, is being published by HarperCollins in 2013, believes the new portrait could transform the author’s image.

‘The memoir portrait has always rather annoyed me. It makes her look pretty and dim,’ she said.

‘It feeds this whole notion of “Aunt Jane”, the demure spinster who was very good at spillikins and enjoyed scribbling on the side, but was content with her life in the shadows.

‘Scholars know there was so much more to her and for me this new picture encapsulates – almost too perfectly – that other side.

‘She’s a professional woman presenting herself to the world with the tools of her trade. It’s the image of Jane Austen so many of us have been waiting for.’

Dr Byrne, whose previous work includes Jane Austen And The Theatre, and Perdita: The Life of Mary Robinson, said she had a jolt of recognition as soon as she saw the image.

‘My immediate reaction was, “My God, it’s Jane Austen!”. It was the nose that did it,’ she added.

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