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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