Alton & Jane Austen
Walk in Jane's steps where she often enjoyed a day out shopping!
While Jane Austen lived in Chawton she did much of her shopping and visiting in Alton, and many of the buildings are still there today. It is just under one and a half miles from Chawton Cottage to the other end of Alton's High Street, and Jane is sometimes known to have walked up to six miles a day, so a jaunt in to Alton would have been an easy task.
We will show you around Alton, pointing out the buildings Jane might still recognize as the places where she shopped and visited her friends and acquaintances!
Looking down the High Street towards Chawton.
At the end of the town nearest to Chawton is Alton Butts, now a grassy common, and in Jane's day there was only one house in this area, Butts House occupied by a Mr. James Ventham, now number 64, The Butts.
Walk a bit farther into town, and on the left will be numbers 74 and 76, both buildings Jane would have known.
Number 74 was once Lansdowne House and home to Mr. Newnham, an apothecary who Jane visited in 1811 with her friend Miss Beckford. She even wrote a poem in remembrance of the visit:
I've a pain in my head
Said the suffering Beckford,
To her Doctor so dread,
Oh! What shall I take for 't?
Said her Doctor so dread
Whose name it was Newnham
For this pain in your head
Ah! what can you do Ma'am?
Said Miss Beckford, suppose
If you think there's no risk,
I take a good Dose
Of calomel brisk.
What a praiseworthy notion,
Replied Mr. Newnham.
You shall have such a potion
And so will I do Ma'am.
Number 76 was a newly built house called Westbrook House and was owned by John Hawkins, whose family brewed ale in Alton.
(Number 76, High Street)
Walk up the High Street and on the right will be the Swan Hotel, known as The Swan in Jane's day, where Collyer's Coach left for London and Southampton. Jane mentions Collyer's in a letter to her sister in August 1814:
"It may never come to anything, but I must provide for the possibility, by troubling you [to] send up my Silk Pelisse by Collier on Saturday."
The Swan Hotel is now a delicious pub and restaurant, with fresh tasting and traditional English classics. We would highly recommend a visit!
Jane's brother Henry Austen opened a branch of his London bank in Alton from 1806 to 1812. Austen, Gray & Vincent bank was at number 10, High Street, which is still there today.
Looking down from the top of the High Street.
Hill House was once the name of number 1, at the top of High Street, and owned and occupied by William Parker Terry. Jane had known other members of the Terry family for a long time, and she dined at Hill House with her sister-in-law Mrs. James Austen in August of 1811.