Quick Index Board Index Home FAQ Site Map
Written by Julie W
(Friday, 16 January 2009, at 9:25 a.m.)
Today's two letters were written from Southampton,and I wanted to give you some idea of what it looked like in JA's time.
Now, we think of it mainly as a modern port-much changed since the ravages of the Second World War-but in JAs time it had been discovered by "persons of rank" and to became known as a resort and spa from the middle of the 18th century. THe port had long been in decline at this point and the new business rejuvenated it. New houses were built, inns were modernised and communications with London imporved. The rich builit villas in the surrounding countryside. Fashionable promenades were created and shops boomed along with circulating libraries etc. But by the time of JAs death in 1817 its star had faded,and it was only with the introduction of the railway in 1840 that Southampton once again became a port and place of some import.
This is a description of it from my copy of A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-bathing Places etc (1803) by R. Phillips
THE lovely situation of Southampton, the elegance of its buildings, the amenity of its environs, and the various other attractions which it possesses, in a very high degree, will always render it a place of fashionable residence, as well as of frequent resort. As a sea-bathing place, indeed, it has less reputation than some others that are described in this work. It has no machines, nor is its beach favorable for immersion; the marine is, also, deeply mixed with the fresh water; but, if the opinion of those is correct, who maintain, that water acts only by the shock and ablution, and that one cold or one warm bath is the same as another, Southampton, notwithstanding the disadvantages we have mentioned, is as eligible as any other station on the coaat, and, in many respects, it is superior. The air is soft and mild, and sufficiently impregnated with saline particles to render it agreeable, and even salutary, to those who cannot endure a full exposure to the sea, on a bleak and open shore. Page306
For Frank Austen it was a place not too far away form Portsmouth, the naval base,where he could safely leave his new wife , his mother, sister and their friend Martha while he was away on duty.
For the Austens it was a chance to return to Hampshire,and to leave the confines of Bath and a way of life ever decreasing in style and consequence. Frank wrote of the new domestic arrangements as follows:
He fixed his abode at Southampton making one family wiht his mothers and sistres a plan equally suited to his love of domestic society and the extent of his income which was somewhat restricted A Family Record, Le Faye p 153
Did I tell you I love Frank?......
......Back to Southampton.
This is a detailed map of the areas surrounding Southampton circa 1803:
This is a map of the town centre made in 1791 by T Milne. You can clearly see the castle -a circular structure in the lower part of the map.
The Marquis of Landsdown for a very short time before his death in 1809 lived at Southampton in this Gothic style castle. The Castle was put up for sale in 1816 but no buyer was found and it was demolished in 1818. JA's house was in the square surrounding the castle:
Our Dressing-Table is constructing on the spot, out of a large Kitchen Table belonging to the House, for doing which we have the permission of Mr Husket Lord Lansdown's Painter, -domestic Painter I shd call him, for he lives in the Castle-Domestic Chaplains have given way to this more necessary office, & I suppose whenever the Walls want no touching up, he is employed about my Lady's face. letter 50
Here are three views of the High Street:
The Southampton Guide of 1805 stated:
Many of the shops rival those of the metropolis...the shopkeepers are equally strenuous to excel in the elegance of their shops and displays of heir goods.Strangers in general are exceedingly struck at the size and the very superior appearance of the shops as in this town nor are they less so on viewing the abundant stocks of goods with which they are stocked
The town was full of antiquities: this is the Bar Gate in 1802:
This was singled out in many of the Guidebooks to the town as a "truly beautiful specimen of medieval military architecture" See A Walk Through Southampton by Sir Henry Englefield, Bart(1801), page 8.
Im sure this and the castle appealed to JAs sense of the Gothick ;-)
We know from our post on riding schools athat Southampton had many of teh amenities necessary for the amusement of its visitors. In addition to the riding school it also had chaylebeate springs, baths, public rooms owned by a Mrs Martin( complete with a full set of Assembly Room regulations) winter assemblies were held at the Dolphin Inn( now sadly under threat of closure due to the effects of the current credit crunch)and a theatre:
Ja attended the French Street theatre .
The theatre which was built by subscription in 1766 is commodious and capable of admitting a large audience. It is under the management of Messers Colllins and Davies who exert themselves to give satisfaction and have a full attendance during the season.
JA also attended All Saints Church, which was built in 1792-3 and was designed by William Revesley. Frank's daughter, Mary Jane, born in April 1807 was christened here.
The beach was a tree lined walk made around 1769 on the old causeway from the Platform to the Cross House
And it was here that Frank skated when it froze:
We did not take our walk on Friday, it was too dirty, nor have we yet done it; we may perhaps do something like it to-day, as after seeing Frank skate, which he hopes to do in the meadows by the beach, we are to treat ourselves with a passage over the ferry. It is one of the pleasantest frosts I ever knew, so very quiet. I hope it will last some time longer for Frank's sake, who is quite anxious to get some skating; he tried yesterday, but it would not do. Letter 49
Groupread is maintained by Myretta with WebBBS 3.21.