Posted by Caroline on September 04, 1997 at 15:10:00:
In reply to Highbury posted by Theresa (via Caroline) on September 03, 1997 at 22:32:54
When Jane Austen created Highbury, she didn't base it on one particular place .If you try and pinpoint a location fifteen miles from London, nine miles from Richmond and seven miles from Box Hill, you will realise it's an impossibility. The closest you will get is somewher near Epsom, and Epsom in Georgian times was way too exciting to be sleepy Highbury! Some published works have suggested that she might have had Cobham or Leatherhead in mind, but really it seems as if she took the basic elements of all the Surrey villages she knew and created a new one based on those ideas. So I'm going to do the same in detailing what Highbury looked like and how it functioned.
Whe I saw Lacock Village dressed up in Emma3, it was one of those yess!!! moments. The location and costruction crews did an absolutely superb job, IMHO, and Sue Quinn's comments in Chapter 3 of "The Making of Emma" are absolutely spot-on! One thing she says;
Highbury to me should be an overgrown village, with quite a few shops. Most small towns would have been linear, just one long street. More than one main street and it would have been seen as a big town for the period"
In the book , JA mentions a few lanes coming off the main street , like Vicarage Lane, where Emma dallies to tie her shoe, and also a Donwell Road, presumably at one end of the town. The kind of things which would be down these lanes would be cottages, the vicarage (but not the church), perhaps a smithy, a cordwainer, the butcher, and the village lock-up. On the main street there would be the haberdasher, apothecary, perhaps a tailor/draper, a bakery, a lawyer's office, and mixed in with them would be houses. The church and the school would also be on the main street.There really wouldn't be a clearly marked "business sector", just a place where the buildings would be very close together, and probably two and a half stories high instead of one and a half or two. Around the town there would be outlying farms, and the larger houses.
The appearance of the Lacock buildings is absolutely right. Most of the buidings would look like houses, as shops would just be adapted houses, or almost identical in outward appearance.They woud be timber framed, many faced with locally made bricks and clay tiles.The bricks are a rosy red mottled variety, rather smaller than modern bricks, and not laid in very fancy patterns. The fake front made for the Bates's house is a bit ornate, really, but I'm nitpicking here. The tiled roofs are a Surrey speciality, but it would also be alright to have a few thatched ones. The two houses chosen for Randalls and Highbury are also very "Surrey", being of brick. There would be few stone houses, unless there was a source of good building stone in the parish (and that's not the norm in Surrey). The exception would be the Abbey, which would have been built originally in imported stone, and re-modelled when the monastic buildings were converted into a house.
There would be at least one hill, in the area (or it wouldn't be called Highbury, and Donwell wouldn't have upper and lower gardens) However, much of the land would have been lowlying claylands.
The town would be largely self-sufficient, but there would be some trade further afield. Most would be of farm produce to London. I am sure some of the Donwell fruit, Hartfield pigs and Abbey Mill cows were destined for the city, also wheat, barley and flax (possibly) Likewise, there would be itnerant traders who would bring in cloth, lace, ribbons, and small maufacured goods in a back-pack, or on a packhorse. The word "gypsy" is often synoymous with "tinker" and the band that frightens Harriet could well be part of this trade. There might be some passing trade attatched to coach-routes, but to be honest I doubt it. (One of Emma's problems is that she never meets any new people.)Jane Austen makes a point of telling us that Highbury is a healthy spot, or something similar, which I take to mean that there were no evil marshes or noxious industries nearby, not that it was a helalth spa. But there might have been that brickworks, a tannery and almost certainly seasonal charcoal burning.
The community would be run by the four mainfamilies in the book. Mssrs Knightly,Elton, Weston and Woodhouse would between them look after parish concerns. Mr Knightly mentions having receive a "few lines " about parish business from Mr Weston - perhaps something to do with poor relief , road upkeep, or minor crime (chicken rustling?) Emma 3's Mr Knightly is assumed to be a magistrate, i.e. the equivalent of a local sherrif and judge. Emma , Mrs Weston and and Mrs Elton would be expected to "do good", that is look over the poor, the incapacitated , and in the case if the Bates's, the downfallen. There would also be the tradespeople and the farmers who would not mix much with the four families, and a whole class of labourers. There might also be a few homeless and workless as the agricultural and industrial revolutions and the economic depression that followed the end of the Napoleonic wars left a great many itinerants looking for work.
Almost all the population would attend the (Anglican )church. Methodism and Catholicism did exist, but would have been rare in this part of England.
Social activities would have been based around the church and farming calendars. Emma 3's harvest supper is probably the most important community event. The town doesn't have assemblies,probably doesn't have a twice-yearly agricultural/hiring fair (it's not big enough)but there would probably be traditional "calendar" days, like Mayday, and Plough Monday which would involve the whole village. Otherwise, people made their own entertainment.
Hope that helps, Theresa!
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