JANE AUSTEN'S KENT
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen, one of the most widely read writers in English literature, spent much time in Kent. It was indeed her connections with country house life in Kent that provided inspiration for some of her most famous novels of romantic fiction.
The Austen family had many links to Kent that can be traced back as early as the 16th Century. Jane’s father George was born in Tonbridge, attended school here and also later taught at the same school. A circular Jane Austen Walk and audio tour can be taken from the town’s library taking in such sights as the church of St Peter and St Paul where the family worshipped and where some are buried. Many of Jane’s ancestors are also buried in St Margaret’s Churchyard in the nearby village of Horsmonden.
During her time in Kent, Jane stopped off in Dartford many times on her journey to Canterbury. She stayed at the Bull and George Inn.
Jane was also a frequent visitor to the house at Godmersham Park near Ashford where her brother Edward lived. Although closed to the public, you can still see the house from a circular footpath which starts at Godmersham church.
Jane was also a regular guest at Goodnestone Park, once the home of Edwards’s wife’s family. She was often entertained here with dinners and dances and it was after one visit in 1796 that Jane began writing the novel that became Pride and Prejudice. Today, visitors can spend a very pleasant hour or two wandering amid Goodnestone’s 14 acres of 18th century parkland.
Jane Austen owned some early Tunbridge Ware boxes which were unique to the Kentish towns of Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells. Some examples of this form of decorative woodwork can be seen in the Tunbridge Wells Museum. The spa town of Tunbridge Wells also appears in several of Jane’s novels. Her beloved brother Henry is buried in the small Woodbury Park Cemetery tucked behind St Johns Road.
Kent has also been used as a location for the filming of some of Austen’s novels. The pretty village of Chilham near Canterbury was filmed extensively for the BBC’s adaptation of ‘Emma’, as were the house and gardens of Squerryes Court near Westerham, which became the ‘Woodford’s home’. Much of the feature film Pride and Prejudice staring Keira Knightly was filmed at Groombridge Place and Gardens near Tunbridge Wells. Other Kent filming locations can be found on the Kent Film Office’s Jane Austen Movie Trail.