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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A Visit to Whitchurch

Whitchurch Town Hall
Jane Austen's birthplace of Steventon was a small village, so she often went shopping for necessities in nearby towns and villages like Alton, Basingstoke and Whitchurch. In a letter to Cassandra (November 1800) she wrote: 'Martha [Lloyd] has promised to return with me [after Jane's visit to her], and our plan is to have a nice black frost for walking to Whitchurch and there throw ourselves into a postchaise, one upon the other, our heads hanging out at one door, and our feet at the opposite'. 
If you explore Whitchurch today, you can still see
White Hart, Whitchurch
some of the buildings which would have been familiar to Jane, such as the Town Hall, built in the late 18th century, and the White Hart Hotel, which reputedly dates back to the mid-15th century.  

The fashion magazines of Austen's day like La Belle Assemblee and the Lady's Monthly Museum often mention silk gowns and cloaks.  

Whitchurch Silk Mill
Whitchurch Silk Mill was built after Jane Austen moved away from Steventon in early 1801. It was probably constructed about 1813, although it's possible that there was an earlier mill building on the same site. There was also a silk mill at nearby Overton, another place mentioned in Austen's letters.

Whitchurch Silk Mill is still a working factory, and it has produced silk for film adaptations of Austen's novels including Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility

Brightly coloured silks wound on swifts at Whitchurch Silk Mill.
Photos © Sue Wilkes.

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