The town of Alton began as a Saxon village first noted in historical record in 1101 and grew into a small market town by the 13th century. Today, it is a pleasant mix of old architecture and new with a unique feel and atmosphere. I visited Alton as a part of Jane Austen Regency Week that is held here and in Chawton during the last full week of June every year.
For those who are unfamiliar with Jane Austen’s link to Alton, Alton is adjacent to Chawton where Jane Austen lived from 1809 to 1817 with her mother and her sister Cassandra and also where she wrote the final drafts of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815). Although Persuasion was completed in 1816, it was not published until a year after her death (1818), the same year as Northanger Abbey.
The 2015 Jane Austen Regency Week kicked off with a Regency Day, which was very much an outdoor market environment with vendor stalls. A variety of merchandise was for sale including children’s handmade dresses, Jane Austen inspired books (I’ll leave you to guess who manned that table 🙂 ) and I believe I even saw one selling ale and cider.
For additional entertainment, the Dandy Chargers glided down High Street on their “Hoppy Horses” along with a maypole dance, and sword fighting exhibitions.
Unfortunately, a muggy day (For England) and intermittent rain slowed down the people attending the event, although many still took a chance with the weather to come out and stroll down High Street where quite a few buildings boast connections to Jane Austen.
Saturday evening, a ball held in the Assembly Rooms drew quite a crowd with a group who led and helped teach the Regency dances we so commonly see in movie adaptations or read of in novels.
On Sunday, I took part in a walking tour of Chawton (I will blog about this when I cover Chawton), and attended an Evensong service at St. Lawrence Church where two of Jane Austen’s brothers preached and several of her nieces and nephews were christened. The music was lovely!
The last of the events I attended were an Abigail Reynolds talk at the Quaker Meeting house and a writer’s workshop also given by Abigail Reynolds at the Alton Community Centre, which were both entertaining and informative.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and so did my time in Alton. Please check back for my part of the week in Chawton. There was simply too much to put into one blog post!
Lastly, I would like to thank Kate of Old Timbers Bed and Breakfast for her wonderful cooking and for sharing her amazing old home! I was just outside of Chawton in Farringdon, which is a picturesque village and convenient (with a car of course) for access to both Alton and Chawton.
Next stop…Chawton and Jane Austen’s house!
For more info on Old Timbers Cottage Bed and Breakfast –