Jane – the woman behind the books.

Jane – the woman behind the books.

Bath will be joining in celebrations this year to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of writer Jane Austen – whose six major novels of love amongst the landed gentry – at the end of the 18th century – eventually brought her an international fame she didn’t live to enjoy.


One of the boards in a public exhibition of some of the city’s ‘Greats’ held alongside Bath Abbey some time ago.

Jane lived in Bath for almost six years – after her father – the Reverend George Austen  -brought the family here on his retirement.

Local historian, author and journalist Diana White has decided to organise an all-day event at St Swithin’s Church in the city on Saturday, July 22nd. It’s where the Rev Austen is buried and – in the previous church on this spot – where he married his wife Cassandra.


Diana White

She has also just published a book which takes a different approach to much of what has already been written about Jane.

The life and Times of the Woman Behind the Books’ –published by Folly Books – explores both the person she was and the world in which she lived in.


The new book on Jane Austen.

Bath Newseum asked her how hard it had been to find something new to say about Jane.

Diana – who is also a member of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides – is Chair of the Bath and Bristol Jane Austen Group. Her book is published by Folly Books and the website address is http://www.bradford-on-avon.org.uk/

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A statue that looks good enough to eat?

A statue that looks good enough to eat?

Bath is not exactly running a surplus on public sculpture.

queen vic vag

The statue of Queen Victoria at the Victoria Art Gallery.

Apart from Queen Victoria – sitting half way up an art gallery wall – and poor Rebecca getting no more than a dribble from her well – the majority of stone figures surround the Great Bath – the centrepiece of the city’s Roman remains.

Rebecca Fountain

The Rebecca Fountain.


roman baths

Emperors and Governors at the Roman Bath.


However, the wonderful world of commerce is fighting back.

Never mind promoting water, this little fellow welcomes you at the doorway to ‘great food’ – and not far away, a Regency period dressed little lady looks good enough to eat.


On guard in the name of ‘great food’ eh?

This new kid on the block is promoting the chocolates you can buy inside the shop she welcomes you into, but l wouldn’t suggest trying to bite her.


A statue that looks good enough to eat!

Tempting though she looks, with her Jane Austen styled appearance, she is NOT made of the edible stuff.


History of Fashion in 100 objects.

History of Fashion in 100 objects.

Bath’s world-renowned  Fashion Museum will unveil a major new exhibition called ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’ on March 19, 2016.

Celebrating fashion throughout history, from the 1500s to the present day, this headline exhibit showcases 100-star objects drawn from the Fashion Museum’s world-class collection.

The exhibition, which will run until January 1, 2018, will feature garments and fashion accessories that created the look of history or hit the headlines.

From a late 1500s ‘blackwork’ embroidered man’s shirt, dating from the time of the Spanish Armada, to a ‘body-con’ Galaxy dress of the early 2000s, at a time when the world was facing economic downturn, the exhibition will present iconic and influential garments and accessories spanning five centuries of innovative fashion design.

The Fashion Museum is run by Bath & North East Somerset Council. Cllr Patrick Anketell-Jones, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “The Fashion Museum is consistently named as one of the world’s top fashion museums. This new exhibition will give local residents and visitors a chance to see some of the finest fashion garments and accessories from the museum’s fabulous collection.”

Fashion is defined as the latest style of dress, decoration or behaviour, and the new exhibition ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’ at the Fashion Museum will showcase artefacts that tell personal stories or are symptomatic of moments in world history.

One of the earliest fashion garments to go on display is an intricately embroidered woman’s jacket (Object 2) – known at the time as a waistcoat – worked in coloured silks and glittering metal thread and dating from the time of Shakespeare.

Fast forward over 300 years, and visitors to the exhibition will also be able to see another embroidered jacket (Object 75), this time from 1948, by Paris couturier Lucien Lelong and worn by major film star ‘Gone with the Wind’ actress Vivien Leigh.

ID02 I75 Embroidered woman’s waistcoat, 1610s (left) Embroidered jacket by Lucien Lelong, 1948 (right)

Embroidered woman’s waistcoat, 1610s (left) Embroidered jacket by Lucien Lelong, 1948 (right)

Graceful silk robes and embroidered and tailored coats for men, the styles fashionable during Bath’s Georgian heyday, will also be on display, along with Regency fashions from the time of Jane Austen.
Big names of fashion history feature in the exhibition ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’. Visitors will see gowns by the first fashion designers in history, including the Houses of Worth and Lucile, through to names that are more familiar today, such as Christian Dior and McQueen.

The House of Worth in Paris was the ‘go-to’ designer in the 1890s, and the exhibition will present a grey silk Worth gown (Object 53) worn by Mary Chamberlain, an American by birth and wife of British politician Joseph Chamberlain. British designer Lucile, Lady Duff Gordon (1863-1935), was one of the first women fashion designers, an astute business woman, and also a Titanic survivor.

‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’ will feature a Lucile embroidered silk chiffon wedding dress (Object 61) worn by Mabel Chappell on her wedding to Robert Fuller in 1907. Mabel and Robert went on to live at Great Chalfield Manor, a medieval manor house in Wiltshire near to Bath, now managed by the National Trust.

ID77 Cream silk dress by Christian Dior, 1950s 2

Cream silk dress by Christian Dior, 1950’s

Christian Dior (1905-1957) is one of the most famous fashion designers in history; the work of this master couturier is represented in ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’ in an original New Look suit (Objects 74) from 1947, worn by British ballerina Margot Fonteyn, as well as a cream silk shantung halter-neck dress (Object 77) from the mid-1950s.

The finale of ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’ at the Fashion Museum is a selection of the most recent choices in the museum’s noted Dress of the Year collection commencing with the Dress of the Year 2011, a magnificent dress in ivory silk tulle embroidered with tiny silver bullion eagle motifs (Object 96) by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.

Each year the Fashion Museum invites a fashion expert to select a ‘Dress of the Year’ that epitomises – for them – the year in fashion and the chosen ensemble becomes part of the museum collection. ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’ ends with the Dress of the Year 2015, two outfits by visionary British menswear designer Craig Green, giving an up-to-the-minute contemporary take on historical fashion at the Fashion Museum.

Visitors to ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’ will also be able to engage with additional aspects of the Fashion Museum’s collection through extra displays incorporated as part of the exhibition.
This includes 10 ‘shoe moments’ throughout history – from Georgian silk shoes to Air Jordan trainers – plus a children’s trail showcasing 10 fashion looks for kids, from the 1700s to the 2000s.

The exhibition will also include four collections of exquisite accessories to dress – gloves, fans, and jewellery – amassed variously by an artist, an expert collector, and passionate enthusiasts, all of whom have directly or indirectly gifted or loaned their collections to the Fashion Museum.

This includes, from the 1600s, the collection of historic gloves collected by artist Robert Spence is now owned by the Glove Collection Trust and loaned to the Fashion Museum through the generosity and support of the Worshipful Company of Glovers of London, one of the City of London’s ancient livery companies.

Find out more on Twitter – you can follow @Fashion_Museum or use the #HFx100 hashtag

The Fashion Museum will remain open during the exhibition changeover from January to March 2016. However some parts of the museum may be closed during this period and visitors are advised to check the Fashion Museum website www.fashionmuseum.co.uk before they travel.

Entry to the Fashion Museum is free to Bath and North East Somerset residents with a Discovery Card, and from January 18 to February 12, 2016, it is offering free admission to all visitors.

Follow in Jane’s footsteps.

Follow in Jane’s footsteps.

Visitors to the ‘Jane Austen’s Bath’ exhibition at the Bath & North East Somerset Council-run Victoria Art Gallery will be able to experience an authentic display of Georgian and Regency dancing – and even learn a few steps themselves – next month.

The Jane Austen themed exhibition at Bath's Victoria Art Gallery. Click on images to enlarge.

The Jane Austen themed exhibition at Bath’s Victoria Art Gallery. Click on images to enlarge.

The Bath Minuet and Jane Austen Dancers will be dancing in full period costume, in sets, at late openings of the exhibition on Thursdays during August. They will also be chatting to visitors about the dances, music and their Georgian and Regency costumes. The Thursday evening openings have been made possible by funding from Arts Council England to the Bath Museums Partnership.

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), the Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “By opening its doors in the evening, The Victoria Art Gallery is giving more people access to new cultural activities and encouraging the vibrant evening economy in Bath. We’re grateful to the support of the Bath Museums Partnership and Arts Council England.”

The two dance troupes, made up of dancers from Bath and North East Somerset and Wiltshire, are very different in costume style, music and dance. The Bath Minuet Dancers are Georgian dancers and the Jane Austen Dancers are Regency dancers.

The Bath Minuet Dancers will be in the gallery from 5 – 7pm on August 6 and 13; and the Jane Austen Dancers on August 20 and 27, also 5 – 7pm. The groups will perform twice each evening.

The period dance displays and entrance to the exhibition are free to Discovery Card holders and under 21s; standard entry is £3.50 with concessions available. No booking required.

The ‘Jane Austen’s Bath’ exhibition contains some of the gallery’s best watercolours and prints, so visitors can see the Bath that Austen saw on her visits here. Based around views from the period when she was actually here, you can step back in time and experience the Bath Austen saw and the local places and entertainments so vividly depicted in Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.

There is also a programme of talks, tours and walks organised:

Lunchtime exhibition tours
Every Thursday, 12.30-13.10. Free to Discovery Card and ticket holders.

Jane Austen walks
Walks with the Mayor’s Guides start from the Abbey Church Yard at 11am and finish at the Victoria Art Gallery and take place as follows:
Tuesdays July 21 & 28; Tuesday August 4, Friday August 14, Sunday August 23, Friday September 11, Sunday September 27, Wednesday September 30.

There will also be Jane Austen themed talks on: Wednesday 9, 16 and 23 September, 1.10-1.45pm; free; in the Guildhall, Bath. No tickets required, just turn up

The ‘Jane Austen’s Bath’ exhibition runs until October 4. Outside the special Thursday evening openings, the gallery is open from 10am – 5pm Tuesday – Saturday, 1.30-5pm on Sundays and is closed on Mondays.

Jane Austen’s Bath

Jane Austen’s Bath

jane austens bath Jane Austen’s Bath is the title of a new exhibition which will run at Bath & North East IMG_3041Somerset Council’s Victoria Art Gallery from July 4 – October 4, 2015.

Featuring some of the gallery’s best watercolours and prints, visitors will be able to see the Bath that Austen saw on her visits here, experiencing the sights and sounds and the places so vividly depicted in her novels Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.

Highlights include several manuscripts and two letters written to her sister, Cassandra, borrowed from Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton. The first was sent from Bath, in which Jane describes her social life here and the second from Bond Street in London.

The exhibition will also feature a hand-written poem by Jane and period accessories, including gloves and an umbrella.jane austen

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “This is an unique opportunity to see Bath through the eyes of Jane Austen, who lived here between 1801 and 1805. The show is free to local Discovery card holders and has been organised to coincide with the Jane Austen Festival in September.”

Jon Benington, Victoria Art Gallery manager, added: “To Jane Austen and her characters, Bath was a busy modern city, full of dazzling new buildings and crowds of visitors. Her characters came here looking for love, entertainment and the chance to meet new people. For all of them it was a place to broaden horizons and escape everyday life.

The Jane Austen themed exhibition at Bath's Victoria Art Gallery. Click on images to enlarge.

The Jane Austen themed exhibition at Bath’s Victoria Art Gallery. Click on images to enlarge.

“Although her first documented visit to Bath was in 1797 when she was 22, members of her family had been living here for years, as is demonstrated by the marriage certificate of Jane’s parents from St Swithin’s Church, a copy of which is featured in this exhibition. It is likely that she visited Bath regularly during her childhood and knew the city well.

Another view of the exhibition.

Another view of the exhibition.

“Jane Austen didn’t write a great deal during the years she lived in Bath. There are rumours that this was because she was depressed and unhappy here. It is true that she experienced personal tragedy here – her father died suddenly at their home in Green Park. However, because many of the letters that she wrote here were later destroyed, we know very little about how she actually felt about Bath.”

The Victoria Art Gallery is run by Bath & North East Somerset Council. Standard opening times are Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 5pm, Sunday 1.30– 5pm, closed Mondays.

However, during the summer it will be open until 7pm on Thursdays 6, 13, 20 and 27 August. Telephone 01225 477233; website www.victoriagal.org.uk

Meanwhile five volunteer members of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides are giving special Jane Austen-themed walks this summer.

The walks start from the Abbey Courtyard at 11.00 am and are free of charge.That’s the square – alongside Bath Abbey – with the tourist office on one side.

The dates are:
July – Friday 10, Wednesday 15, Tuesday 21 and Tuesday 28. August – Tuesday 4th, Friday 14th and Sunday 23rd. September – Friday 11th, Sunday 20th and Sunday 27th.

Meeting Mr Bennet.

Meeting Mr Bennet.

For three years now l have been a member of the Mayor of Bath’s Honorary Corps of Guides – an organisation that has been active for the last 81 years in showing visitors to Bath around our lovely World Heritage city.

A very friendly group of Bath visitors meeting Martin on their Mayor's Guides trip this morning. Click on image to enlarge.

A very friendly group of Bath visitors meeting Martin on their Mayor’s Guides trip this morning. Click on image to enlarge.

I am humbled by other volunteer guides who have been doing this for up to forty years. It is a free service and we don’t even accept tips.

It’s a great way of connecting with our visitors. Bath welcomes around four and a half million a year – people who inject a fair bit of cash into our local economy.

This morning – Tuesday, May 18th – our party bumped into Martin – aka Mr Bennet – on duty outside the Jane Austen Centre. He makes all his own costumes and is reckoned to be the most photographed ‘street’ character in England.

Tomorrow he is off to a garden party at Buckingham Palace but has decided to wear a morning suit instead! More about the Mayor of Bath’s Honorary Corps via www.bathguides.org.uk/

Austen anniversary treat.

Austen anniversary treat.

Jane Austen fans are in for another anniversary treat this year. Hot on the successful heels of Pride and Prejudice’s bicentennial anniversary in 2013 comes that of Emma, the story of the young, genteel Emma Woodhouse setting herself up as a matchmaker. Published in December 1815, it’s a lively comedy of manners that looks at the concerns and trials of refined women in early 19th-century England.

The novel’s anniversary means it’s a good time for Austen fans to visit Jane Austen’s house, Chawton, near Alton in Hampshire, south England – around an hour by train from London. The charming house was where she spent the last eight years of her life and it’s where she did the majority of her mature writing. She wrote Emma here, as well as Mansfield Park and Persuasion, in addition to revising Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey.

Now called the Jane Austen’s House Museum, it runs a programme of events throughout the year to keep even the most ardent of Austen aficionados happy! Every year the museum celebrates the author’s birthday on 16 December with free entry, hot drinks and mince pies for visitors. And although the full programme for 2015 has yet to be announced, going on Austen’s birthday is a rather nice time to visit, especially for Emma fans, which itself was published in December. 2015 will see the museum running book-making workshops, historic food workshops and writing workshops. Since it’s 200 years since the publication of Emma, one of the workshops in May, ‘Building the Village of your Story’, will look at how the village of a story can help with plotting, managing a cast of characters, building tension and creating a sense of place – much like was done in Emma. www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk

Emma, like most heroines in Jane Austen novels, adored a ball. And what better way to celebrate the novel’s publication then donning your finest Regency outfit and heading to the beautiful city of Bath in west England for the Regency costumed Summer Ball. It plays a fun part in the city’s annual Jane Austen Festival.

In 2015, the festival will run between 11-20 September. Empire-line gowns and bonnets at the ready! www.janeaustenfestivalbath.co.uk

Filing into the Assembly Rooms

Filing into the Assembly Rooms

Bath is certainly the place to visit if you want to embroil yourself in all things Austen – the author lived there between 1801 and 1805, and features regularly in her writings. Head to the city’s Jane Austen Centre for exclusive films, costumes, temporary and permanent exhibits, maps and books all dedicated to the life and times of Austen. Plus you can channel your inner Emma as the centre offers visitors the chance to dress up in Regency bonnets, top hats, shawls, fans and parasols! Bath is around 90 minutes by train from London. www.janeausten.co.uk

A 'bronze' of Jane Austen.

A ‘bronze’ of Jane Austen in Bath.

The picturesque village of Evershot in Dorset, south-west England, a village of thatched cottages and charming 400-year old inns, played the role of Highbury Village in the film. Explore the area and then stay in the luxury country house hotel Summer Lodge, a Grade II-listed building set in four acres of land; it’s easy to imagine yourself stepping back in time in these atmospheric surroundings. (www.summerlodgehotel.co.uk).

Evershot is around 3.5 hours drive from London.

Claydon House.

Clayton House in Buckinghamshire.

And, if you loved the film’s elegant ball scenes, visit Claydon House in Buckinghamshire, where the Crown ball interiors scene was filmed. Cared for by the National Trust, this idyllic country estate, just under two hours’ drive from London, is packed with ornate and lavish 18th-century English interiors that the original owner Sir Ralph Verney intended to wow his neighbours and political rivals with. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/claydon