In honor of Jane Austen's 240th birthday, here is a post about the quiet corner of the county of Hampshire where she was born, and how you can find it.
I have long dreamed of visiting the place responsible for the formation of Jane Austen's genius, the home where her talents and deepest loves were nurtured and her intellect began to grow - that elusive, long-demolished home in Steventon. I must repress a sigh every time I think of Jane's beloved home being demolished by her own nephew a mere five years after she died. In 1823 William Knight became rector of Steventon and moved into a newly-built rectory, having the old one pulled down. (Are you trying not to sigh now, too?)
But the rest of the neighborhood hasn't changed! The lanes, hedgerows and meadows still look untouched, and the Steventon church where Mr. Austen preached looks nearly as it must have to Jane and her family. It still feels like you're stepping back in time when you walk down the lanes shaded by old oaks and fluttering birch trees in between peaceful meadows. I've never felt more a part of Jane Austen's world! I almost really expected to see a young Jane and Cassandra walking toward us down the lane. As a Jane Austen fan, I've never been more excited!
Okay, so how does one get there? It is no simple feat without a car. And we almost gave up after arriving in Overton on a bus from Basingstoke, because there are no taxis in Overton. (Overton is the nearest town to Steventon.) However, the #76 or the #86 buses to and from Basingstoke stop at Deane Gate Inn, and from there it is a 1 1/4 mile walk to where the rectory house used to be.
|A photo from the Deane's Gate Inn bus stop on the road from Basingstoke to Overton. The side road leads to Steventon.|
|The town center of Steventon.|
We walked straight down that side road across from Deane's Gate Inn bus stop, then when we reached this sign post, we followed the sign pointing left, labelled "Steventon Church".