Going to ‘town’: A guide to Jane Austen’s London
Find out where Jane Austen stayed, shopped and socialised during her many visits to London.
Jane Austen (1775-1817) spent most of her years living in Hampshire and Bath, but visited London frequently throughout her adult life. Her favourite brother Henry Thomas Austen (1771-1850) lived in the capital for a lot of his life, while publishing houses were another incentive for the author to visit London.
As well as being a frequent visitor to London, the city also served as inspiration for Austen’s novels. Some of her wealthier characters had homes in the capital, while it often poses as a location for many scandalous scenes. Who can forget Lydia Bennet and Mr Wickham eloping to London and being made to marry in a City church? Or Marianne Dashwood realising Mr Willoughby is engaged to another woman while in the capital with her sister Elinor? While London is full of adventure for some of Austen’s characters, one in particular wasn’t so fond. In ‘Emma’, the title character’s father Henry Woodhouse laments London’s pollution, declaring: “The truth is, that in London it is always a sickly season. Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be.”
Guide to Jane Austen’s London haunts
Find out where Jane Austen lodged, socialised and shopped during her frequent visits to London.
- Cork Street
Jane and her brothers are believed to have slept at an inn on Cork Street in Mayfair on her first visit to London in 1796. Cork Street was a short walk from White Horse Cellar on Piccadilly (the present site of the Burlington Arcade) – where Jane was likely to have disembarked as it was a popular coach drop-off for travellers from the south and west of England.
– Cork Street, Mayfair, W1S. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Green Park.
- 64 Sloane Street
Jane’s older brother Henry and his wife Eliza moved from nearby Brompton (where they lived in 1808) to Sloane Street by the time Jane visited in 1811. Henry was a banker at the time so could entertain his sibling with parties and trips to the theatre. Jane returned for another visit in 1813. Today, the building is Grade II listed and is home to an investment bank, with its façade dating back to a redevelopment by Fairfax Wade in the late 19th century. The original house inside dates back to 1780.
– 64 Sloane Street, Knightsbridge, SW1X 9SH. Nearest station: Knightsbridge or Sloane Square.
- 10 Henrietta Street
Jane lived with her brother at Henrietta Street during summer 1813 and March 1814. In 1813, Henry was devastated by the death of his wife Eliza. Soon after her passing, Henry moved to rooms above Tilson’s bank on Henrietta Street. Jane and their niece Fanny Knight visited him there in the spring of 1814.
– 10 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8PS. Nearest station: Covent Garden or Charing Cross.
- 23 Hans Place
Henry moved round the corner from Sloane Street to Hans Place in 1814 – a year after his wife Eliza died. Jane stayed at the house during her visits in 1814 and October-December 1815. Jane was fond of the building and the square’s garden. The author travelled to London in 1815 while she was preparing her novel ‘Emma’ for publication. While there, her brother became seriously ill so Jane remained in the city to nurse him back to health. It is believed this was Jane’s last visit to ‘town’, as she died in Hampshire 19 months later. Today, No.23 has been redeveloped, but No.s 15, 33 and 34, as well as the garden from the original period, still exist. A blue plaque commemorates Jane’s time at the residence.
– Hans Place, Knightsbridge, SW1X. Nearest station: Knightsbridge.
- Carlton House
During her visit to London is 1815, Jane was invited to the Prince Regent’s (the future King George IV) library at Carlton House by the royal librarian James Stanier Clarke (1766–1834). The latter suggested Jane dedicate ‘Emma’ to the prince, and despite her disdain for the royal, she was in no position to refuse. Carlton House was demolished the following decade, with Carlton House Terrace being erected on the site in the 1820s.
– Carlton House Terrace, St James, SW1Y 5AH. Nearest stations: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus.
- Twining’s flagship store
The oldest tea shop in London has been trading on Strand for over 300 years. The Austen family, including Jane, visited the shop to buy their tea. Jane wrote in her diary that her mother Cassandra (1739-1827) had asked her to pick up some Twining’s tea to bring back west. She also refers to the price of tea going up in a March 1814 letter to her sister Cassandra (1773-1845), written from Henrietta Street.
– 216 Strand, Aldwych, WC2R 1AP. Nearest station: Temple. For more information, visit the Twining’s website.
- Astley’s Amphitheatre
Jane was entertained at Astley’s Amphitheatre during a trip to London and referenced the location in ‘Emma’. The performance venue was opened by Philip Astley in 1773 and is considered the first modern circus ring. Although the Amphitheatre is long gone, a plaque on the site remains today. It makes an appearance in ‘Emma’, as the location of Robert Martin and Harriet Smith’s reconciliation and subsequent engagement.
– Cornwall Road, Waterloo, SE1 8TW. Nearest station: Waterloo.
- 50 Albemarle Street
Jane’s moved publishers in the later years of her life and decided to let John Murray (1778-1843) publish ‘Emma’ in December 1815, followed by the 2nd edition of ‘Mansfield Park’ in February 1816. The author would have visited John’s Mayfair office during her extended 1815 visit to London. The books were the last of Austen’s novels published during her lifetime.
– 50 Albemarle Street, Mayfair, W1S 4BD. Nearest station: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus.
- The British Library
Jane’s portable, mahogany writing desk is on display at the permanent Treasures exhibition at the British Library. It was given to Jane by her father Rev George Austen (1731-1805) in 1794 and passed down through the Austen family for generations until it was donated to the British Library in 1999.
– The British Library, 96 Euston Road, NW1 2DB. Nearest station: King’s Cross St Pancras or Euston. For more information, visit the British Library website.
- Westminster Abbey
Although Jane is buried in Winchester Cathedral, a plaque in her memory has been placed in Poet’s Corner in the Abbey. She is in good company with Charles Dickens, W.H. Auden, Sir John Betjeman, George Eliot, William Blake, the Bronte sisters, Lewis Carroll, among many other notables either buried or memorialised there.
– Westminster Abbey, 20 Dean’s Yard, Westminster, SW1P 3PA. Nearest station: Westminster. For more information, visit the Westminster Abbey website.
London sites in Austen’s literature
During Jane Austen’s visits to London, she would have visited or passed many streets and buildings that were never captured in her diaries or letters. Many such sites ended up in her six published novels.
Discover the London places where Austen’s memorable characters fought, loved and lived.
- St Clement’s Church
In ‘Pride & Prejudice’, Lydia Bennet is hurried down the aisle at St Clement’s with her reluctant groom Mr Wickham after they eloped. The young couple were hiding out – unmarried – in the church’s parish when their location was discovered by Mr Darcy. There has been a St Clement’s Church on the site since at least the 11th century, with the current building (designed by Sir Christopher Wren) standing since 1687.
– St Clement’s Church, 27 Clement’s Lane, City of London, EC4N 7AE. Nearest station: Monument.
- Gracechurch Street
The Bennet family in ‘Pride & Prejudice’ had family relations in the City of London. Mr and Mrs Gardiner hosted the eldest Bennet sister Jane in the capital, where she hoped to run into her love interest Mr Bingley. She had an unfortunate meeting with his snooty sister Caroline, who had used Jane’s relatives’ London abode as one of the many so-called reasons that the eldest Bennet wasn’t ‘good enough’ for her brother. Caroline Bingley erroneously claimed the Gardiners lived at Cheapside – half a mile away from their actual residence. Besotted Mr Bingley hit back at his cruel sister: “If they had uncles enough to fill all Cheapside, it would not make them one jot less agreeable.”
– Gracechurch Street, City of London, EC3. Nearest station: Monument.
- Drury Lane Theatre
In ‘Sense & Sensibility’, John Willoughby hears about Marianne Dashwood’s illness from Sir John Middleton after they meet unexpectedly in the lobby of the theatre.
– Drury Lane Theatre, Catherine Street, Covent Garden, WC2B 5JF. Nearest station: Covent Garden or Holborn.
- Brunswick Square
In ‘Emma’, the title character’s older sister Isabella and her husband John Knightley live at the Bloomsbury address of Brunswick Square. In chapter 12, Isabella Knightley insists her part of London is not as “sickly” as her father declares the capital is in general. She said: “Our part of London is very superior to most others! You must not confound us with London in general, my dear sir. The neighbourhood of Brunswick Square is very different from almost all the rest. We are so very airy!” Today, the houses of Brunswick Square are mostly demolished, with the Brunswick Centre on the western fringe, but Brunswick Square Gardens remain as a public park.
– Brunswick Square Gardens, Bloomsbury, WC1N 1AX. Nearest station: Russell Square.
- Wimpole Street
In ‘Mansfield Park’, Fanny Price’s pretty cousin Maria Bertram moves to a lavish home in Marylebone‘s Wimpole Street with her wealthy, but dull husband James Rushworth following their marriage. However, she causes a scandal, which even makes the newspapers, when she has an affair with former beau Henry Crawford. Mr Rushworth files for divorce, but Mr Crawford refuses to marry her. News of the affair is described in the paper as “a matrimonial fracas”.
– Wimpole Street, Marylebone, W1G 8AS. Nearest station: Bond Street or Regent’s Park.
- Grosvenor Street
In ‘Pride & Prejudice’, Charles Bingley’s sister and brother-in-law, Mrs Louisa Hurst and Mr Hurst respectively, have a house in Grosvenor Street in Mayfair. After staying a period in Netherfield near the Bennet family in Hertfordshire, the Bingleys and Hursts suddenly quit the house to return to London. Caroline Bingley writes a letter to a disappointed Jane Bennet informing her of herself and her brother Charles’s plans to stay in London over the winter. This plot development puts the temporary brakes on Jane and Charles’s courtship in the novel for some time.
– Grosvenor Street, Mayfair, W1K 2HP. Nearest station: Bond Street or Marble Arch.
- Berkeley Street
In ‘Sense & Sensibility’, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood stay with Mrs Jennings in Berkeley Street, Mayfair, during their visit to London.
– Berkeley Street, Mayfair, W1J. Nearest station: Bond Street or Green Park.
- Kensington Gardens
In ‘Sense and Sensibility’, Elinor Dashwood takes a stroll through Kensington Gardens on “so fine, so beautiful a Sunday”, when she is interrupted by Anne Steele – sister of her love rival Lucy Steele – with gossip about the latter and Edward Ferrars.
Follow Metro Girl on Instagram for photos of hidden London.
Check out the guide to Charles Dickens’ London.
For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.