In the early hours of Saturday December 16th 1775 Jane Austen was born, in the Rectory at Steventon, Hampshire. At the time, the village of Steventon was little more than a row of cottages , while the important families of the neighbourhood lived at some distance on their various estates. On one side of a lane stood a spacious barn, and on the other, surrounded by meadows sprinkled with elm and chestnut trees, was the Rectory. The house had a narrow roof, square sashed windows and a trellised porch.
At the back, a bow window, belonging to Rev. George Austen's study, looked out on to a garden. There was a home farm also, where Mrs. Austen's dairy was supplied by five Alderney cows. Mrs. Austen supervised the walled gardens on the south side of the rectory and was a "surrogate mother" to the young boys who stayed in the Rectory while Rev. Austen prepared them for entry to Oxford colleges.
Life in the Rectory , though certainly busy, was pleasant for a large party of children. The Austens , though very lively, were unusually good tempered. When the weather was good, the walks about Steventon were very beautiful; the lanes were full of primroses and violets in Spring and the neighbourhood had the beauty of Hampshire woodland.It is not surprising that Jane Austen wrote, many years afterwards, that she thought beauty of landscape must be one of the joys of Heaven. Jane was happiest living in the countryside of Hampshire. The fact that there are no completed novels from her time in Bath has often been regarded as proof that she was not happy there. While this will remain a matter of speculation, there is no doubt that she was happiest in her beloved Hampshire- in her birthplace of Steventon or in her last home in Chawton.
What a tragedy that her life in Hampshire should have been so very short.
by Eileen Collins