As I mentioned last month in my bookish birthday blog post, one of the presents I received this year was Walking Jane Austen’s London by Louise Allen. The book contains eight walks around various parts of London which Jane Austen herself visited, or locations which are mentioned in one of her novels.
A couple of weeks ago, I went on walk #3 around Mayfair, and decided to blog about some of the interesting facts I learnt and locations I saw along the way.
The walk began at the exit of Green Park tube station, with the first landmark of interest being The Ritz hotel.
I could well imagine such an iconic, fashionable establishment being around during the Regency era – so I was surprised to discover that the Ritz was not, in fact, a hotel during Jane Austen’s time. When she visited London, it was in the Bath Hotel across the street that she stayed, because the Ritz was at that time a boarding point for stagecoaches. Jane wrote that she was not impressed with her stay at the Bath Hotel – perhaps she would have found the Ritz preferable if it had been open during her time!
Just around the corner was another landmark, this one very relevant to Jane Austen’s career.
Number 50, Albemarle Street was previously the address of publisher John Murray. Jane Austen’s first three novels had been published by Thomas Egerton – but after negotiating via letters with Jane’s brother Henry, John Murray agreed to publish Emma in 1815, followed by Northanger Abbey and Persuasion after Jane’s death.
After meandering through a number of streets which have largely retained their Georgian architecture, I came to Berkeley Square, where Elinor and Marianne Dashwood stayed with Mrs Jennings in Sense and Sensibility. In this square there was once a fashionable tea house, which also had space to sit in the gardens opposite. The building in which Gunter’s tea shop was housed is interestingly still a coffee shop today – but one of a rather different nature!
Here is the site of the old Gunter’s tea shop in modern day, side-by-side with an image of the square as it would have looked during Jane Austen’s time.
During the final part of the walk I came to Grosvenor Square, which I previously wrote about during a writing research post, as it was home to a family of characters in my Regency novel A Lady’s Fate. Having researched the area for my novel, I was excited to learn that it also featured in one of Jane Austen’s novels – it was home to none other than Mrs Hurst, one of Mr Bingley’s sisters in Pride and Prejudice!
This walk was so much fun to do – with every street I felt Jane Austen’s London come to life around me, especially as some of the buildings are still standing today. If you enjoyed this post, do let me know, and I will continue to blog about each of the other seven walks as I complete them!