A few weeks before lockdown happened, my boyfriend and I had planned to visit the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton.
It would’ve been the start of our pilgrimage of literary sites in the UK, but life got in the way; it either kept raining, or we were too tired after the working week.
So, we kept delaying it, and then lockdown happened. It’s safe to say I regret pushing it back!
We’ve been shielding for months now. We pine to do our everyday things, like walk a minute up the road to buy snacks when we’re feeling rubbish or going for one of our wandering strolls to the beach.
I miss work and drinking eight cups of tea a day, and I know Charlie wants to be in the middle of the action with his team at work.
We’ve both dreamed of the day we get to walk into the open arms of Dartmoor’s rolling landscape.
But I also really cannot wait to finally start my adventure of literary sites in the UK.
I’ve made a map of all the places I want to visit, but if you’re wanting to visit any, make sure you check they’re open and watch out for their Covid-19 advice.
Many of them also have emergency appeals, so if you can donate anything, it will really help them to make sure they can open again in the near future!
If you know me, you know I love classic literature.
The last film Charlie and I watched in the cinema was Autumn de Wilde’s Emma, a brilliant adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel of the same name.
I’d already been wanting to visit the museum prior to this, but the film definitely reignited my love for the author.
Early into shielding, I enrolled on the University of Southampton’s free course Jane Austen: Myth, Reality, and Global Celebrity on FutureLearn. It was a great course that taught me so much about Austen that I hadn’t learnt at school or university.
I’ve also piqued Charlie’s interest in Austen, so it’ll be great for us to both visit the museum and find out even more about her work.
For context, the Jane Austen House Museum was actually where Austen lived and wrote her novels in Chawton, Hampshire.
After it went up for sale in 1947, the Jane Austen Society appealed to Mr T.E Carpenter, who bought it and transformed it into the museum we know today.
You can view a wide assortment of important objects associated with Austen, including her letters, books, jewellery and furniture. (Source)
Where else better to learn about the legend on the £10 note?
When Jane Austen fell ill, she travelled to Winchester for medical care, and after a short illness, died in her sister’s arms.
She was then buried at Winchester Cathedral, a site which has since brought visitors from all over the world.
It may sound a bit macabre to visit a grave – I think some people even call it tombstone tourism – but to be able to visit the final resting place of someone so central to my literary education is surreal.
Her work has impacted me massively, and it’s wonderful that Winchester Cathedral took such measures to ensure her celebration and commemoration.
My favourite book of all time ever is Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. I have never loved a book more.
Well, except maybe Tracy Beaker when I was younger…
Luckily, there’s a place for me to enrich my love for the Brontës, and that’s the Brontë Parsonage Museum in West Yorkshire.
Yorkshire is stunning as it is, and a place to visit in its own right. But having such literary heritage makes it that much more golden.
This place is where the legendary sisters grew up, and exhibits their living quarters and bedrooms.
The parsonage also contains several manuscripts, letters, and early versions of novels to look at in the museum library.
I think it’s crazy they’ve survived to this day!
The museum won’t be my only stop in Haworth village.
Charlotte and Emily are both buried in St Michael and All Angels Church next to the parsonage.
As this is a working church, I’ll make sure we don’t disturb anyone.
There’s a fantastic local walking route around Top Withens, ‘the traditionally accepted site for Wuthering Heights.’
It begins near the Parsonage Museum and circles around Brontë Waterfall, a moorland feature popular with Charlotte, Emily, and Anne throughout their lives.
As children, they used to play here and create their stories, naming it “The Meeting of the Waters.”
Charlotte Brontë described the falls as “fine indeed; a perfect torrent racing over the rocks, white and beautiful” (Source).
Here you’ll also find Brontë Chair and Brontë Bridge, the latter of which was rebuilt in 1990 after a flash flood destroyed it in 1989.
You can find the trail here.
My fingers are crossed for some typical English rainfall during our visit. Apparently, the waterfall is more of a trickle without it!
Accessibility information: It’s a relatively easy walk under foot but is not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs.
I was lucky enough to visit Stratford-upon-Avon with my good friend Dani during my second year of university.
Our course funded the trip, and we got to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace and watch two incredible performances at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra blew our socks off.
The main reason I want to go back is to take Charlie to the Royal Shakespeare Company.
I honestly believe everyone should get the chance to watch an RSC performance once in their lifetime, so it would be lovely to take him there.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ve never been!
This cultural landmark is pivotal to Shakespeare’s story as a literary giant, so much so that it’s almost ridiculous I haven’t visited.
I studied him in school, sixth form, and university; I’ve watched four plays by the RSC, and I’ve passed (probably) weeks reading his plays and watching modern-day adaptations of his work.
My visit is long overdue!
Finally, I’d like to visit the final resting place of Mary Shelley.
Frankenstein is my second favourite book of all time. If you haven’t read it, I would 100% recommend it!
Even if you hate old books, it’s worth it – I promise.
Aside from the novel, Mary Shelley’s life story is fascinating.
Many people reduce her to merely being the daughter of two literary legends and wife of another. But there is so much more I’d love to know about her.
Did she feel immense pressure to live up to the status of her parents?
How did she feel throughout her unbelievable relationship with Percy Shelley? How did her illness influence her work?
These are all things I’d love to find out more about.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any accessibility information for St Peter’s Church. If you find some, please let me know and I’ll update this!
Have you been to any of these sites? If so, what did you think of them?
Make sure to check out my last blog, which was all about mental health stigma in 2020.