Above: View over Lyme Bay from Stonebarrow Hill. Some have argued this is the aproximate location where the watercolour by her sister, showing Jane in her bonnet gazing away [see below], was painted during a holiday at Lyme.


Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma, 1996 A Local-Interest Guide To Jane Austen Novels & Screen Adaptations

Jane Austen Country
Jane Austen's settings range across the south of England from the City of Bath in the west (in Persuasion etc) to Surrey in the east (the picnic in Emma), as well as in various south-coast resorts, from Brighton to Lyme Regis on the Dorset-Devon boundary. Her associations with Bath and east Hampshire are widely promoted, but she also set scenes in the south-central region between these locales.
Many film and TV adaptations have filmed scenes here in the south-central region, even when the settings are farther afield - as in Emma's picnic, pictured right, the 1996 film version of which was shot in Dorset rather than Surrey. The Lyme Regis Cobb is the one famous location, a popular tourist destination since Persuasion was published in 1818, and used (regardless of weather) by all the modern tv and film versions - the only site where literary setting and filming location are always one and the same.

The guide below is meant as an introduction and is descriptive rather than critical - readers and viewers can make up their own mind which are the 'best' adaptations.

 
Sketch of Jane by her sisterJane Austen (1775-1817) was born and raised in eastern Hampshire, her father being rector at Steventon (house now demolished) near what is now the busy commuter town of Basingstoke, but then was more a traditional village. (It has been suggested this is the model for her 'Meryton'). This was followed by an unhappy sojourn at several different addresses in Bath 1800-6 (she wrote no new work) when her father retired, a move to Southampton (then something of a spa town) 1806-9 (house now demolished) after he died, followed by a move back to eastern Hampshire, to the village of Chawton 1809-16 (house now an Austen museum), and finally a two-month stay in Winchester, where she went for medical treatment (for a fatal condition whose identity is still argued over), died, and is buried, in the Cathedral.

Nearly all her work was written in the two villages (she began writing P&P in 1796 age 20), and her favoured setting was what she called a "Country  Village" where she could focus on the interaction of 3 or 4 families. She declined (when once offered a commission) to paint a larger canvas, replying her style was only suitable for such "pictures of domestic Life in Country Villages as I deal in."
Her village settings such as 'Meryton' in Pride & Prejudice are fictional (no doubt to avoid repercussions if someone thought it a roman à clef), but real towns and cities are also used. Her contemporary Sir Walter Scott said "The big bow-wow strain I can do" (he meant the big historical novel), but "that young lady has a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with," adding she had "the exquisite touch, which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting, from the truth of the description and the sentiment, [which] is denied to me."
By the time he wrote that, she was in fact dead, having died without ever being known to another contemporary author, though her works were respected even by the Romantics (whose excesses she satirised) like Coleridge ( ‘in their way, perfectly genuine and individual productions’) and Southey ('Her novels are more true to nature, and have, for my sympathies, passages of finer feeling than any others of this age. '). Nothing was published under her own name in her lifetime, all 6 novels being credited merely to "A Lady."
Although she is well-known for leading a quiet life living with her family, she did visit with friends and relatives across the south of England, and used these trips to work these places into her novels as additional settings. This included a number of the fashionable new (in Regency terms) seaside spa resorts, from Ramsgate and Brighton to Weymouth and Lyme and the nearby East Devon resorts. In fact, she made Lyme an early literary-tourism destination. Over a century before The French Lieutenant's Woman, visitors came to see the spot where, in Austen's 1818 Persuasion, Louisa Musgrave fell from the 'granny's teeth' steps on the Cobb stone pier [pictured below].
Lyme Cobb

Austen herself said of the spot: '...the walk to the Cobb, skirting round the pleasant little bay, which, in the season, is animated with bathing machines and company; the Cobb itself, its old wonders and new improvements, with the very beautiful line of cliffs stretching out to the east of the town, are what the stranger's eye will seek; and a very strange stranger it must be, who does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme, to make him wish to know it better.'


All her 6 completed novels, published anonymously 1810-17, have been adapted for the screen more than once. (There was a final, unfinished novel, called The Brothers, which was published incomplete, posthumously retitled Sanditon, and since has been 'finished' several times by others, but with the original plot not clear, there have been no dramatisations, despite the filming possibilites of the original 6-novel literary canon seemingly exhausted: screen adaptations came to a standstill three years ago, with nothing new in sight. There have since been two biographical dramas, Becoming Jane and Miss Austen Regrets, both partly Hampshire-set but neither filmed here. There is a comparative evaluation of the main TV adaptations on the British Film Institute website, here: Jane Austen On Television

Works are in alphabetical order by novel title below. Only those adaptations with a local aspect are listed.  (This mainly excludes a number of early tv adaptations shot in b&w in a studio.)


Emma (1815)
The novel is set in Surrey. There have been at least 6 screen versions, 2 of which filmed scenes locally.
 

Emma (ITV dir Diarmuid Lawrence scr Andrew Davies 1996)
This ITV-movie production with Kate Beckinsale used the Wiltshire village of Lacock as Austen's "Highbury," plus Trafalgar Park house [by Downtown south of Salisbury] as "Hartfield."



Emma (Miramax USA scr/dir Douglas McGrath 1996)
This American feature version starring Gwyneth Paltrow as a swan-necked Emma was shot largely in Dorset, which represents a vague southern setting. (It is quite focussed visually - rose coloured when not a summery lush green - in an attempt to match Austen's small, rural world.)
It was mainly filmed in the Sherborne-Dorchester area. The west Dorset village of Evershot was dressed as Austen's "Highbury," with the main street covered in straw, sheep pens, fake vines etc for the market-day scene, and the local Almshouses also appear. Mapperton House in west Dorset is Mrs Weston's house 'Randalls', and Crichel House in east Dorset is Mr Knightley's house (with lake). West Stafford House (actually the home of scriptwriter Julian Fellowes) also appears, as does Coker Court at East Coker (famous for its TS Eliot church shrine) in Somerset. The picnic and strawberry-picking scenes were shot on Bulbarrow Hill in North Dorset. The final wedding scene was shot at Winterborne Clenston Church.

The ford where Emma's carriage gets stuck appears to be Moreton in central Dorset. The church in the final wedding scene appears to be Winterborne Clenston .
Crichel House in Emma



Mansfield Park (1814)
This novel, which is sometimes said to be her most social-realist work, is vaguely set, the only real setting being Fanny Price's grim home town of  Portsmouth. There are various possibilities for the 'original' of Mansfied Park, but none are definitive. There have been at least 3 screen versions, with minimal local filming.

Mansfield Park (Miramax/BBC dir Patricia Rozema 1999)
Like the 1983 and 2007 tv versions, this feature version was shot non-locally, but early on has a brief but key controversial added “social conscience” setup scene shot at Lulworth Cove, where Fanny looks down from her coach and sees a slave ship anchored. Austen has been criticised for ignoring the sociopolitical realities of her time, such as slavery and the Napoleonic Wars. However here, the issue is raised in this more pointedly modern adaptation that Mansfield Park estate may have been built on wealth acquired via the slave trade.


Northanger Abbey (1818)
The novel, originally titled Susan, is mainly set in and around Bath, where Austen lived in her mid-20s, though Weymouth, Dorset's fashionable new spa (which Jane disliked), is mentioned. There have been at least 2 screen versions, with one filmed in part in the region.

Northanger Abbey (BBC dir Giles Foster scr Maggie Wadey 1986)
This adaptation of Austen's sending-up the then-current craze for Gothic tales was largely studio-shot, but as well as shooting a few street scenes in Bath, did film at Bowood House and Corsham Court in north Wiltshire.


Persuasion (1818)
The novel, published posthumously, is set in Somerset ('Kellynch Hall'), Lyme Regis (where the author holidayed twice), and Bath. (Jane herself enjoyed her visits to Lyme but apparently disliked living in Bath.) There are 3 extant screen versions, all filmed in part locally due to the key Lyme Regis Cobb scene. (The first, the 1960 version, no longer exists.)

Persuasion (Granada TV scr J Mitchell dir Howard Baker 1969)
This ITV 5-part mini-series version with Anne Firbank as Anne Elliot seems to have been the first on-screen use of Lyme Regis and its famous Cobb as well as the first colour version. Halliwell's Television Guide comments: "Diligent adaptation ... filmed in Dorset and Somerset.


Persuasion (BBC dir Roger Michell scr Nick Dear 1995)
This BBC feature-length version, with Amanda Root as Anne Elliot and Ciarán Hinds as Captain Wentworth, was shot on location in Super-16mm, using more natural light than before for a more realistic look, complete with smoky rooms. (Earlier Austen TV dramas tended to be shot in brighly-lit studios.) It was filmed in Lyme, Bath, Gloucestershire, Somerset, and Wiltshire (Sheldon Manor as Upper Cross Great House). The film was co-produced with US interests, for showing in US 'art-house' cinemas as well as on US TV. Because of this, it had alternate endings filmed in the streets of Bath (where a circus parade is passing by), one with a final kiss and one without. Another elaboration, the final sailing-into-the-sunset shot, is taken from the Mel Gibson film The Bounty.

Persuasion ( ITV dir Adrian Shergold scr Simon Burke 2007)
This latest version being made by John Hannah's production company and starring Sally Hawkins was filmed in Bath (including the Assembly Rooms), Lyme Regis and nearby Seatown in Dorset, plus three Wiltshire stately homes - Great Chalfield Manor House, Neston Park, and Sheldon Manor.  (Mouse over picture to see 2nd image.)
  
Pride & Prejudice (written 1797, revised and pub. 1813)
The novel, originally titled First Impressions, is vaguely set in Austen's home county of Hampshire. Basingstoke, now a large commuter-belt town but then a village or small town, is said to be the original of 'Meryton' as Austen lived nearby in her youth. There have been at least 8 screen versions, with 3 filmed in part locally.

Pride & Prejudice (BBC dir Joan Craft scr Nemone Lethbridge 1967)
At this time, the BBC were mainly shooting on soundstages, but some exteriors were shot in Somerset, including Dyrham Park house near Bath (as 'Pemberley'), and Lacock preserved village.

Pride & Prejudice (BBC dir Simon Langton scr Andrew Davies 1995)
This international hit drama-serial version starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth was shot at over 20 locations around England. The local-interest ones are in Wiltshire: Lacock preserved village (Meryton village scenes) and Abbey (Cambridge university interiors), and nearby Luckington Court (as 'Longbourn').



Pride And Prejudice (dir Joe Wright scr Deborah Moggach 2005)
This Hollywood production starring Keira Knightley also used a wide range of locations. Local-interest ones include Wilton House near Salisbury (for Pemberley interiors), Stourhead Gardens (the Temple of Apollo rainstorm scene), and Martin Down Nature Reserve, SW of Salisbury on the Dorset boundary.
Above: Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy at Wilton House.
Below: Martin Down on the Dorset-Wiltshire/Hampshire boundary.



Sense And Sensibility (1811)
The novel, originally titled Elinor & Marianne, is mainly set in Devon near Exeter, Austen having holidayed in SE Devon. There have been at least 4 screen versions, with 2 filmed in part locally.

Sense And Sensibility (BBC dir Rodney Bennett scr Alexander Baron 1981)
This BBC mini-series adaptation shot on video used Dorset and Somerset locations: Came House and Came Cottage near Dorchester (as Barton Park and Barton cottage), Babington House (as Norland's), Crowcombe Court (as the London house), and Bath, as London.

Sense And Sensibility (dir Ang Lee scr Emma Thompson 1995)
This widescreen feature adaptation starring Emma Thompson was largely shot in south Devon where the remote 'Barton Cottage' scenes are set. Locations closer to home include Montacute House in Somerset (where Marianne falls ill); Trafalgar Park House south of Salisbury (as Barton Park), while Salisbury doubled as London. Salisbury's Mompesson House played the house where the family stay on their London visit, Cathedral Close played a London street, and nearby Wilton House was used for the London ball scene.

 

Below: The grounds of Montacute House were used for the climactic sequence where the heartbroken Marianne wanders in the rain, and nearly dies.



The first dramatic adaptations of Jane Austen novels were for the stage, and in 1940 Hollywood filmed a 1930s Broadway stage version of Pride & Prejudice. (Mouse over picture below to see 2nd image.)

Pride And Prejudice 1940

This was all filmed in Hollywood, and the locations were no more authentic than the costumes, which were recycled from the previous year's production of Gone With The Wind. Though the various Austen adaptations have been criticized for making houses and costumes somewhat grander than Jane would have known, more authentic screen depictions began in the 1970s with a series of drama serials from the BBC and ITV, which also began the practice of shooting exteriors on location, often in this region.

BBC DVD box set
Screen versions of all Austen's six finished novels are available on DVD, especially from the BBC, which has produced at least one TV adaptation of each.

 

Emma, 1996

The Crichel estate in East Dorset in Emma, 1997 (mouse over picture above to see 2nd image.)

Evershot
Evershot village, west Dorset, used as Highbury in the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma, for 'Highbury' village scenes, below.

Above: final scene from Emma, 1997, shot at Crichel, which has a church right on the estate.
Below: Mansfield Park coach journey during main titles. (Mouse over 2nd picture below to see other image.)

BBC's Persuasion, 1995


From the BBC's 1995 Persuasion. Anne and co. walk on the beach just west of the Cobb.

For the 2007 ITV version, the Cobb sequence had to be shot in stormy conditions.
For the 2007 ITV version, the Cobb sequence had to be shot in stormy conditions. (Mouse over picture above to see 2nd image.)

 

Lacock preserved village
Lacock preserved village, Wiltshire. It has been used more than once to portray an Austen village like 'Meryton'. (Mouse over picture above to see 2nd image.) Below: Lacock as seen in Pride And Prejudice.

 


Location work has become more important in recent years. Both images on the poster above seem to be of Martin Down Nature Reserve, on the Hampshire-Dorset boundary, pictured below, and in the production still opposite with Keira Knightley et al out walking.

 


Two Winchester memorial sites often appear in Austen documentaries like The Real Jane Austen (2002). [1] This former lodging house on College St was Jane's final home, in Winchester in 1817, today marked by a plaque. She died there age 41. [[2] She is buried in the north aisle of Winchester Cathedral. (Mouse over picture to see 2nd image.) This was arranged via her brother, a cleric, and her memorial slab epitaph in the nave of the Cathedral's north aisle does not mention that she was an author, her novels originally just credited to "A Lady". They were republished posthumously under her name, along with two not published in her lifetime. The novel, a form she helped modernize by streamlining its storytelling, became a popular literary form in the Victorian era, and her novels have been scarcely out of print since .

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
   

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