Jane Austen lived in Bath from the time of her father’s retirement until his death - a period of five years. She and the family already knew the city: her parents had married there and they had local relatives who offered hospitality on visits for social and medicinal purposes. All Austen’s novels mention Bath.
Jane was in her mid-twenties when her father announced he was retiring as rector of Steventon and moving to Bath. Jane, her sister Cassandra and their mother would be going with him. Both sisters were unmarried, and it may be that their parents thought Bath, a fashionable and busy place with many balls and other social activities, would be a good place to find husbands.
Jane was very much involved with organising the move in 1801, and she and her mother left Steventon ahead of the others to house-hunt in Bath, staying with Mrs Austen’s brother and sister-in-law, the Leigh Perrots, at 1 The Paragon, a four-storey
house with fine views at the back. A few minutes’ walk away, at the far end of The Paragon where it becomes London Road (the A4) stands the church where Jane’s parents married, St Swithin’s Walcot.
(Mr Austen was buried in the churchyard and there is a memorial plaque to him which can be read from the pavement.)
While Mr A was very much still alive, the Austens settled on leasing a house in Sydney Place, number 4, which offered both an easy walk into town and handy access to Sydney Gardens, a great outdoor attraction at that time with regular gala nights featuring music and fireworks.
The Austens lived in Sydney Place for three years, though they left it for summers by the seaside (Sidmouth, Dawlish, Ramsgate and Lyme Regis). Jane and Cassandra made visits back to Hampshire to see friends, and also continued to help out with their brother Edward’s large family in Kent.
Life was so busy for Jane both in Bath, with its attractions of shopping, social visits and entertainments, and with frequent absences on trips to family and friends too, it is notable if not surprising that she did not have time for writing at this period. However, when she resumed her work after returning to Hampshire, she used Bath as a setting, using her personal knowledge of the city in fine detail. The Assembly Rooms, elegant scene of balls attended by Austen and her characters, can still be visited, as can the Pump Rooms.
The lease on the Sydney Place house ended in 1804 and the Austens moved to Green Park Buildings (no longer standing) where Mr Austen died a few months later. With his death, his widow and daughters lost their income from his pension and they moved to lodgings at 25 Gay Street, closer to Mrs Austen’s brother in The Paragon. The trio left Bath for good in 1806 to share a home in Southampton with Jane’s brother Frank and his family.
25 Gay Street, where Jane, Cassandra and Mrs Austen took lodgings. A similar house at no. 40 is now the Jane Austen Centre.
4 Sydney Place, the Austen home.
Bath Assembly Rooms, visited by Austen and her heroines, and open to the public. It is owned by the National Trust.
St Swithin’s, Walcot, where Jane’s parents married and her father is buried.