The 2.4 mile (3.8km) circular walk begins and ends at Tonbridge Library. We hope this walk will whet your appetite to read more... more »
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The 2.4 mile (3.8km) circular walk begins and ends at Tonbridge Library. We hope this walk will whet your appetite to read more... more » about Jane Austen or to find out more about her life or the history of Tonbridge. Please take care when crossing roads.
An audio version of this walk is available from Tonbridge Library or to download at www.kent.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/libraries.
Jane Austen was born at Steventon in Hampshire on the 16th of December, 1775, to George and Cassandra Austen. George’s family had many links to Kent, and to Tonbridge in particular. This walk will take you to places known to be connected to the Austen family, including the school where George Austen was a pupil and later taught and the church where many of the family worshipped and where some are buried. less «
Distance: 2.4 miles / 3.8km.
Terrain: Pavements and surfaced paths, with road crossings
Parking: There a various paid parking in... more » Tonbridge
Start/end point:Tonbridge Library
OS Explorer Map: 136, 147
Please note that route shown may not accurately follow public rights of way and waymarking on ground should be followed at all times.
Walk provided by Explore Kent in partnership with Kent Libraries, Registration and Archives
Explore Kent is a Kent County Council Initiative less «
Tonbridge was one of the first towns in Kent to set up a public library service, in 1882. The library has been operating from its present site in Avebury Avenue since 1900. The library holds material on Jane Austen’s life and links with the town.
You can collect a free printed version of this guide from Tonbridge Library, subject to... More availability.Less
In the nineteenth century, this Park was Tonbridge Racecourse. In Jane Austen’s day, it was part of the Castle Estate.
Tonbridge has been a market town for centuries, and, despite modern additions, it has over a hundred and fifty listed buildings, some of which would have been familiar to the Austen family.
Walking in London's parks was a... More fashionable pastime for those who wished to see and be seen. It usually took place early in the evening, before returning home by about half past seven to dress for dinner. Jane wrote
to Cassandra in 1814 of the people she and her niece saw while out driving:
“Fanny and I went into the park yesterday and drove about, and were very much entertained; and
our dinner and evening went off very well. Messrs. J. Plumptre and J. Wildman called while we were out, and we had a glimpse of them both, and of G. Hatton too, in the park.”<\i>Less
George Austen’s cousin, the Revd Henry Austen, married Mary Hooker in 1763. Her family owned Tonbridge Castle. Henry and Mary retired to Tonbridge after moving between parishes in West Kent, and their son Edgar attended Tonbridge School. The castle was built at the time of the Norman Conquest. Stone from the towers, walls and keep was used in ... Morethe building of the Medway canal from 1741, and the mansion was built by John Hooker in 1791.
The castle was sold to Tonbridge Urban District Council in 1898. The Gatehouse was opened to the public in 1992. Audio tours of the castle are available.Less
The building that stood upon this site in the eighteenth century was partly destroyed by fire in 1997, and has since been demolished. Although it is not certain, this is believed to have been the home of Jane’s grandfather, William Austen, who was a surgeon. His children, Jane’s father George and his sisters Leonora and Philadelphia, lived here ... Moreuntil William died in 1737, when George was six.
Their mother, Rebecca Hampson, had died two years earlier and their stepmother, Susannah Kelk, does not seem to have been fond of the children. George was sent to Tonbridge School, his education paid for by William’s brother Francis, a Sevenoaks lawyer. His sisters were sent to relatives, while Susannah remained here in the house she inherited.Less
A house known as Fosse Bank, named after the town’s early defences, stood on the site of No. 182 High Street. It is believed that the Revd Henry Austen lived here with his wife, Mary Hooker. Only three of their five children
survived infancy. Their only son Edgar was educated at Tonbridge School, following in his father’s footsteps. While he... More was there, Jane’s parents George and Cassandra Austen visited Tonbridge in 1783. It is not known if Jane was with them, although her brother Francis did accompany them. Later, the Austens moved next door to number 180 and Fosse Bank became the Tonbridge Ladies College, intended for sisters of pupils at Tonbridge School.Less
Blair House was the home of Jane’s great uncle Thomas Austen. Thomas, an apothecary, lived in Tonbridge all his adult life and is buried in the parish churchyard. It is likely that he and his wife, Elizabeth Burgess, lived here when they were first married. Their son Henry, later the Revd Henry, lived here before going to Tonbridge School.
Tonbridge School was founded by Sir Andrew Judde in 1553. George Austen’s cousin Henry was the first of the family to be educated here. George started at the school while Henry was Head Boy. On completing his education, George won a school scholarship and bursary, which enabled him to go to Oxford University.
After gaining his degree, he... More returned to Tonbridge School as a teacher, known as Usher or Second Master. Among his pupils was Francis Motley Austen, the son of his Sevenoaks uncle Francis Austen, who had paid for George’s education at the school. A blue plaque erected by the Jane Austen (Kent) Society to commemorate George’s time here is on the wall of the Cawthorn Lecture Theatre in the school.Less
Ferox Hall (Ferox meaning the great lake trout) was owned by the Danvers family in the eighteenth century. It was their niece, Susannah Kelk, who married Jane’s grandfather William Austen, becoming stepmother to George Austen and his siblings.
Before her marriage to Jane’s greatgrandfather John Austen, her great grandmother Elizabeth Weller lived at Chauntlers, a large property that has since been divided into two houses: The Priory and The Red House. Elizabeth was left almost penniless after the death of her husband, receiving no help from her own family, despite their wealth. She... More sold everything she could to repay her debts and moved the family to Sevenoaks. There, she took a position as housekeeper to the headmaster of Sevenoaks Grammar School.
This provided her children with a home and education. Three of her seven children returned to Tonbridge, including Jane’s grandfather William and great uncle Thomas.Less
The Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul is a place of worship that has been at the heart of Tonbridge for about 900 years. The original Norman church, built in the early twelfth century, forms the chancel of the present building.
The church was enlarged and altered over the following centuries. In 1820, alterations were made to the nave roof ... Moreand the north aisle, and the south gallery was built. Box pews were installed, but were later removed in the 1870s. Until the nineteenth century, the Parish of St Peter and St Paul was the largest in Kent. The Austen family worshipped here.
Jane's grandfather William returned to Tonbridge, as a surgeon. Although Elizabeth Weller and her son Thomasare believed to be buried in the churchyard, William is the only one whose grave remains marked. It is in the north aisle, but covered by the carpet for preservation. A photograph of the grave is on the north wall. As you will see, he is not buried alone, but with his wife, Rebecca Walter, who died after giving birth to their fourth child.Less
The old building numbered 23, with white walls and an arched recess, was the home of Elizabeth Weller's eldest daughter, Betty. She married George Hooper, a lawyer, and their son, also George is commemorated in St Peter's and St Paul's Church. Jane's father George Austen came to live here after the death of his parents.
The question remains as to... More whether Jane herself visited Tonbridge. There is no conclusive evidence that she did, but it is very possible. She visited Sevenoaks, and was a frequent visitor to Kent. Even if she did not come to Tonbridge itself, it is certain that she knew many of its residents and would have appreciated its importance in her family history and the life it enabled her to lead.Less
Above the modern shops, cafe and bars you can still see the historic skyline of Tonbridge High Street.
Please cross the High Street at proper crossing points and take care.