- Start: Tonbridge Library
- End: Tonbridge Library
- Country: England
- County: Kent
- Type: Country
- Nearest pub: Restaurants and pubs in Tonbridge town centre along with public toilets in Tonbridge Park.
- Ordnance Survey:
- Difficulty: Easy
Why not mix a little bit of cultural heritage with a spot of shopping? Take a guided walk around Tonbridge to celebrate Jane Austen's strong links with the town
A literary walk in Tonbridge
Why not mix a little bit of cultural heritage with a spot of shopping? Take a guided walk around Tonbridge to celebrate Jane Austens strong links with the town
Location: Tonbridge TN9 1TG
Distance: 2.4 miles (3.8km), allow one hour 20 minutes
Step count: approx 9,400
Refreshments and facilities: Restaurants and pubs in Tonbridge town centre along with public toilets in Tonbridge Park.
Jane Austen may have been born in Hampshire - at Steventon in 1775, to George and Cassandra Austen but 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 was a pupil and later taught, and the church where many of the family worshipped and where some are buried.
Starting and finishing at Tonbridge Library, this 2.4 mile (3.8km) walk passes by many buildings where Austen family links echo through the bricks and mortar.
In the 19th century, Tonbridge Park was Tonbridge Racecourse and in Jane Austens day, it was part of the Castle estate.
Tonbridge has been a market town for centuries and, despite modern additions, it has more than 150 listed buildings. Walking in parks was a fashionable pastime for those who wished to see and be seen in the 1700s and it usually took place early in the evening, before returning home by about half past seven to dress for dinner.
As you continue walking you will leave the park and cross a small bridge towards Tonbridge Castle, scene of Kents first Passion Play on 29 March (see page xx).
Passing through the rose garden join the High Street, along here note new building Wellington Place where No 147 once stood, believed to have been the home of Janes grandfather, William Austen the 18th century.
A few doors down a house known as Fosse Bank originally stood, where it is said that the Revd Henry Austen lived with his wife, Mary Hooker. Their only son Edgar was educated at Tonbridge School and Janes parents visited him there in 1783, although it is not known if Jane was with them.
Before her marriage to Janes great-grandfather John Austen, Janes great grandmother Elizabeth Weller lived at Chauntlers, a large property seen on this route that has since been divided into two houses. Elizabeth was left almost penniless after the death of her husband, receiving no help from her own family, despite their wealth.
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 and the Austen family worshipped here.
As you enter the church, turn left and enter the side chapel of St Nicholas; nearly all the people remembered on the north wall were friends or relations of Jane Austen.
The question remains as to whether Jane herself actually 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.
FIND OUT MORE
If you want to learn more an excellent audio guide is also available that will lead you around the walk. It includes fascinating stories about Janes life and her links to Tonbridge. You can borrow an audio player from Tonbridge Library or download the audio file to your audio player at www.kent.gov.uk/explorekent.
To find out about other literary walks in Kent or for information on cycling, riding and country parks in Kent, visit www.kent.gov.uk/explorekent
Follow @explorekent on Twitter.