Jane Austen Didn't Exactly Sleep Here, But She Did Sorta


Town councillors in Sevenoaks, Kent, discussed naming a road after Jane Austen (actually, it sounds rather more like a cul-de-sac). Why? Because Jane’s great-grandmother, Elizabeth Austen, was housekeeper to the master of Sevenoaks School*, and her uncle Francis lived in the area.

Jane Austen’s great uncle Dr Francis Austen owned The Red House at 50 High Street. The revered author stayed in the house, which is now frequented by Knocker and Foskett Solicitors, in 1788.

It is believed she spent time at Chevening House in 1796 and used the Stately Home, now the official residence of Foreign Secretary David Miliband, as the model for Rosings Park in Pride and Prejudice.

Her great-grandmother Elizabeth Austen was housekeeper to the Master of Sevenoaks School.

*There’s actually rather more to the story than that. You can read an extremely concise version of it in Jane Austen, Her Life and Letters, but we recommend tracking down a copy of George Holbert Tucker’s book A History of Jane Austen’s Family, which has a more detailed version. Elizabeth Austen, left penniless and widowed after being passed over for any inheritance from her late husband’s family, went to work at Sevenoaks School with the understanding that her sons would be educated as part of her pay. At a time when a woman in her situation had very little power, the provisions she made for her children was remarkable. She deserved to have a street named after her, if her great-niece Jane Austen did not.