R.H.C. Ubsdell’s Hampshire a Guide to Jane Austen’s Hampshire

Jane Austen died in 1817. Ubsdell was born in 1812 and his earliest known paintings date from around 1830.  Nevertheless for anyone wanting to get a ‘feel’ for what the Hampshire landscape was like in Jane’s time, Ubsdell’s series of watercolour paintings completed when he was crossing Hampshire in search of work between 1840 and 1846 are the closest we can now get to a visual appreciation of the County at this time.  My two books on Ubsdell’s Hampshire group his paintings geographically, and with the aid of old maps I tell the story of Portsmouth where after Jane’s death brother Francis lived on the ridge above the town, and where brother Charles lived in stylish Angleseyville across the water on the Gosport Peninsula.  In Volume 2 I tell the story of Southampton where Jane lived between 1807 and 1809 and Steventon and the surrounding great estates which shaped Jane’s young life. I also talk about that most incredible land of sunken lanes called the Hampshire Hangers which has Chawton and Alton at its Head and the beautiful town of Petersfield at its foot.  The countryside is so inspiring here that anyone can understand why the bulk of Jane’s output was either written or revised for publication here. I knew nothing of Hampshire before I wrote this book and besides Jane Austen I wanted to write about what else Hampshire should be considered famous for.  So for example I also mark the spots where the Spitfire was created and where Thomas Sopwith the aviation pioneer behind the Hawker Hurricane is buried. I include Ubsdell’s watercolour of the Church at East Wellow where Florence  Nightingale would later have her memorial. I tell the stories of the great stately homes of Ubsdell’s Hampshire and their families that inspired me.  Back to Jane Austen though, and I thought the most fascinating story I found was probably that of Anna Lefroy whose image Ubsdell created in miniature in the October of 1845 when Anna was setting about the task of trying to complete Jane Austen’s last unfinished novel, which we have come to know as ‘Sanditon’.  This little painting provides the clue that other paintings of  the Austens, Sir Charles and Sir Francis, are most probably by Ubsdell. I show these pictures together in the book and people may judge for themselves whether this is so, and whether I make the case that the recently discovered image of Jane Austen derives from a work also by Ubsdell produced according to the memory of Jane’s first ‘fan’:- Anna Jane Elizabeth Lefroy, Jane Austen’s niece.  I tell sympathetically, possibly for the first time, Anna’s life story, and for visitors looking for a hotel where it is most easy to imagine yourself transported back in time, I recommend Oakley Hall, Church Oakley, where Anna Lefroy was inspired enough to attempt her Sanditon continuation here from 1845 and 1849, before her subsequent move to 50 Kingsgate Street,Winchester.

 

 

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