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Saturday, June 2

Steventon Rectory: Jane Austen's Childhood home

Below sits a photograph of all that remains of Steventon Rectory, which was razed in 1820 shortly after Jane's death: A field with trees and a metal pump in an enclosure (you can view it at left of the photo). This pump replaced the wood pump from Jane's time (see drawing).

The back of the Steventon Rectory, drawn by Jane's niece, Anna Lefroy, gives few clues about the size of the house or what the front looked like. There seems to be a confusion as to how large the house actually was. (Why Was Jane Austen Sent away to School at Seven? An Empirical Look at a Vexing Question. by Linda Robinson Walker)

The lane that connected the rectory to Steventon Church resembled the rutted road in this photograph. These roads would get quite muddy during rainy weather.

Ladies often wore pattens over their delicate slippers to lift their feet off the mud. Metal pattens, like the one in this illustration, made a clicking noise on pavement. They would most likely sink in mud; and I imagine Jane and her sister, Cassandra, wore a device that more closely resembled a wooden clog to prevent the patten from sinking.
Regardless of how many precautions a lady took, a long walk through wet fields and muddy lanes resulted in dirty hems and shoes, as depicted by Keira Knightly as Elizabeth Bennett in 2005's Pride and Prejudice.

In Chapter II of Memoirs of Jane Austen, J. Edward Austen-Leigh wrote about the demise of the patten, which had become a distant memory in 1871:

The other peculiarity was that, when the roads were
dirty, the sisters took long walks in pattens. This defence against wet
and dirt is now seldom seen. The few that remain are banished from good
society, and employed only in menial work; but a hundred and fifty years
ago they were celebrated in poetry, and considered so clever a
contrivance that Gay, in his 'Trivia,' ascribes the invention to a god
stimulated by his passion for a mortal damsel, and derives the name
'Patten' from 'Patty.'

The patten now supports each frugal dame,
Which from the blue-eyed Patty takes the name.

But mortal damsels have long ago discarded the clumsy implement. First
it dropped its iron ring and became a clog; afterwards it was fined down
into the pliant galoshe--lighter to wear and more effectual to protect--a
no less manifest instance of gradual improvement than Cowper indicates
when he traces through eighty lines of poetry his 'accomplished sofa'
back to the original three-legged stool.

As an illustration of the purposes which a patten was intended to serve,
I add the following epigram, written by Jane Austen's uncle, Mr. Leigh
Perrot, on reading in a newspaper the marriage of Captain Foote to Miss

Through the rough paths of life, with a patten your guard,
May you safely and pleasantly jog;
May the knot never slip, nor the ring press too hard,
Nor the _Foot_ find the _Patten_ a clog.

Read more about Steventon here:

You can view more photographs of Steventon and the surrounding area here.

To read the excellent and detailed article about Steventon Rectory by Linda Robinson Walker, click here.

View an image of a wood patten in an article about Regency Footwear here.

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