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Sunday, August 12

Jane Austen's Visits to Sydney Gardens

There is to be a grand gala on Tuesday evening in Sydney Gardens, a concert, with illuminations and fireworks. To the latter Elizabeth and I look forward with pleasure, and even the concert will have more than its usual charm for me, as the gardens are large enough for me to get pretty well beyond the reach of its sound. In the morning Lady Willoughby is to present the colours to some corps, or Yeomanry, or other, in the Crescent, and that such festivities may have a proper commencement, we think of going to . . .- Jane Austen to Cassandra, June 2, 1799 on a visit to Bath

A Fair, Sydney Gardens, circa 1830 (Note how supper boxes flanking the hotel are used as stalls)

Last night we were in Sydney Gardens again, as there was a repetition of the gala which went off so ill on the 4th. We did not go till nine, and then were in very good time for the fireworks, which were really beautiful, and surpassing my expectation; the illuminations, too, were very, pretty. The weather was as favourable as it was otherwise a fortnight ago. - Jane to Cassandra, June 11, 1799 on a visit to Bath

Foot bridge, Sydney Gardens

There was a very long list of arrivals here in the newspaper yesterday, so that we need not immediately dread absolute solitude; and there is a public breakfast in Sydney Gardens every morning, so that we shall not be wholly starved. - Jane Austen to Cassandra, May 17, 1799 on a visit to Bath

Rear View of the Sydney Hotel in Sydney Gardens. The hotel was designed and built by Charles Harcourt Masters in 1795-6. Note the music stands in the first floor semi-circular balcony. The central space below it was reserved for firework displays Rows of supper boxes are arranged on either side of the building. Inside the three-story hotel are rooms for drinking tea and coffee and playing cards, as well as a ballroom. Refreshments were available throughout the day.

Two years after Jane wrote the above quote, in the summer of 1801, the Austen family moved to No. 4 Sydney Place in one of fourteen identical houses at the far end of Pulteney Street. Before leaving Steventon, Jane wrote, "It would be very pleasant to be near the Sydney Gardens. We could go into the labyrinth every day."

Drawing Room in 4 Sydney Place

It was not a particularly fine house, but it had graceful Georgian proportions, large enough to contain a double drawing-room on the first floor, a dining-room and study below and bedrooms above. The house was redecorated for them while they went on holiday, and refurnished to suit their taste and income, which was about £600, or £35,000 in today's money. They could afford three servants and an annual holiday by the sea. Nigel Nicholson, Jane Austen in Bath, The Spectator, 2003

Canal in Sydney Gardens, the second biggest pleasure gardens in England

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