Stoneleigh Abbey (Jane Austen tour)

Entry: Adults £6.50, pensioners £5, one child free per paying adult
Opening hours: Grounds open between 10am and 5pm every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and bank holiday from Good Friday until October 31
Contact: 01926 858535
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Best bit: hearing who and what inspired Austen’s characters and settings
Worst bit: not catching a glimpse of Mr Darcy in his wet shirt

Stoneleigh Abbey is worth a visit just for the buildings and grounds, but the Jane Austen tour really brings it to life.
An enthusiastic guide will read excerpts from Austen’s books, whilst showing you the rooms and views that inspired them.
Instead of bombarding you with reams of dates and names, this glimpse into history relies on story telling.
You can enter the dark panelled library with red velvet curtains and creaking wood that helped inspire Northanger Abbey.
One cleaner refused to work in there alone and the management are considering allowing paranormal investigators in.
You can retrace the footsteps of Mansfield Park heroine Fanny Price entering Sotherton Court.
And you can hear about the old snob who inspired Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice.
Of course, Jane Austen’s visit is just one chapter in the abbey’s history.
It has also played host to King Charles I and Queen Victoria.
The abbey dates back to the eleventh Century, with a red Kenilworth sandstone gatehouse being the earliest building on site.
A favourite with visitors is a ‘scold’s bridle’ – an iron cage-like device, designed for nagging women. The cage was clasped in place around the woman’s head and a protruding piece of metal would fit into the woman’s mouth, holding down her nagging tongue. Ouch.
The tour is limited to the ground floor and basement because the upper floor has been sold off as apartments in order to fund the building’s maintenance.

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