Jane Austen

Literary connections
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From the early 19th century, Lyme Regis had become a fashionable seaside resort with bathing machines and assembly rooms where genteel families could come to relax or regain their health.

One of the most notable visitors was Jane Austen who visited Lyme twice, once in November 1803 and again the following year. She was so taken with the town she gave it a starring role in her novel Persuasion which was published a year after her death in 1818. The town would become the backdrop to one of the most famous scenes in nineteenth century literature and has been a centre of literary pilgrimage ever since.

The 1995 BBC film and the 2007 ITV film versions of Persuasion both filmed scenes in Lyme Regis. More recently in June 2021, a film crew descended on Lyme to film scenes for Netflix's upcoming 'modern and witty' take on the novel. Dakota Johnson will play Anne Elliot with the film expected to premiere in 2022. See some behind the scenes photos and footage here.

Jane Austen’s settings for her novels were not usually real places but Lyme along with Bath is one of the few exceptions, describing the town favourably in Chapter 11 of Persuasion as:

The principal street almost hurrying into the water, the walk to Cobb, skirting round the pleasant little bay, which, in the season, is animated with bathing machines and company; the Cobb itself, its old wonders and new improvements, with the very beautiful line of cliffs, stretching out to the east of the town, are what the stranger’s eye will seek, and a very strange stranger it must be who does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme, to make him wish to know it better.”

Jane Austen sets the most famous and dramatic scenes of Persuasion on the Cobb where Louisa Musgrove falls off the steps:

"There was too much wind to make the high part of the new Cobb pleasant for the ladies, and they agreed to get down the steps to the lower, and all were contented to pass quietly and carefully down the steep flight, excepting Louisa; she must be jumped down them by Captain Wentworth. In all their walks, he had had to jump her from the stiles; the sensation was delightful to her. The hardness of the pavement for her feet, made him less willing upon the present occasion; he did it, however. She was safely down, and instantly, to show her enjoyment, ran up the steps to be jumped down again. He advised her against it, thought the jar too great; but no, he reasoned and talked in vain, she smiled and said, “I am determined I will:” he put out his hands; she was too precipitate by half a second, she fell on the pavement on the Lower Cobb, and was taken up lifeless!"

Jane Austen wrote letters to her sister Cassandra during her second visit to Lyme, describing what she had seen and done in the town including walking on the Cobb, dancing in the Assembly Rooms, bathing (from a bathing machine), and disputing the price of a broken jug with her landlord.

Follow in the footsteps of Jane Austen

Visit the Cobb

When visiting Lyme you can follow in the footsteps of Jane Austen by taking a walk along the Cobb and admire the spectacular coastal views while finding the steps where Louisa Musgrave fell from in the famous scene. Which steps she fell from is slightly contentious, with many believing Granny’s Teeth was the setting for this scene. However others argue it is more likely Jane Austen got her inspiration from the steps further along nearer the end of the Cobb as the Granny’s Teeth steps were built after the book had been completed in 1816.

Visit the Jane Austen Gardens

Relax in the Jane Austen Gardens which were opened as a memorial to her in 1975 by Sir Hugh Smiley who was chairman of the Jane Austen society.

Have a cream tea at Jane’s Café 

Enjoy a cream tea at Jane’s Café which is located next to the Jane Austen Gardens. This building used to be known as Bay Cottage which features in Persuasion.

Visit Pyne House

Walk up Broad Street to Pyne House which is directly opposite the Royal Lion Inn. Above the blue door is a placard that indicated this is the most likely house that Jane Austen would have resided with with her brother Henry, his wife, and her sister Cassandra in 1803 and 1804.

Visit Lyme Regis Museum

Lyme Regis Museum has a number of objects on display relating to Jane Austen and her times, including several that have been donated by descendants.

Visit Cobb Gate where the Assembly Rooms were until 1928.

It's well-documented that Jane Austen visited the Assembly Rooms at Cobb Gate on several occasions during her stay in Lyme.

Jane Austen danced there on her visit in 1804 and wrote in a letter to her sister Cassandra Austen:

The ball last night was pleasant, but not full for Thursday. My father staid contentedly till half-past nine (we went a little after eight), and then walked home with James and a lanthorn, though I believe the lanthorn was not lit, as the moon was up, but sometimes this lanthorn may be a great convenience to him. My mother and I staid about an hour later. Nobody asked me the two first dances; the next two I danced with Mr. Crawford, and had I chosen to stay longer might have danced with Mr. Granville, Mrs. Granville’s son, whom my dear friend Miss A. offered to introduce to me, or with a new odd-looking man who had been eyeing me for some time, and at last, without any introduction, asked me if I meant to dance again. I think he must be Irish by his ease, and because I imagine him to belong to the honbl. B.’s, who are son, and son’s wife of an Irish viscount, bold queer-looking people, just fit to be quality at Lyme.

The Assembly Rooms were demolished in 1928.

Jane Austen