With series 2 of Bridgerton coming in Jan 2022 and series 2 and 3 of Sanditon on their way, interest in Jane Austen and all things Regency is sky high. There are even two versions of the novel Persuasion being filmed at the moment, one with Dakota Johnson of 50 Shades of Grey fame and another with Sarah Snook from Succession. What is it about the period? The clothes? both men and women’s clothing were pretty glamorous; the architecture? houses were built according to set rules of symmetry and proportion and are still considered to be very desirable; the beautifully decorated interiors (if you were rich enough of course), the carriages? Of course, in the series mentioned above the gorgeous lead actors are all helping, as did Colin Firth in the mid 90’s.
Fans of both programmes will know that much of the filming of those series took place in Bath, were Jane Austen lived from 1801-05, but may not know that Austen was a frequent visitor to the South coast and placed many of her plots here. While most of the romance of Northanger Abbey takes place in Bath, Persuasion is set in Bath and Lyme Regis and Sense and Sensibility is set in the countryside somewhere near Exeter.
Austen knew what she was writing about! Among the many places she and her family visited were Teignmouth and Dawlish in 1802 and again in 1804. From the 1780’s onwards both towns, which had previously relied on fishing and agriculture to survive, set about trying to attract tourists and they were quite successful about it. Many visitors to the coast were inspired by the idea, encouraged by the medical profession, that rather than just enjoying the sea air that sea bathing had serious health benefits.
As Mr. Parker says in Sanditon:
‘The Sea air & Sea Bathing together were nearly infallible, one or the other of them being a match for every Disorder, of the Stomach, the Lungs or the Blood. . . . If the Sea breeze failed, the Sea-Bath was the certain corrective;—& where Bathing disagreed, the Sea Breeze alone was evidently designed by Nature for the cure.’
But what definitely helped increase visitor numbers was that there was a direct turnpike road running the 75 miles between Bath and Exeter and a coach from Exeter to Teignmouth that ran three times a week! to Georgians this was the height of comfort and ease.
When the Austens’ first arrived in Teignmouth in 1802 it was already a well-established resort, it had a fashionable promenade from which you could hire sailing boats and there was a flourishing Assembly Room. The Rooms, built in 1796, were in a prominent position on the sea front and included large rooms for balls and card parties and smaller ones for reading and billiards, it was the premier place for meeting the right kind of people, especially husbands! Now called The Riviera it is one of the many Georgian buildings still remaining in Teignmouth. It was long ago adapted into luxury flats with great views out over the sea but it is still possible to visit the cafe in the basement. It also houses a beautiful Art Deco cinema but sadly this is no longer in use.
It was about the time of the Austens’ first visit that a new theatre opened in Teignmouth. It was showing a popular double-bill, The Heir at Law, a Musical Entertainment in Two Acts. Readers of Mansfield Park will remember that much of the plot of the novel is based on the staging of The Heir at Law, at Mansfield Park and the disastrous consequences that follow this decision.
Jane and family were back again in 1804 visiting both Dawlish and Teignmouth this time. Although, like Teignmouth, Dawlish had successfully recast itself as a genteel watering place it was not very lively and attracted an older, quieter clientele. Worse, for an aspiring novelist, Austen was unimpressed by the library calling it “particularly pitiful and wretched”. However, joining the family that year was Jane’s younger brother Charles, a naval officer on leave, who possibly encouraged the move up the coast to Teignmouth. Teignmouth was livelier and better fun for a dashing naval officer in his early 20’s and his not much older sisters. It is believed that the Austens’ stayed at lodgings in ‘Great Bella Vista’ right on the seafront, possibly in the building known today as Den House. With it’s great position overlooking the sea Den House was a hotel for many years but is now once again ‘lodgings’ or self-catering apartments.
It is not known what Austen thought of Teignmouth’s library, presumably it wasn’t bad enough to complain of, but we can only assume that it was the one still here today, now converted into a shop.
Built in 1826, Woodlands came after Austen’s premature death in 1817 but it is just the kind of house that Mr Parker of Sanditon would have approved of and wanted in his fictional town. Mr Hollands, who commissioned the building of Woodlands, was also interested in development. He was an owner of the local bank and being a rich man helped pay for the drainage of the land that is now known as the Triangle in Teignmouth, as thanks he has a road named after him, Hollands Road which is one of the roads between the Triangle and Teignmouth station.
Woodlands is a grade II listed Regency house filled with charm and character. The house has an unusual, curved front with many original features still in place including an elegant central staircase, and it is situated in an extensive garden with rolling lawns and ancient trees. We offer extensive secure off-road parking.
We have two large en-suite bedrooms on offer, both of which have stunning views of Teignmouth and the sea. Guests are also welcome to enjoy our lounge, conservatory and spacious veranda which also overlook the garden and the sea.