Highbury Imagined (map for “Emma”)

March 29, 2015 at 7:27 pm (books, history, jane austen, jasna) (, , )

Penny Gay’s “A Hypothetical Map of Highbury” has hit the JASNA website (although destined for Persuasions On-line late in 2015). Emma has been on my mind after reading a letter – written at the time of Edward Austen’s engagement to Emma Smith (and they were reading Emma about this time too!) by his great aunt Mrs. Leigh Perrot. She quite liked Mr. Knightley (who doesn’t) and Jane Fairfax, but I’m afraid she was not a fan of Emma Woodhouse – and had grown QUITE tired of Miss Bates. As to Frank Churchill: she would not have married him, had she been Jane Fairfax!


My paper for the 2015 JASNA AGM (‘Who could be more prepared than she was?’  True Tales of Life, Death, and Confinement: Childbirth in Early 19th Century England) looks into Mrs Weston’s pregnancy and delivery by talking about the confinements of Lady Compton (c1790) and Emma Austen (c1830). So to illustrate what a FABULOUS map Penny Gay has come up with I supply at peep at RANDALLS, the Weston home. CLICK on the map for the story and the “full picture”. And then pull your copy of Emma off the shelf…


  1. Nicholas Ennos said,

    This map of Highbury is laughable, it has so many mistakes one does not know where to start. Vicarage Lane should lead to the ford of the river and then to Hartfield, but it goes in the opposite direction. Randalls is in the middle of Highbury, whereas in the novel it is half a mile from the centre. Hartfield is supposed to be a notch on the Donwell estate but it is on the complete opposite side of the town. In the novel Emma has to cross the river to get from Hartfield to Randalls but on this map they are on the same side of the river. In the novel the Bates lodgings are within a stone’s throw of The Crown but on this map they are quite a distance apart.

    Highbury was in fact based closely on Leatherhead, as was outlined in detail by an inhabitant of Leatherhead, Mary Trebeck, in a letter to The Times Literary Supplement of 1918. Jane Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh wrote in a letter to a friend that Jane Austen had told him that Highbury was based on Leatherhead. In addition, all of the distances from Highbury in the novel, to Kingston, Richmond, London and Box Hill are entirely accurate for Leatherhead. There has been confusion over the distance from Leatherhead to Box Hill, which is 3 miles direct but 7 miles in the novel. However, in the novel the characters travel from Leatherhead to Box Hill via Headley, a distance of exactly 7 miles. Mary Trebeck pointed out that Hartfield was based on Thorncroft Manor on the outskirts of Leatherhead. At the time of the novel, Thorncroft Manor belonged to Juliana Boulton, the sister of the playwright and poet Lady Sophia Burrell, who was a close friend of Jane Austen’s cousin Eliza de Feuillide. Eliza lived in nearby Dorking between 1799 and 1800.

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Hi, Nicholas – I must admit that _I_ rarely pay such particular attention, so am very grateful that you’ve written, and with such concrete points. At it happens I just began re-reading EMMA and remember all those clues dropped about where this was in relation to that. Now you’ve given me reason to revisit all of this with fresh eyes.

      The other items you bring up are FASCINATING to hear about. Not living in the UK, I know of Box Hill (“my” Emma wrote of sketching there, as did an aunt), but now want to look up Mary Trebeck. And I’d be interested in hearing more about the letter written by Edward Austen Leigh – does it still exist? (and have you seen it?). I presume the letter dates to late 1800s (the period of the Memoir?), which is late for me (I go up to the 1840s in researching the family, though I’ve accessed some later letters, recently).

      I’ve been transcribing an 1819 travel journal – the one thing we all must keep in mind when “distance” is contemplated, is sometimes there were alternate routes, or simply a “more direct” AND a “more scenic”, which could account for the difference of a few miles. Let’s face it, a “bend” around an estate could add a bit if a road got moved at any point (or lessen distance, if a later road “plowed through” an estate…); Mary & Charles Smith’s son dealt with access thru the Suttons estate, I believe. You make a good point: They traveled from point A to point C via point B, which lengthened the route.

      Your comment on Eliza de Fuillide’s friend and Thorncroft Manor is an intriguing point.

      Looking up (quickly!) this last, I see you’ve a book (2013); I’ll have to take a closer look.

      Thanks so much for writing, and giving my dying December brain some “food for thought”.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: