I didn’t intend to go hunting for Longbourn, but I like to have a mental image of a setting when I write. So when I started on Alone with Mr. Darcy, I wanted to find a picture of the road to Longbourn Darcy and Elizabeth would be walking along. Of course, it had to be the real road, so I needed to find where I thought Longbourn would be. I discovered quickly that researchers have described two towns in Hertfordshire as matching the geographical description of Meryton, Hertford and Hemel Hempstead. I decided to choose Hertford as Meryton. Then I had to find a possible village of Longbourn. We know from Pride & Prejudice that it’s a mile from Meryton, so I settled on the village of Hertingfordbury, just a mile from Hertford. I haunted Google Street View for views of Hertingfordbury and the nearby roads and looked up more information about the village. Lo and behold, I was gobsmacked to discover Jane Austen herself had visited Hertingfordbury, staying with friends in a house called Epcombs! My glee was only matched by my chagrin when I discovered lots of people already knew this. Oh, well, it was fun discovering it for myself anyway!
Naturally, then I had to find pictures of Epcombs. Easier said than done! You’d think there’s a picture of everything on the internet, and a house people think could be the model for Longbourn should have plenty of images,but the only thing I could find was a pen-and-ink drawing. Even Google Street View had the house blurred out. Of course, this only made me more determined than ever to know what it looks like, so when I was in England, I made a side trip to Hertingfordbury and found Epcombs. Or what little I could see of it.
I found where the house stood, but a tall brick wall and bushes block almost all of the view of Epcombs from the street, just allowing glimpses here and there. But I wasn’t going to give up that easily, so by holding my camera as high as I could reach while standing on the street, I took pictures until I got one that actually showed the house. Surprise! It looks very much like Luckington Court, which served as Longbourn in P&P1995. Do you suppose the set designer actually managed to see Epcombs? And now you can see what it looks like, too, or at least a bit of it!
So, I’d found my Longbourn. But what else would Jane Austen have seen when she was in Hertingfordbury? Surely she’d have gone to the church and strolled through the village! Here are a few things she would have seen:
I hope this gives you a taste of what Jane Austen may have been thinking of when she wrote about Longbourn! Since there were very few images of Hertingfordbury available on the internet, I took an embarrassing number of pictures of the church, the village, and the area around Epcombs. If anyone is interested in seeing more, let me know. Oh, and remember that road I went looking for in the first place? Here it is. 🙂