The Jane Austen Centre is a permanent exhibition that tells the story of Jane Austen’s experience in Bath and the impact that this has made on her work.
Although Jane Austen only lived in Bath from 1801 to 1806 and visited on two other occasions, the city has made a significant influence on her writing, particularly her novels Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, which are both set in Bath.
The centre is housed inside a classically decorated Georgian townhouse similar to the type of house that Austen would have been familiar with during her time in the city.
What to see at the Jane Austen Centre
A visit to the Jane Austen Centre starts off with a 10-minute introductory talk and afterwards you’re free to wander around and look at the exhibits.
The centre’s highlight is a life-size wax model of Jane Austen, which was produced based on eyewitness accounts of her likeness and it is considered by some as the most accurate depiction of Austen. The only other depiction of Jane Austen is a watercolour painted by her sister Cassandra, which has been described by people who knew Austen as ‘hideously unlike’ her. Prior to the production of the waxwork, this painting was the only reference we had as to what Jane actually looked like.
There are other displays in the centre that focus on Austen’s work and the influence that her time in Bath has made on her legacy. There are also several activities that you can take part in, which include dressing up in Regency-era fashion and writing with a quill pen.
The centre gets mixed reviews and some people find it rather dull with poor displays and few real artefacts while others love the place. It really depends on how much of an Austen fan you are, as to whether it is worth a visit.
Visiting the Jane Austen Centre
The Jane Austen Centre is at the northern end of the city centre with most points of interest no more than a 10-minute walk away. From here, it is only a two-minute walk to The Circus and No. 1 Royal Crescent, the Fashion Museum, the Herschel Museum of Astronomy and the Museum of East Asian Art are within a five-minute walk.
The centre is open daily and many people consider it a little overpriced considering what there is to see here.
The centre’s Regency Tea Room is a lovely spot for a cream tea or a light lunch. Its central location means that there are also plenty of other places to eat and drink nearby.
If you’re a fan of Austen’s work, then you could easily spend between one and two hours here, although visitors with only a passing interest in her work would likely not spend much longer than half an hour.