Links to Places in Warwickshire associated with Jane Austen




THIS county, of an irregular oval figure, terminating in a point at the north and south, is bordered upon almost equally by six other counties; namely, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, and Gloucestershire, on the western side from north to south; and Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, and Oxfordshire, on the eastern side in the same order. Its length, from the northern to the southern extremity, is about forty-eight miles; its breadth across the middle thirty-two. Its superficial contents are estimated at 984 square miles. The county is divided into four hundreds, subdivided into eighteen parts. The city and county of Coventry is usually considered as a fifth hundred. In situation, Warwickshire is regarded as the most central in the kingdom.

In early times this county is described as naturally divided by the river Avon into two parts, the Feldon, and the Woodland. The latter part, being the northern and largest, was at that time almost an entire forest; while the southern was a champaign and cultivated country. The woodland division, though now for the most part cleared and brought under culture, still retains somewhat of its wild character, being interspersed with wide leaths and moors, and sprinkled with woods. A large tract of it still bears the noted forestname of Arden. In general, the northern part has a gravelly soil, which changes to clay on advancing towards the middle. The southern portion is a tract of great fertility, and very productive of corn. It is supposed, on the whole, that about one-fourth of the land in the county is under a successive round of tillage; and that of the remaining three-fourths the greater part is meadow and pasture, and about one-fourth of it waste. Hence Warwickshirei is principally characterized as feeding and dairy county, and much cheese of a good kind is made, particularly in the northern parts. Many of its breeds of cattle and sheep are of a superior kind. There are large woods and much timber of all kinds, especially of oak, in the ancient forest. of Arden, in which the woodlands are kept under a regular system of management.

Coals are found in this county, though in a direction opposite to Birmingham, which is supplied from another part. The best coal is dug at Bedworth, below Nuneaton, where the seam is from three to four feet in thickness. At Chilvers Cotton, Nuneaton Common, Hunts Hall, Oldbury, and Griffhollow, considerable quantities are raised. Limestone abounds in many parts. Freestone rock is found in most divisions where the soil is a light sand; and considerable quarries of Blue Flagstone used for paving and flooring are wrought in the vicinity of Bidford and Wilnecote. Marl of a good quality is produced in the western part of the county.

The Avon, already mentioned as having divided Warwickshire into two unequal portions, enters the county from a spring in the village of Naseby in Northamptonshire, and taking a very winding course, proceeds to Warwick. From thence it reaches Stratford upon Avon; and from this place it was made navigable in 1637 to the Severn at Tewksbury. Having passed Bitford, it soon quits the county, and enters Worcestershire. This is the only river which has any share of navigation.

The principal stream in the north of the county is the Tame, which coming out of Staffordshire, makes a sweep across a corner of Warwickshire, and after receiving several of its rivulets, and among the rest the Anchor at Tamworth, returns at that town into Staffordshire. The Alne, rising in the west, passes Alcester in its way to join the Avon beyond Bidford.

The Len, proceeding from Northamptonshire, takes its course to the south of the Avon, which it meets near Warwick. Several other streams are known by their names, but are too insignificant t0 require notice.

Scarcely any county in England receives so little advantage from river navigation; but in return it has within half a century been thrown open to the operation of canals, in a degree of which there are few precedents. The town of Birmingham may be considered as the center of movement in this circle for not only was the ready conveyance of fuel an object of the first importance, but the export of its goods to every commercial harbour was a matter greatly to be wished for. The first Birmingham canal began in the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal near Wolverhampton, and terminated in the Birmingham and Fazely canal. By this channel coals were conveyed out of Staffordshire to Birmingham; while the manufactures of the town were forwarded to Liverpool and Manchester.

The Birmingham and Fazely canal has for its objects the conveyance of the Birmingham manufactures towards London and Hull, and the supply of grain and other articles by backcarriage. This runs chiefly through Warwickshire.

The Warwick and Birmingham canal commences near Warwick, and ends in the Digbeth cut of the Birmingham canal. It assists in forming part of the most direct water communication between Birmingham and London, and supplies the town of Warwick with coals. The Worcester and Birmingham canal has little connexion with Warwickshire.

The Coventry canal takes a circuitous tract to Birmingham, but is of importance in aiding the line of communication between London, Birmingham, Manchester, &c. The city of Coventry receives from it its principal supplies of coals. There are also cuts of different length communicating from the collieries in the neighbourhood to Coventry. A canal proceeds from that of Coventry towards Oxford, and passes a considerable way through Warwickshire. From Warwick it receives another canal, called the Napton.

The Ashby de la Zouch canal commences in the Coventry canal near Nuneaton. Such are the principal communications by means of canals which this county exhibits, and which connect its principal towns in a striking manner.

Text: England Described etc (1818) by John Aikin M.D.

Map: Warwickshire (1809) by John Cary.

Jane Austen References

The Letters

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 21st  January 1801

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 7th January 1807