Day Seven: Ibthorpe House and Steventon
We were privileged to be able to visit Ibthorpe House, the home of Martha Lloyd, one of Jane Austen's closest friends (she eventually married Austen's brother Frank). The house is a private residence, and Mr. And Mrs. ffrench-Blake, the current owners, very kindly and generously welcomed us to their home. We split into our two groups, and the Mrs. Darcys had a chance to roam around the garden while the Mrs. Knightleys had a tour of the main rooms of the house, then we swapped. The artist Dora Carrington once owned the house, and the adorable little cottage on the grounds was used as her studio. The ffrench-Blakes served us lunch, which we ate wherever we could, the dining room, the kitchen, the terrace. We feel very lucky to have had the chance to see this house where Jane Austen spent what must have been happy hours.
From Ibthorpe we went to Steventon, where the coach dropped us at the end of the lane where the Steventon rectory once stood. All that is left of the rectory in the field is a small patch of land surrounded by a raling where the rectory pump once was located. It was a short walk up the lane to St Nicholas's Church, where we were able to see where Austen's brother is buried, where Jane Austen's father was rector, and where Austen was baptized and worshipped. On the spire of the church is a quill, in memory of Jane Austen. Inside is a plaque in her memory, and special kneelers have been embroidered with her sillouette. The current rector of the church, the charming Reverend Michael Kenning, came to see us and say a few words about the Austen family and their time in Steventon, and we all spent some quiet time in contemplation of the hours the family must have spent there over the years. Walking back to the coach along the lane some hazel nuts were spotted in the hedgerows by certain Captain Wentworth fans (Ahem-Rae) and soon a game of Jane Austen Candy was in full swing, with Captain Wentworth's Nut Cluster as one of the possible candidates for inclusion in the candy box.

After dinner we had some free time to enjoy as we chose. Cross-stitch and needlepoint seemed to be the chosen hobby of the trip.

During the course of the evening, the silent auction closed, but the closing was anything but silent. The most hotly contested item was a pashmina from Pakistan, donated by Vanessa,: Laurie C and Linda both wanted it badly. When the bidding was over, Laurie was the owner, but she, in an act of characteristic kindness, presented it as a gift to Linda. Linda was quite overcome at Laurie's generosity, and so was Vanessa, who immediately got up and gave her pashmina to Laurie. What a wonderful group of ladies. In the end, the silent auction netted the Republic of Pemberley $1003. Many thanks to all who donated items, including many who did not attend the meeting, and to all who bid so generously.


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