It’s taken me a long time to write about what I did on the 12th of September. My budding romance fizzled out during that weekend and it took me a bit to get over it. Fast forward a month and not only am I over it, I’ve met a man that is all the things I knew I wanted and all the things I didn’t know I needed! Life is good.
Back to the Medieval Fair…
I started the day off by going on a Jane Austen audio tour put on by Tonbridge Library. Many generations of the Austen family lived here. In fact, Jane’s father, William George Austen, was baptized and confirmed at St Peter’s and St Paul’s Church (my parish, but not the congregation that I attend).
He also attended the famous Tonbridge School which has a current tution of about £30,000. His mother died when he was very young and his father died a few years later. His stepmother didn’t like her husband’s children and sent them to live elsewhere. George had an uncle that paid his tuition so that he could get an education. Perhaps it was this generosity that created the milieu that allowed Jane to flourish as a writer.
Wikipedia says that after nearly dying of typhus at one school and then being brought home due to the dear cost of tuition for Jane and her sister:
Austen acquired the remainder of her education by reading books, guided by her father and her brothers James and Henry. George Austen apparently gave his daughters unfettered access to his large and varied library, was tolerant of Austen’s sometimes risque experiments in writing, and provided both sisters with expensive paper and other materials for their writing and drawing. According to Park Honan, a biographer of Austen, life in the Austen home was lived in “an open, amused, easy intellectual atmosphere” where the ideas of those with whom the Austens might disagree politically or socially were considered and discussed.
After teaching at Tonbridge School, George Austen became a rector in an Anglican parish where Jane was born.
There is also some Austen connection to the castle. Back in May, Auntie Wendy encouraged me to journal because “As much as you think you’ll remember; you’ll forget.” She must be able to see the future because I’ve forgotten exactly how Jane Austen is related through marriage to the family that owned the castle at one time. It’s something along the lines of a daughter marrying an Austen, but not a direct ancestor of Jane.
While walking along the path beside the river, the audio tour mentioned a Tonbridge ware box (a box with a design made with inlaid wood) that one of Austen’s heroines had. Given the detail that she used to set the scene it seems reasonable to assume Austen had one herself. The walk took me around the park which in the last century was the site of a racecourse. During Austen’s time it would have been part of the castle’s estate.
The walk also took me to St Peter’s and St Paul’s. Since I did the walk on Heritage Weekend (which seems to mean that every village, town, city, historical place showcased their history with events) the church was open. It was my first (and so far only) time there. What a stunning building!
It is the oldest building in Tonbridge (even older than the castle!) and contains some Saxon stones. There was a very interesting exhibit listing all the men (hmph!) that have been the Vicar of the parish. I had trouble with knowing where to walk since there are many, many people buried under the floor! I’m looking forward to getting to know the building better.
After the walk and a brief stop at WHSmith that involved buying bulky storage containers for my room, I headed over to the castle for the Medieval Fair. It was fascinating! It was so neat to see things that I had only ever read about (mostly in historical romances, one of my past guilty pleasures!) come to life. I took hundreds of photos of the medieval hand-to-hand combat, but the most intriguing thing was the falconry display. Watching him work with his birds was unbelievable. The best part was the fact I wasn’t scared of the birds! That’s quite the testament to his skills. They were incredibly graceful and fun to watch.
And what good would a day out on the town be without some shopping?
Not sure if you can make out the painting or not. There was an exhibit called “Art on the Rails” near the castle and I bought my first souvenir of Tonbridge. I don’t care if it’s a good painting or not, it reminds me of the area behind my place (where I run). No matter where I live it will remind me of this wonderful time in my life!