I cannot remember exactly when I discovered that Adlestrop had not just one literary connection (the first being the famous Edward Thomas poem ‘Adlestrop’) but two. Perhaps it was the small booklet I found in Adlestrop church that alerted me to the fact that Jane Austen had come to the village at least three times to visit her cousin, the Reverend Thomas Leigh. Furthermore many scholars believe that one of the themes of Mansfield Park may have been based on her experiences at Adlestrop. I was thrilled to think that I could be actually walking where she had also walked: on the path to the church door for example – or on a country ramble to nearby Daylesford. But it was not until I had the leisure of semi-retirement and the departure of my three sons to university that I seriously began to research the Jane Austen connections with the village.
It was a trail that led me to the Gloucestershire archives, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-on-Avon (where most of the Leigh family papers are kept), Stoneleigh Abbey, churches and burial grounds and asking questions everywhere. And it made me look anew not only at the village, but at Jane Austen and her life and gave me a fresh insight into my favourite reading matter – her novels.
The research for the book and its evolution have happily occupied me for the last three years – not continually – but taken up as and when I had the time to devote to it. I hope it will help people understand a little more about the background in which Jane wrote, and shows just how vital the maternal line was in shaping Jane’s life.