Sanditon and Jane Austen’s House Museum

There’s a new costume drama on the block this autumn. Sanditon (Red Planet Pictures) is inspired by Jane Austen’s final, unfinished novel which she began writing in 1817 here at her home in Hampshire.
Photo : Copyright © Simon Ridgway, 2019 | | | 07973 442527 | Caption : 21.02.19, Sanditon - Block 1, Day 5, Brean Beach.

Charlotte Heywood (ROSE WILLIAMS)
Photo : Copyright © Simon Ridgway, 2019 | | | 07973 442527 | Caption : 21.02.19, Sanditon - Block 1, Day 5, Brean Beach. Charlotte Heywood (ROSE WILLIAMS)

Jane Austen’s Sanditon consists of just 11 ½ chapters – enough to establish a bustling little world and a lively, intriguing set of characters. Since her death, a number of other writers have completed the work, or attempted to. The first was Jane’s niece Anna Lefroy – the latest is the screenwriter Andrew Davies.

We are looking forward to seeing Davies’ intepretation, coming to ITV tomorrow at 9pm, and all the more so because we have been following its development with interest over the last six months …

In March we were excited to see the first designs for Production Designer Grant Montgomery’s sumptuous Sanditon set, which he presented in person at our Creating Successful Interiors conference.

Then in May, Director Mary Guyatt was privileged to accept an invitation to see some of the filming taking place. Her impressions of the set were sensory: the smell of stinking fish and barrows of ripe strawberries, and the dark, lavish interiors of Sanditon’s principal residences. It was clear that as an Austen fan himself, Grant had enjoyed creating the set as a homage to Austen’s work and wit. If you watch closely you may spot a number of subtle references for fans, which Grant describes as ‘little Easter eggs’ hidden throughout the production.

Then in July we were lucky enough to attend a preview screening of the first episode, and enjoyed seeing Grant’s designs come to life onscreen – from opulent Sanditon House, home of the forceful Lady Denham, to the views of the bustling little seaside town itself.

Speaking after the screening, the actors were enthusiastic about Davies’ characterisation and storyline. Kris Marshall, who plays Tom Parker, remarked that the production is ‘witty, lustful and lascivious – very Andrew Davies’, while Anne Reid, who plays Lady Denham remarked with glee, ‘He’s taken it way beyond Jane Austen. We’re in a different world now.’

And if the TV adaptation whets your appetite for Austen’s own work, there’s also a new edition for you to enjoy. Jane Austen’s House Museum trustee Professor Kathryn Sutherland has used a version of Sanditon in the Museum’s collection as the basis for her new edition of the story for Oxford World’s Classics. Copied down by hand by Jane Austen’s sister Cassandra, Sutherland’s edition is the first printed reproduction of this unique manuscript.