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Posts Tagged ‘Barton Cottage’


Here are a couple of photos taken on the Flete estate of the house that was used in Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility and the surrounding area. This part of the country in South Devon close to the Erme estuary is very beautiful and there are some wonderful walks. The following extract from Sense and Sensibility involves a walk, leading us to a turning point in the book for Marianne – one, which will change her life forever!
The Dashwoods were now settled at Barton with tolerable comfort to themselves. The house and the garden, with all the objects surrounding them, were now become familiar; and the ordinary pursuits which had given to Norland half its charms, were engaged in again with far greater enjoyments than Norland had been able to afford since the loss of their father. Sir John Middleton, who called on them every day for the first fortnight, and who was not in the habit of seeing much occupation at home, could not conceal his amazement on finding them always employed.
Their visitors, except those from Barton Park, were not many; for, in spite of Sir John’s urgent entreaties that they would mix more in the neighbourhood, and repeated assurances of his carriage being always at their service, the independence of Mrs. Dashwood’s spirit overcame the wish of society for her children; and she was resolute in declining to visit any family beyond the distance of a walk. There were but few who could be so classed; and it was not all of them that were attainable. About a mile and a half from the cottage, along the narrow winding valley of Allenham, which issued from that of Barton, as formerly described, the girls had, in one of their earliest walks, discovered an ancient respectable-looking mansion, which, by reminding them a little of Norland, interested their imagination, and made them wish to be better acquainted with it. But they learnt, on inquiry, that its possessor, an elderly lady of very good character, was unfortunately too infirm to mix with the world, and never stirred from home.

The whole country about them abounded in beautiful walks. The high downs, which invited them from almost every window of the cottage to seek the exquisite enjoyment of air on their summits, were an happy alternative when the dirt of the valleys beneath shut up their superior beauties; and towards on of these hills did Marianne and Margaret one memorable morning direct their steps, attracted by the partial sunshine of a showery sky, and unable longer to bear the confinement which the settled rain of the two preceding days had occasioned. The weather was not tempting enough to draw the two others from their pencil and their book, in spite of Marianne’s declaration that the day would be lastingly fair, and that every threatening cloud would be drawn off from their hills; and the two girls set off together.

They gaily ascended the downs, rejoicing in their own penetration at every glimpse of blue sky: and when they caught in their faces the animating gales of an high south-westerly wind, they pitied the fears which had prevented their mother and Elinor from sharing such delightful sensations.

“Is there a felicity in the world,” said Marianne, “superior to this? Margaret, we will walk here at least two hours.”

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Both versions of the recent adaptations of Sense and Sensibility, are different interpretations of Jane Austen’s book, but I enjoy them very much. I am always interested to see how film-makers and designers convey the settings as well as all the lovely costumes. What a great job that must be, to come up with the concepts for places like Barton cottage and Delaford Park and to go looking for the actual locations. I’m sure, like me, you’ve probably been on holiday and thought how a particular place might make an excellent alternative for a place you’ve read about in the book.
That said, the film and programme makers do tend to take liberties with Jane Austen’s original ideas. Let us look at what she says about Barton Cottage. At the beginning of chapter six we get a description.

The first part of their journey was performed in too melancholy a disposition to be otherwise than tedious and unpleasant. But as they drew towards the end of it, their interest in the appearance of a country which they were to inhabit overcame their dejection, and a view of Barton Valley as they entered it gave them cheerfulness. It was a pleasant fertile spot, well wooded, and rich in pasture. After winding along it for more than a mile, they reached their own house. A small green court was the whole of its demesne in front; and a neat wicket gate admitted them into it.

As a house, Barton Cottage, though small, was comfortable and compact; but as a cottage it was defective, for the building was regular, the roof was tiled, the window shutters were not painted green, nor were the walls covered with honeysuckles. A narrow passage led directly through the house into the garden behind. On each side of the entrance was a sitting room, about sixteen feet square; and beyond them were the offices and the stairs. Four bed-rooms and two garrets formed the rest of the house. It had not been built many years and was in good repair. In comparison of Norland, it was poor and small indeed! — but the tears which recollection called forth as they entered the house were soon dried away. They were cheered by the joy of the servants on their arrival, and each for the sake of the others resolved to appear happy. It was very early in September; the season was fine, and from first seeing the place under the advantage of good weather, they received an impression in its favour which was of material service in recommending it to their lasting approbation.

We get the impression of a small, neat house – hardly the romantic vision of the tumbledown cottage by the sea that is depicted in the latest BBC adaptation. Of these two comparisons I think Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility comes closest; but in a way, I think both cottages help to provide the contrast between their present situation and that of Norland Park. This is where I’m prepared to forgive a lot of departure from the books in their interpretation; a film-maker is making decisions based on the visual impact, feeling and style that he wants to convey.

Once the house is found the designers go to work on changing it to suit the style of the era. It’s fascinating to see the before and after photos of both Barton Cottages. If the designers have done their job well we really believe that the Dashwood family are living there. Part of the magic of adaptations like these is becoming swept up in another world and time, and I think, on the whole, they do their job exceedingly well.

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