Deane House in winter
Deane House near Basingstoke is where Jane Austen met her first and only love, the dashing Tom LeFroy. Jane was born at Steventon, less than two miles from Deane. The house was built in 1795 on the site of a 16th century building.
The Daily Telegraph wrote:
"Deane House is a classic picture-book brick house with tall chimneys, gift-wrapped in roses, wisteria and trim lawns, with the estate church within arm's reach and the parkland beyond. Here it was that on January 8, 1796, Jane first set eyes on her only love, the dashing Tom Lefroy, who had come over from Ireland and was not part of the local set. She met him again at a ball at Manydown, a large manor four miles beyond Deane, and at another at Ashe, a nearby village.
She wrote to her sister Cassandra: "I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and I behaved. Imagine yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together." Her letters became coquettish and gay. A week later when she was due to meet Lefroy again, she wrote, in an excited and contradictory tone: "I rather expect to receive an offer from my friend in the course of the evening. I shall refuse him, however."
Yet she had not bargained for Lefroy's mother, who - having five daughters and little money - was adamant that Tom should marry well and not settle for a poor clergyman's daughter. She swiftly dispatched Tom back to Ireland and Jane never saw him again. Three years later, when Jane met Mrs Lefroy in Bath, she longed to ask after him but was too proud to do so. Tom went on to marry a Wexford heiress, and later became Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. But as an old man he confessed that he had been in love with Jane.
Deane was the big house to Deane Vicarage, where Jane Austen's father, the Rev George Austen, lived for four years before moving to the rectory at Steventon, two miles away. Together with the village of Ashe, this formed an idyllic pocket of Hampshire where Jane and her brothers and sisters were well known and loved. This is where they sang their hymns, walked in lanes clouded with cow parsley, and conceived their ambitions."