Deborah Yaffe

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By Deborah Yaffe, May 17 2018 01:00PM

Over the years, I’ve swooned about Austen-linked real estate coming up for sale or rent. Perhaps I have said things like, “If money were no object, I’d buy that place in a minute.”


I was kidding, but Canadian Tara Rout apparently isn’t. Rout, an Edmonton lawyer who has written Austen fanfic under the name Melanie Kerr, has launched an insanely ambitious Kickstarter appeal to buy Luckington Court, the stately Wiltshire home that played Longbourn in the BBC’s iconic 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.


By July 10, Rout hopes to raise $8.5 million, enough to buy the eight-bedroom house -- originally marketed at £9 million ($12.1 million) but now marked down to £5.75 million ($7.7 million) -- and redecorate it so that it precisely resembles the Bennets' Longbourn of the beloved miniseries. Then she plans to turn it into a sort of real-life Austenland: a place where Janeites can – for a price, of course – sip afternoon tea, dance at a ball, stay overnight, or host the ultimate Jane Austen wedding.


Rout has some relevant experience: In Edmonton, she runs a company called Regency Encounters, which has staged local Jane Austen balls for several years, along with what Rout calls, in a radio interview, “epic nerd parties” centered on the Harry Potter and Dungeons & Dragons fandoms.


It would be delightful to see this dream come to fruition but, frankly, Rout’s hopes seem pretty close to delusional. As of last year, reportedly, less than one percent of Kickstarter's campaigns had raised more than $1 million, and only eight had ever raised as much as Rout is seeking.


By yesterday, Rout had attracted pledges of just over $15,000 from nineteen backers, and most of that appears to have come from a single person who opted for the $10,000 wedding-package premium. She's got a lo-o-ong way to go. Still, I guess you never know. Christmas wedding at Longbourn, anyone?


By Deborah Yaffe, May 25 2017 01:00PM

No one reads Pride and Prejudice and dreams of living at Longbourn. The Bennet family estate, much as Mr. Collins may praise it, is so thoroughly eclipsed by the glories of Pemberley that it merits barely a smidgen of real estate lust.


But Luckington Court, the house that played Longbourn in the BBC’s iconic Firth-Ehle P&P, is another story: 9,600 feet of living space -- comprising seven bedrooms, six bathrooms, and assorted cottages, not to mention the stables and outbuildings – situated on 156 acres of gardens and woodland in southern England’s green and pleasant Cotswolds.


And all yours, for a mere £9 million ($11.7 million).


Yes, the Bennet estate is up for sale, after seventy years in the same family – or so says a recent issue of the oh-so-upper-crust Country Life magazine. (When the New York Post called the real estate agents to confirm, however, the firm told the newspaper that its “clients have asked them to cease marketing the property,” leaving it unclear – at least to me – whether the house is off the market, or whether interest is already so great that advertising is superfluous.)


Luckington Court is what the Brits call a “listed” property, meaning one with special historic importance; indeed, it’s listed in Grade II*, reserved for “particularly important buildings of more than special interest.” According to Country Life, it is said to stand on the site of a medieval manor owned by King Harold II, England’s last pre-Norman Conquest ruler.


The core of the present building may date back to the sixteenth century, or even earlier, but it was remodeled starting in the seventeenth century by a Bristol merchant family, the Fitzherberts. (In trade! The Bingley sisters would sneer.) Later residents – renters or owners -- included a Latvian Nazi-sympathizer, a dashing British spy, and the family of the director of the Badminton Horse Trials, which prepare British equestrians for international competition.


And judging from the photos, the rooms are absolutely beautiful – high ceilings, tall windows, wood floors, and oodles of natural light. What else could you wish for? Oh, that. No, Colin Firth is not included.


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