The beautiful Georgian manor of Worting House, was built during the reign of King George I (1714 to 1727). Later in the 18th century, the house was extended and wings were added, forming the Worting House we know and love today. It has been owned over the generations by several important local Basingstoke families and hosted many local society gatherings.
On the evening of Thursday the 20th December 1798, Jane Austen visited the house to attend a ball with her friend Catherine Bigg, one of Squire Lovelace Bigg-Wither’s seven daughters, and afterwards wrote in her diary:
“I spent my time very quietly and pleasantly with Catherine. Miss Blachford (a cousin of the Biggs, also a guest in the house) is agreeable enough. I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal. I found only Catherine and her when I got to Manydown on Thursday.
We dined together and went together to Worting to seek the protection of Mrs Clarke with Lady Mildmay, her eldest son and a Mr and Mrs Hoare. Our ball was very thin, but by no means unpleasant.
There were twenty dances, and I danced them all, and without any fatigue. My black cap was openly admired by Mrs Lefroy and I secretly imagine by everybody else in the room.”
Lovelace Bigg-Wither’s only surviving son and heir, Harris – whose claim to fame was that he was briefly engaged to Jane Austen, although it lasted little more than 12 hours – subsequently sold the house and it passed through a series of owners including George III’s physician, whose family remained living here until just after the Second World War.