Jane Austen's family moved to Southampton from Bath following the death of her father. Jane's mother decided to move in temporarily with her son Frank, a naval captain, who had rented lodgings in Southampton. The lodgings were however expensive and they soon all moved into a "commodious old-fashioned" house in Castle Square.
The Austens' house sat alongside the medieval town walls of Southampton, which still stand today and are open to the public to walk along. In Jane Austen's time the water would have reached the walls at high tide, with views of the busy shipping channels and bustling port. This is believed to have inspired the lines from Mansfield Park - “the effects of the shadows pursuing each other on the ships at Spithead and the island beyond, with the ever varying hues of the sea, now at high water, dancing in its glee and dashing against the ramparts ..."
The house is thought to have been sited where the public house the 'Bosun's Locker' now stands. The Austens took boat trips on the River Itchen to see warships being built at Northam and the Gothic ruins of Netley Abbey. Jane took long walks through the countryside around the town including the New Forest and along the banks of the Itchen and Test rivers.
Jane attended dances in Southampton, including some in the upstairs rooms of the Dolphin Hotel, where she celebrated her eighteenth birthday. The Dolphin Hotel is still open today. In 1809 moved further inland within Hampshire, to Chawton, where Jane was to write many of her world renowned novels.