The Jane Austen Garden was opened in 1975
by Sir Hugh Smiley, chairman of the national Jane Austen Society.
On the site once stood a house called Cobb Cliff. Next door to
this was a house called Wings, whereit used to be thoughtJane
Austen and her family lodged in 1803 or 1804; but Wings was not
built till at least twenty years later. A friend who grew up in
the Cobb Village told me that in 1945, from a rowboat out in the
harbour, he saw this house collapse. It was replaced, about 1950,
by the Alice in Wonderland tea rooms. In 1959 the Cobb Cliff house
was demolished because of subsidence. And in 1962 the tea rooms
became a third victim of Lyme's unstable geology. A builder was
levelling a site on the hillside high above (where the miniature
golf course now is); this set the ground sliding down through the
Lister Gardens, and the tea rooms and at least one other nearby
house were carried away. The builder left town.
On the steps of the tea rooms stood a bust of Jane Austen, based on her only detailed portrait. No one knows when or by whom it was carved, because any inscription on it may have been destroyed in the 1962 landslip. It was moved to the Jane Austen Garden when this was opened.
From the little Austen garden you can go on up into the far more
expansive space of the Lister Garden.