On the 18th April 1814 Jane Austen was staying with her brother Henry at his London home in Sloane Street. In a letter written to her sister Cassandra she says: "I have proposed to the latter (her friend Mary Cooke) that she should go to Chawton with me, on the supposition of me travelling the Guildford Road" On the 24th August, Jane described a journey by stagecoach from her Chawton home to London. Having boarded the coach at The Swan in Alton, (see separate entry) it stopped just beyond Bentley, here at The Bull to pick up more passengers.
"I had a very good Journey, not crowded, two of the three at Bentley being Children, the others of a reasonable size; & they were all very quiet and civil. – We were late in London, from being a great Load & from changing Coaches at Farnham, it was nearly 4 I believe when we reached Sloane St; Henry himself met me, & as soon as my Trunk and Basket could be routed out from all the other Trunks & Baskets in the World, we were on our way to Hans Place".
Mary Eggar’s ’History of Bentley’ refers to Jane Austen undertaking a journey from Chawton to London with her brother Henry and taking with her the manuscript for ’Mansfield Park’ to read to him during the long journey. The present-day A31 trunk road loops round Bentley. A mile beyond the village it regains the route of the Old London Road before reaching the 15th century Bull Inn. Technically, this traditional old hostelry with its heavily beamed bars stands on the Hampshire side of the county boundary, but its address is actually given as Bentley, Farnham, Surrey.
Jane died in 1817 but this village and its coaching inn continued to play a part in the lives of the Austen family. In 1822 Henry was "licensed to the Cure of Farnham" and, two years later, he was appointed Perpetual Curate at the church of St. Mary the Virgin in Bentley. From 1823 to 1827 Henry also served as Master of the Free Grammar School in Farnham. While at Bentley he was only six miles from his mother and sister, Cassandra, at Chawton and he either lived with them, or made frequent, long visits, until Mrs. Austen's death in 1827.