Hoddesdon was an important coaching stop in the nineteenth century, boasting 30 coaching inns at one time, some of which are still preserved today. Although Jane Austen did not specify where Lydia and Kitty met their sisters on their return to Longbourn I decided this bustling market town would make an appropriate place.
'It was the second week in May, in which the three young ladies set out together from Gracechurch Street for the town of -- -- , in Hertfordshire; and, as they drew near the appointed inn where Mr. Bennet's carriage was to meet them, they quickly perceived, in token of the coachman's punctuality, both Kitty and Lydia looking out of a dining-room upstairs.' Extract from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
An old photograph of the Bull Inn with an upstairs window seemed perfect for my idea of the George Inn - I could picture the girls trying to attract the attention of likely passers by.
'We entered the George and were shown a commodious dining room just fit to receive our sisters, by a ‘glad-eyed’ serving boy with a hideously long chin and ordered some platters of cold meat and sallad to be brought up at midday. We ventured into the High Street, where, despite Kitty’s scolding, I could not resist a chip and satin bonnet with a plume of green feathers on the top, although it has to be said that as soon as I had made purchase of the hat, it became a very ugly object. Kitty, not to be outdone, spent the rest of our money on a tortoiseshell hair comb and a piece of lace trimming and so the problem of how to pay for the awaiting repast at the inn soon arose. However, it immediately occurred to me that Jane and Lizzy would, (no doubt,) be flush from receiving a generous pocket allowance from our affable uncle and be pleased to lend the money for the food, so thoughtfully and kindly ordered on their behalf by their dutiful sisters.
By midday, having run out of money and with no familiar beaux to abuse, we returned to the George to sit by the window and spent an amusing half hour trying to catch the eye of and waving at the sentinel opposite, who ignored all our gesticulations and marched up and down, when he became troubled at losing his resolve.' Diary extract from Lydia Bennet's Story
Whilst researching the history of the inn and the area I came across a ghost story and a murder which managed to weave their way into quite a different story that the serving boy tells in an attempt to frighten the girls.
Lydia is only mildly amused!