Last weekend we just wanted to get away and decided to book a hotel in Hampshire; not actually far from where we live in South-West London: about an hour and a half drive. Now that lockdown is finally lifted and we can travel – at least in the UK! – again, we try to see as much of it as possible. Hopefully this post will also inspire others to do the same. The UK has so much to offer! So we had a lovely staycation and on Saturday, before checking in, and looking for things to do in Hampshire, we stopped for a few hours in Chawton, Hampshire.
Chawton lies within the South Downs National Park, close to Alton. It’s a charming little town, the people who live there really look after their town. In the middle of it, there’s Jane Austen’s House, Cassandra’s Cup Tea Room, a small car park, a small playground and the start of a walking route to the most romantic, rolling countryside. We got some sandwiches from the Cassandra’s Cup – that is also small pantry shop – got the kids to the playground and whilst husband looked after them, I went to see Jane Austen’s house. (Kids wouldn’t have appreciated it really.)
Jane Austen House
One of the most famous and widely celebrated writers of her era, Jane Austen is the author of Sense and Sensibility, Emma and Pride and Prejudice. Although, she was never publicly acknowledged as a writer during her life. She lived in this Chawton house from 1809 after her father died suddenly and Jane, her sister Cassandra and their mother left poor. She wrote all her famous works in this house.
The building itself is around 500 years old and belonged to relatives of the Austens; the Knights, who have no children of their own, so Edward Austen, Jane’s brother was adopted as their heir. Edward invited his sister and mother (along with a friend Martha Lloyd) to live here after Jane’s father died and they moved here from Bath. After Jane’s death in 1817, Mrs Austen and Cassandra continued to live at the House for the rest of their lives. Then house returned to the Chawton Estate; it was divided into three dwellings for estate workers and was also used as an estate office and a working men’s club.
In 1940 a local women called Dorothy Darnell founded the Jane Austen Society. She set her heart on saving the house, and succeeded. A friend of the The Society Mr. T.E. Carpenter bought the house for £3000. He endowed it to the nation and set up the Jane Austen Memorial Trust to run the house as a museum in 1949. Over the years it has been restored. And the interior has been restyled to take it back to the time when Jane Austen lived here.
Over the decades the museum managed to collect many objects associated with Jane Austen; including her very own jewellery, first editions of her books, some furniture, textiles like her muslin shawl and bed quilt and the table at which she wrote her novels.
The original garden was bigger with an orchard, and also a large vegetable patch which Jane’s mother tended. The garden now shows plants known in Jane Austen’s time and includes wildflowers common to this area of Hampshire. I loved to learn about the dye plant garden:
As you can see, if you are looking for things to do in Hampshire, you should consider paying Jane Austen’s house a visit.
Jane Austen’s House, Winchester Road, Chawton, Hampshire, GU34 1SD
The Jane Austen’s House is operating as registered charity in receipt of no regular public funding. They are currently looking for donations to fix the roof on the house, you can donate here: Save Jane’s Roof
To visit the museum the entry fee is only £10 and is an annual pass at the same time.
All Covid safety measurements are in place, in infamous and humorous Jane Austin style: