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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Finally at Chawton House!

Whenever I visit Chawton Cottage, I feel like I have stepped back in time for a day. It felt exactly like that when I visited Chawton House Library or, "Chawton Great House", as it used to be called. I believe that the house still looks very much as it did in Jane Austen's times, although it is an even older building, dating back to the Elizabethan times. 

I have tried visiting Chawton House a few times before, but never managed to be there at the right time. I was so pleased to gain entry and to have a thorough look through the house. I was able to take some photos of the house, but I do apologise for the quality of the photos, as I only had my mobile phone camera on me. 

The manor was owned by Jane Austen's brother, Edward Austen-Knight, who lent it out to gentlemen tenants but also spent a great deal of time here himself . He divided his time between his two estates, Godmersham in Kent and Chawton, and thanks to his position as a wealthy landowner in Chawton he was able to provide a home for his mother and sisters in Chawton. Jane Austen was obviously very familiar with Chawton House and visited there regularly for dinners. 

These days, the manor serves as the Centre for the Study of Early Women's Writing from 1600 to 1830. The centre houses a vast collection of early women's writing, open to the benefit of scholars from across the world. There was an exhibition on, called Emma 200, dedicated to the 200 years since the publication of Jane Austen's Emma. It was a fascinating exhibition and I had a brief look through - I will share some photos soon. 

The house was built in 1580 by John Knight, an ancestor of Thomas Knight (picture below), who adopted Edward Austen and made him his heir. 

  Jane Knight, wife of Thomas Knight.
 These coats of arms show all the proprieters of the estate - the Knights.

Interestingly, Edward's coat of arms has a small red square at the top left, indicating that he was not a real "Knight" but was given the name through his adoption, and all his descendants have the same symbol in their coats of arms, too. 

As you enter the house, you come through to the Great Hall on your left. It is an impressive room and has retained its original Elizabethan wooden panelling. 

Dark panelled hallways take you from one room to another. 

In this dining room, you can imagine Jane Austen enjoying lengthy dinners with her family whenever Edward was in Chawton.

In the dining room, there is a portrait of Edward Austen-Knight, made during his Grand Tour of Europe. 

There is also a touching memento, a well-preserved jacket on display, which used to belong to Edward Austen when he was a young boy. It is easy to believe that the jacket belonged to him, as the jacket is very similar in style to the one in the portrait, with a similar cut and equally large buttons.

There were also several other familiar images of the family members on the walls, including that of Elizabeth Austen, Edward's wife (sorry about the poor picture quality). 

This is an image of Edward Austen Knight's Godmersham estate. 

The view from the dining room window. 

As you go upstairs, there are some beautiful heavy tapestries and some original William Morris wallpaper that was discovered during the restoration of the building in the nineties. 

I loved the Library, an intriguing place where you could imagine the gentlemen sitting down, writing letters and having a drink. 

The library is full of good novels and even a secret cupboard, perhaps used as a bar?

There are some beautiful windowsills upstairs that call out for a little rest and a look at the lovely views of the surrounding countryside. 

This old printing press is fascinating. It takes a relatively small machine to produce tons of books. 

During his time in Chawton, Edward Austen had a servants' passage built downstairs for privacy and safety. 

The passage takes you to the old kitchen, which has retained its old stone flooring and an 18th century worktable, although the range was acquired in the Victorian times. 

Behind the kitchen, there is a scullery, which now houses a bookshop. There are two original sinks in the room, which would supply water from a nearby well.

Here is a view out to the inner courtyard...

...and out to the garden. 

There is a Regency walled garden, designed in the style adopted by Edward Austen after the death of Jane Austen. However, I did not have the time to have a closer look at the gardens - something has to be left for next time! I enjoyed the views over the beautiful Hampshire countryside that surrounds the Great House. 


  1. A very nice article, Anna. Your pictures are great. I have decided to visit the ,"Emma 200," exhibition next week. I will try and choose a day when it is not raining.Ha! Ha!

  2. Thanks, Tony! I'm not very happy with the quality of my phone pictures at the moment, but I hope I can give an idea of how the place looks. Do visit the house, and definitely go on a synny day! That said, we went on a sunny day but, by the time we were out, it was hailing!! A good excuse to visit Greyfriars, the old pub opposite Chawton Cottage :)

  3. Oh, what a lovely place! I visited the Chawton House Library 4 and 3 years ago! I very much enjoyed a stroll through the gardens too! I´m looking forward to my next visit of this beautiful place! Thanks for the article, Anna!

    1. Hi Eva,
      It is a beautiful building, isn't it?! You should go back and see the exhibition, as it's truly fascinating. Thanks for your comment.


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