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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

New in Chawton!

Yesterday I visited Chawton to participate in some Regency Week events, which are taking place all week this week. I love it how there is always something new and interesting to see whenever I visit Chawton. 



In the morning, I went on a fascinating Chawton guided walk, given by local historian Jane Hurst. The walk gave me so much perspective on how Chawton looked back in the day, who lived there, and what life was like there at the time of Jane Austen. I will share some of the details of what I learnt in a more comprehensive post later this week. 



I then decided to head towards Chawton House (formerly Chawton House Library) for lunch. On the way, I stopped at St Nicholas Church to see the small newly erected statue of Jane Austen. It very much resembles the one at Basingstoke Market Square, having been painted by the same sculptor, Adam Roud. 





It was wonderful to see a statue of her, book in hand, dress blown away in the wind, looking towards her beloved village of Chawton. While the Basingstoke statue was lifesize, this one is much smaller and has been placed on a beautiful pedestal that has a plaque in honour of Jane Austen. 




While being at St Nicholas, I decided to have another look at the Austen family graves and inside the church before heading to the Great House for lunch in their lovely old tearoom. I also attended the current exhibition the about Gothic novel there,  "The Art of Freezing the Blood". 



How Chawton House looked at Jane Austen's time when its exteriors were still white. 


The experience of visiting Chawton House has improved from my last visit when the House was still called Chawton House Library. There are more interesting snippets of information scattered in different parts of the house and I noticed that they also do a family trail these days - another excuse to bring the children one day! 

I learnt that Jane Austen loved to sit on this windowsill and look at the wonderful view of the driveway into the house. 

I had a lovely walk back to Chawton Cottage and had a look at my favourite place of pilgrimage before heading back to Alton. 

In Alton, I attended a speech given by Catherine Jane Knight, one of the last descendants of Jane Austen's brother, Edward, to live in Chawton House. In the speech, she described her life in Chawton House, what made it such a special place, and also described her personal experience of the decline of a great country manor, one of the several that saw their decline in the latter part of the 20th century. 



I thoroughly enjoyed her speech and the interesting slides she showed us of her childhood in Chawton House, and I even got my copy of her book signed. I recommend reading her book if you would like to know more about life in Edward Austen Knight's country house where Jane Austen often visited when her family were about. 




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