I am convinced there is no better place to get to know the real Jane Austen than at Jane Austen’s House in the picturesque village of Chawton in Hampshire. A visit here provides an intimate journey into the last years of Jane’s life; you are literally walking in her footsteps. Set in beautiful gardens, the house is informally known as Chawton Cottage. It formed part of the estate owned by Jane’s brother Edward Knight, who also owned the beautiful and imposing Chawton House just up the road.
Disclosure: My tour of Jane Austen’s House was gifted without obligation. The opinions in this post are my own.
This is where Jane revised and completed Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey. She also wrote Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion in their entirety, in what was one of the most productive periods of her writing life.
I visited Jane Austen’s House on a spring day in early April and was very kindly shown round by Amelia Harvell, the Marketing and Communications Manager. One of the first things I noticed was just how engaged and passionate the people who work at Jane Austen’s House are. The house has been lovingly restored so that it appears virtually as Jane would have known it and the people who work here really make it come to life.
Jane Austen’s House History
Jane lived in Chawton Cottage with her mother, the widowed Mrs Austen, her beloved sister Cassandra, and family friend Martha Lloyd. Mrs Austen, Cassandra, and Martha took on the day to day running of the house so that Jane could concentrate fully on her writing. It was here, in the living room, that Jane and her mother read aloud to their neighbour, Miss Benn, from Jane’s “own darling Child”, the first printed copy of Pride and Prejudice.
You can almost picture the scene, and feel their excitement.
Jane practiced piano in this corner of the living room every morning. She was not the only creative in the house, however. The paintings above the piano were painted by Cassandra Austen, who was a talented artist.
Much of the furniture in the house is original, which is rare for most historic sites. Even the wallpaper has been painstakingly researched and remade using the block printing techniques popular in the nineteenth century. In some places you can carefully preserved examples of the original paper next to its modern counterpart which I found fascinating.
It is particularly moving to see Jane’s own writing table, positioned by the window so she could benefit from the light. Jane wrote and revised all six of her novels at this tiny little table.
Jane preferred to write in private, so the majority of her books were written on tiny pieces of paper she could simply fold away. This meant she could easily conceal her writing when interrupted.
Upstairs, you can step into Jane’s bedroom, which is decorated as it would have been in the time she lived there. It is incredibly moving to stand in the room where this talented and iconic writer slept.
Jane Austen’s House holds a huge collection of objects related to Jane’s life and works, many of which are on display. You can also see pieces of Jane’s jewellery and some of her letters, as well as a beautiful patchwork coverlet made by Jane, her mother and sister Cassandra. Their handiwork is breathtaking, with barely a stitch visible on this detailed piece.
Events at Jane Austen’s House
Events are held throughout the year both at Jane Austen’s House and online. There is an exhibition on The Making of Pride and Prejudice and even a virtual book club! Sign up to the newsletter to stay up to date.
The Year of Cassandra
Visiting Jane Austen’s House
Jane’s Austen’s House is located in the village of Chawton in Hampshire. If you are able to visit the house in person, be sure to check the website for opening times. Visits should be pre-booked.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Chawton Cottage and happily make a return visit. Should time or distance make an in person visit a challenge, or if you would like to learn more, the house website is an invaluable, easy to navigate resource. You can even visit Jane Austen’s House from Your Home with a 360° virtual tour.
Information is correct to the best of my knowledge at the time of writing. Be sure to check the website for opening times, their full terms and conditions, and to check prices, availability and payment terms.
All current photographs in this post were taken by me on a visit to the house.