If you mention Chawton to any Jane Austen fan, they will immediately think of her home, an unassuming cottage in the village. At some point, I’ll do a blog post about that – but for this post we’re going to visit Chawton House, the home of Jane’s brother Edward. Sited just down the road from Jane’s cottage, it was a place frequently visited by her, her sister, Cassandra, and their mother.
Today Chawton House has another life. It’s open to visitors not only as a historic home and garden but also as “The Centre For The Study of Early Women’s Writing, 1600 – 1830”. In comparison with other stately homes, Chawton is somewhat light on furnishings and antiques – but there are plenty of artifacts from Jane’s time.
You can see the dining table she and her family would have dined at, a silhouette of Edward being presented to Thomas and Catherine Knight, Edward Austen’s suit, and the reading alcove in the Oak Room where, according to Knight family legend, Jane liked to sit.
Upstairs, you’ll also find temporary exhibitions and more detail on the history of women’s writing. And outside you can explore beautiful grounds and gardens.
I had a thoroughly enjoyable time visiting, and with adult tickets costing just £10, it’s pretty good value too. If you’re here to explore Jane’s house, you should definitely come here too. It gives a much richer picture of Jane’s life in Chawton.
If you do come, you might also be able to visit the library – we asked at the end of our visit and were kindly given entry. It’s home to a fantastic array of books (including some of Jane’s) and provides a great set of resources for anyone studying or writing about female authors.
A final point of interest for Austen fans is in the churchyard found next to the house. Here, you’ll find the graves of Jane’s sister Cassandra and their mother, as well as a small statue of Jane.
Seeing the graves was somewhat bittersweet though – knowing how close Jane was to her sister, they probably should have been laid to rest together.
What do you think? Have you ever visited Chawton before? Please share your thoughts in the comments.