I just wanted to say that my birthday treat to visit Jane Austen's house in Chawton finally came round last Thursday. I was so excited. We were staying overnight close by so could spend as long as I wanted meandering around her beautiful atmospheric cottage.
There is the bricked in window which Edward arranged for their privacy, there is the vegetable garden Mrs Austen tended and there is the well that is still used today to measure the water table in East Hampshire.
The day wasn't very bright but at least it wasn't raining. The cottage stands very near the road in what is now a much quieter small village. St Nicholas's church where Jane's mother and dearly beloved sister are buried nestles in a little hollow a short distance away and, to the side of that is the still imposing large, elegant Chawton House.
Once inside the cottage, it is impossible not to be transported back to when Jane would have contentedly sat at her little table writing. Her spirit is everywhere and as I stood quietly alone in some of the rooms I could almost feel her breath and hear her light footfall or maybe it was just the tingle of excitement I felt at finally achieving one of my greatest ambitions....haha!
Come round with me and share the joys of being in Jane's house and gardens.
Lets go in and have a peep.
Here is the kitchen. It's attached to the house but has it's own door. There was a bowl of lavender and muslin on the scrubbed pine table and we were invited to make a little lavender bag.
The cottage is beautifully light and spacious although it has changed quite a bit from the days when the Austens lived there. After Cassandra died the property was neglected for a while then it was divided up into three smaller cottages for workers. It still had tenants in it in 1948 when it was bought to begin it's life as a museum.
The cottage opens up to the large drawing room. This is the largest room in the cottage and is where the Austen ladies would have entertained visitors and enjoyed pastimes like sewing and painting. It's in this room that the large window which faced the road was blocked in and replaced by an elegant Regency window which overlooked the garden
The Dining Parlour follows and it's here where Jane spent her mornings writing at this tiny walnut table. After her death, Mrs Austen gave the table to a manservant but it was eventually returned to it's old home. Jane also owned a writing slope which travelled everywhere with her but that is now in the British Library. On one of their many travels, whilst changing coaches, Jane's writing slope with all her precious manuscripts was accidentally left on the coach which was on it's way to the port but luckily, it was found to be missing and someone sent off after the coach to retrieve it...phew!!
This is the family room which now displays a lot of memorabilia but, it was originally Mrs Austen's bedroom.
Here in the dressing room, there are display cases of items related to dress: some tiny satin slippers, fans, a handkerchief made for Edward by one of his sisters and also a pretty little needle case made by Jane for her niece Louise. The handmade wrapper with the words With Aunt Jane's love is also there.
This small room holds a reproduction tent bed. spread with the quilt that Jane made with her mother and sister. The travelling trunk was owned by Edward.
The red felt jacket belonged to Mrs Austen and was cut down and made into a little riding jacket for Francis when he was 7
Below is Jane and Cassandra's bedroom. The tent bed on display was recreated from details describing the beds that the reverend Austen ordered for his two daughters from Ring Brothers in Basingstoke in 1794. The room is not very big but it only needed to be big enough to house the two beds. A closet in the wall contained a chamber pot below and a basin for washing on the shelf above
On the walls are various portraits, a lace collar made by Jane and a sampler thought to be stitched by Cassandra.
A copy of the watercolour Cassandra did of Jane which is now in the National Portrait Gallery.
I took so many photographs I found it hard to choose which ones I thought might interest you. There were many original book illustrations, cabinets full of miniatures and personal items as well as mannequins dressed in beautiful period costumes. I hope I chose the right ones to show you all and that this tour has been as enjoyable for you as it was for me. I finish off with a bitter sweet photo of a lock of Jane's hair. Hair jewellery was given as gifts to remind loved ones of each other when they were apart. it was woven into bracelets, placed in brooches, rings and pendants. It is known that Cassandra lovingly took some locks of Jane's hair immediately after her death to give to various members of the family.
Also displayed are the two topaz crosses given to Jane and Cassandra by their brother Charles after he received £30.00 prize money for capturing the French vessel the Scipio .......'He has been buying Gold chains and Topaze crosses for us - he must be well scolded...' Letter to Cassandra. 27 May 1801