A place for Designer Tanya Marie Willis Anderson of The Sampler Girl
to journal about her love for all things Jane Austen.

03 March 2013

A visit to Jane Austen's cottage in Chawton - Sorry, this is a long post!

Me again,
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.

Although Jane and Cassandra loved to walk, often for several hours each afternoon, here is the very donkey carriage they used for little trips out to do their shopping.

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


Michelle said...

Oh Angela it looks adorable. My husband is taking me for my birthday in May - may I ask where you stayed as we are looking to find somewhere close by. x

Gillie said...

Thank you for taking us with you! Looks like a beautiful place, so glad you could take photographs withouth *modern* touches, ie people!

angelasweby said...

Michelle hi,
Thanks for your lovely comment.
I hope I haven't spoilt any surprises for your visit in May. Mine was a birthday treat too. Are you in the UK? We are just outside Bedford.
There are still plenty of treats in store for you and take plenty of cash as the cottage shop is out of this world.
Please email me and I'll send you the details of where we stayed and some other bits of information.
Look forward to hearing from you :-)

angelasweby said...

Thanks Gillie,
There were quite a few people there but I was lucky enough to find myself in some of the rooms entirely on my own. It definitely makes a difference to the photos :-)

The Sampler Girl said...

Fabulous entry - thank you for the personal tour. Truly lovely - awesome.

Tanya :)

hazel said...

I felt as thou I was walking with you Angela I think my favourite room was the kitchen it looked so homely and do hope you made a lavender bag. Your photos are super and such a wonderful descriptive post.

Thanks for sharing such a very special time with us.


Barb said...

Well I am in awe of your powers of description Angela, and envious of your visit to Chawton. Thankyou for sharing I really enjoyed my tour with you.

Emőke said...

Thank you very much these beautiful pictures!❤I love this!
Emőke from Hungary