Recently we visited Chawton House and Gardens. It was mainly to see the gardens, but Chawton House actually turned out to be the gem of the visit.
There are two car parks, one close by Chawton House (which we weren’t aware of) and one in the village opposite Jane Austen’s House.
We parked in the village and it was a lovely walk up to the big house and the grounds. We had purchased tickets online and walked up to the tea shed to get a red sticker and a map of the grounds.
We opted to visit the house first, thinking that we would spend more time outside in the gardens. Though actually, the house was definitely the star of the show.
We were greeted by a very friendly staff member, who welcomed us into the house, and ushered us into the Great Hall. We were handed a map of the house and given a brief talk about where to go and what we can see inside.
Interestingly, the staff member informed us that we can sit on most chairs, unlike National Trust. And they were pretty comfy chairs too – though some can be like a sinkhole of a beanbag!
We had visited Bath and listened to a talk/ tour about places Jane Austen and her family had lived in – you can check that out here. Chawton House was inherited by Jane Austen’s third oldest brother, Edward.
Mr Austen’s second cousin had no heirs and took a shining to Edward Austen – so much so, that he was named heir when he was only a child. To inherit the large Chawton House, Edward had to take the Knight surname, and that’s just what he did.
There are family trees in a couple of the rooms at Chawton House, and the coat of arms has changed over the decades to indicate any heir who was not a blood descendant ie Edward Austen.
We walked into the massive dining room, where you can sit where Jane used to sit. The large dining table had labels showing who sat where for meals. From these seats you can also view the beautiful lawns outside.
A grand room with a large fireplace and piano in the corner – I can just imagine the lively family dinners this room must have witnessed in the past.
Along the stairs, William Morris wallpaper can be seen under the banister. I had studied Morris in school and quite liked the Victorian artist.
Up the stairs onto the landing is a map of London around Austen’s time. There was green countryside everywhere – where we used to live in London was countryside!
It was really interesting finding all the places we have been to in London and seeing that, back in Austen’s time, there was just countryside there.
Botanical Women Exhibition
When we visited, the Botanical Women Exhibition was coming to an end. It showed the role women played in horticulture, as the middle class had more time on their hands. These women were writers, drawers, collectors, and educators on flowers and botanical science.
Here are flowers that Jane Austen wrote about in some of her letters. The public at the time apparently loved to read and write about flowers.
We continued walking along the first floor, and in the Oak Room is a small alcove. Apparently this was Jane Austen’s reading place, and I can see why: the view of the grounds are absolutely lovely here.
I can imagine, back in the day, visiting this large house and cosying up to a good book and looking outside enjoying the beauty of nature. What a lovely reading nook.
We continued along to the Long Gallery, where there were stained glass windows of the family coat of arms. Also displayed here was the progression of women’s writing.
Women’s writing started with letters, journals, and then progressed to travel writing. It’s quite interesting, as now – of course – those genres are still written about and read. Memoirs are turned into films and travel writing is akin to travel blogs and travel shows.
Down the servants staircase, the tour ended at the shop. There was a Library nearby, where you can look at the books, but we didn’t go in. I had visited years ago on a school trip and remember that some of the books were very old so had to be opened with special gloves so as not to damage them.
The Library Terrace
We made our way outside, past the tea room and into the gardens. We didn’t go inside the Library, but I managed to get a picture of outside the Library called the Library Terrace.
We followed the garden map and walked around clockwise. It was a lovely sunny day and the grass was a lush green, though not many flowers were blooming when we visited.
The Rose Garden
We walked through a rose garden, but there were no roses unfortunately. Apparently roses bloom in the summer – so it was the wrong time of year.
We did see a little area of blossom trees that were starting to bloom. The picture didn’t do the colour of the blossoms justice – they were beautiful.
The Lime Avenue
We continued walking round, and soon enough, ended up close to the large house again. It was quite a magnificent sight seeing the house along this man made avenue.
The garden map stated that in early spring this avenue is carpeted with snowdrops, daffodils, and bluebells. Again, I think it was bad timing, as none of those were seen on our visit unfortunately.
It was a pleasant walk around the gardens, though perhaps a little disappointing as the blooming flowers were what I was after. Alas, Chawton House was the gem of the visit, with such rich history and exhibitions of strong literary women.
St Nicholas Church
On our walk back to the village we stopped by St Nicholas Church. Jane Austen’s mother and sister are both buried here. Austen herself is buried in Winchester Cathedral nearby.
I think it would be quite wonderful to get married in this church and then hold your wedding reception at the magnificent Chawton House – so idyllic.
As we were leaving the grounds I did see some tulips popping out from the grass. Here were the blooming flowers I had wanted to see!
Jane Austen’s House
In the centre of the small village is the cottage that Jane Austen, her mother, and her sister lived in. Edward, their brother, most likely lived in the large Chawton House where the women often visited.
Here, was the house the women lived in and where Jane Austen actually wrote the majority of her work.
On a nearby wall there are blue plates of quotations from Austen’s books – a lovely tribute to the wonderful words she wrote. We didn’t visit the Jane Austen House this time, as both the hubby and I have visited before on school trips.
I recall the rooms being quite small and I still remember the tiny writing desk where Austen wrote her books.
A lovely day out when the weather was great. A little disappointed by the lack of flowers in the gardens, but Chawton House itself was really interesting and we spent a good hour or so walking through the rooms and learning more about Jane Austen and women’s writing.
If you like Jane Austen or are interested in women’s writing, I’d say definitely worth a visit. If you’re after flowers, then I’d say check the time of year before you visit.