With the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice this year, Jane Austen was a feature of our trip and one of the major attractions of this program for a long-time Austen fan. We had previously visited Austen's grave in Winchester and many of her haunts in Bath.

There was an alternate expedition to naval sights in Portsmouth that would have otherwise been tempting, but it could not compete with an excursion to Chawton Cottage, where Austen either wrote or revised all her published works!

Picture

Narrative

Waiting for the bus

In the early morning we assembled in the great room at Danesfield to await our buses.

The house may be relatively recent, but it successfully carries out its neo-Tudor theme while providing modern comforts.

Chawton Cottage After the death of Austen's father, a retired clergyman, his widow and her two unmarried daughters were left in what is politely termed "reduced circumstances." Unlike the vacillating step-brother in Sense and Sensibility, one of Austen's brothers who had been adopted by a wealthy family, came to the rescue and provided his mother and sisters with this cottage on one of his estates. Perhaps he simply had a kinder wife.

It is at Chawton that Austen either wrote or revised all of her published works.

Austen's mother and sister remained in the house after she died in 1817. After their deaths it was used by workers on the estate.
English Bluebells

I'm pretty sure these are the true English Bluebells rather than the invasive varieties. During Austen's lifetime the garden included utilitarian varieties, such as plants that could be used to dye cloth, vegetables and medicinal plants as well as decorative ones.

One of the books maintained by Austen's friend, Martha Lloyd who lived with the Austen ladies, was a household book with, among other things, a recipe for making ink from easily acquired plants & minerals!

Bedstead with quilt

Much of the furniture and clothing displayed in the house was not original, but this quilt was actually made by Austen and her family.

The original small table where she wrote was also in the house, but for some reason I didn't take a picture of it.

Cookhouse

The kitchen was in a separate building behind the house. There were facilities for baking, roasting, slaughtering and butchering pigs (ewww!), and making beer (yum!!).

Chawton House

Chawton House is a couple of miles from Chawton Cottage. It would have been the estate manor, but Austen's brother generally lived at one of his other estates (he had three) – Godmersham Park in Kent – quite far away.

The house now contains a research library dedicated to women writers.

We had a catered lunch with a presentation by Professor Stephen Bygrave followed by a visit to the library and the opportunity to explore the house and grounds.

Chawton Landscape

The estate is still maintained as a working farm. We had a nice visit with some of the draft horses, primarily Shires, who are used on the farm. They are all rescues and are guaranteed a good retirement when their working days are done.

Stable Door The old stables are now divided into apartments and used as residences.
Chawton Church

Chawton Church is on the grounds of Chawton House. It is still an active parish for the village of Chawton.

The church is quite a distance from the village, but we were told that was typical of the day. It must have been a long walk on a wintry or wet day. When we were visiting the cottage several people suggested that we visit the manor and church "if we didn't mind the walk" because there is limited parking for the public. They were all quite impressed that we had permission actually to take a bus there.

Walking in all kinds of weather is a feature of Austen's novels. The landscape here helped put that into perspective.

Chawton Churchyard Cassandra Austen Gravestone

Austen's mother and sister Cassandra are buried in the churchyard. Jane Austen herself is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

The actual gravestones:

Meadow

After a lovely visit in Jane Austen country, we boarded the bus for our trip to Portsmouth to join our ship. That afternoon we proceeded down the English channel toward our next stop at Fowey (pronounced "foy") in Cornwall.