Now that I live in Hampshire, I had the brilliant opportunity to celebrate Jane Austen’s birthday (just 5 days apart from my own) at Jane Austen’s House in Chawton today. What better way to celebrate her than to have a peek into her world and to walk the roads that she walked on, in her beloved home of Chawton.
It was quite a different experience visiting Chawton Cottage in mid-winter rather than in mid-summer, as I last did when I visited Chawton. Taking photos certainly proved a challenge, as the dark, damp weather we had today seemed to produce dark, misty photos as opposed to the bright, clear ones I took on my previous visit.
However, it was wonderful to see Chawton Cottage all decked up for Christmas in a style familiar to the Austens, as I described a few years ago. The fireplaces and windows were adorned with cones and evergreens, such as boughs of holly with bright, red berries - a tradition followed already in Jane Austen’s days, especially in houses in the countryside, where such greenery was in abundance.
In addition to greenery and candles, there were also plenty of beautiful arrangements of dried fruit in various part of the house, as in the kitchen (below), adding to the festive charm in the cottage.
Although the weather was nothing to write home about, the cottage was packed with visitors, as you can see from the number of cars parked outside the cottage – there were obviously many of us wishing to spend this special day at Chawton. This was the view from one of the windows in the cottage, showing the busy thoroughway that Chawton was in the days of Jane Austen.
It was lovely to sip some tea and enjoy some mince pies, while strolling about the cottage garden. There was also some carol singing by the Regency piano, making it all very festive and atmospheric.
No pilgrimage to Chawton is complete without a look at (and touch of) Jane Austen’s modest, yet iconic writing desk.
And a look out of the dining room window, as famously was important for Mrs Austen to have a good view of the goings-on in the street.
My two-year-old travel companion had fun trying on some bonnets, and then we headed towards Chawton House Library. Although the views were less picturesque in this weather, come rain or sun, I love the walk towards Chawton House past some beautiful rolling hills and green fields dotted with sheep.
I have always wanted to see the interiors of Chawton House, as this was the great house of the estate owned by Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen-Knight, and Jane Austen spent a great deal of time with her family there.
Chawton House looked very inviting, with beautiful lighting in the windows, but I was disappointed to find, once again, that the House was closed until March… however, that can only mean one thing - another visit to Chawton in a few months’ time, something to look forward to!