Our last day in England we went to visit Jane Austen’s house in a little country town called Chawton. I can’t really say we saved the best for last, because there was just too much best on this trip! But add this to the pile, because it was best too. The house is in Hampshire, very near Southampton where the ship sailed from . . . that’s the lowest, middle part of England on the map. I’m watercoloring a map of England for my English Diary, so you’ll finally get to see where we’ve been (hiding in those suitcases you missed way too much! We’re going to make up for that!). So here goes, get ready, it’s a little bit long . . .
First off, you have to know how this quiet neighborhood sounded this day! The only thing missing is “my-toe-hurts-bet-tee” the nature national anthem of England, but trust me, the wood pigeons were out in full force!
There’s the house! That’s Jane Austen’s House! How beautiful! Let’s go find a parking space!
On our way to the house, we walk through the neighborhood . . . the neighborhoods were almost always as wonderful as the houses we were going to visit!
Many of the homes in Chawton have thatched roofs . . .
There are many rose-covered cottages . . .
This is the pub across the street from the house . . . in case you’d like a bite when you get done, or a peah ci-da. In case? Don’t you love the flower boxes?
On the corner, directly across from the house, you can stop for tea in this wonderful tea room called “Cassandra’s” — which is the name of both Jane’s beloved sister, and her mother.
So here we go, are you ready? I was so excited! Hope I don’t accidentally run anyone down!!
We had to go into the gift shop to get our tickets. My first question: ”Can I take pictures inside the house?” (Not every house we visited allows photography, I really didn’t expect them to say yes; but I was hoping and praying.) And then, Yes You Can! I can? Oh Boy. Let’s go!!!
There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart. Jane Austen
Jane was born in 1775; she started writing Pride and Prejudice when she was 21, but it was in Chawton House at this amazingly small table that she finished it; it’s here she wrote and revised her greatest stories.
At this very table. Her books came right out of her brain, through her hand, onto the paper, one letter at a time.
We were invited to try writing the way Jane did … with a feather quill pen and ink! I couldn’t wait to get my little fingers around that!
If you look close, I think you can tell that I tried it! I loved it!!! I bought a feather and ink in the gift shop; I’m going to write with it in the English Diary so you can see it in action! How she did this I will never know, there could not have been much “rewriting” on her books; no word processor or even a typewriter to make it easier (or even a ball point pen for that matter)! Because you have to dip the quill pen in the ink about every 2 or 3 letters or it runs dry! You have to blot it too, or your arm will drag through and smear it! It’s a slow process, but it’s what she knew; and that’s how it is with book writing, no matter how you do it, you just keep going every day, until it’s done, and then, viola, you have a book!
Before I show you details in the house, let me show you just how charming this chock-full-of-history cottage is. This is the bedroom that Jane shared with her sister Cassandra.
This is a canopy tent bed of the period. Where they didn’t have the exact furniture owned by the Austen family, they used period pieces so we could know what things would have looked like. Love this bed! I would like to be twelve years old and have this bed!!!
There are bouquets of cut flowers from the garden all over the house; on mantles and window ledges . . . you feel like someone really lives here . . .
Here you can look across the street to Cassandra’s Tea Room, how convenient!
There are fireplaces in every room, some of them very tiny like this one. Isn’t it cute? Wouldn’t you like to warm your feet by this fire? (Well, maybe not today . . .)
They’ve put little cards on or next to everything, so you can know what you’re looking at . . .
It’s a house to go slow in, you can feel the reverence and the joy of the people who are there. One girl came bounding in to the room I was in, we looked at each other with huge eyes, just shaking heads at how happy we were to be there!
They have made it so nice for us; it’s all here for the savoring . . .
There are lots of glass cases with personal things belonging to Jane and to her family.
Gorgeous 200+ year old bracelet owned by Jane . . . I would love to have this bracelet! Look at the detail. ♥
Another adorable fireplace . . . and lovely period dress . . .
This is not the piano belonging to Jane, but it could have been, and so gorgeous, handpainted.
All the wallpaper you see is Laura Ashley which is very appropriate as many of Laura Ashley’s designs were inspired by antique papers and fabric she saw in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Something else that adds warmth and charm to this house.
And there are fragments of wallpaper they found in the house, like this one . . . very pretty too, light and clean like the ones they’ve chosen for the rooms.
This quilt was made by Jane, Cassandra and their mother. Jane Austen‘s stories capture the essence of her time; in the last two centuries, her books have rarely been out of print! She died very young, at age 41, in her sister Cassandra’s arms. ;-(
The house has lots of homemade touches such as these embroideries…
In every case, Jane said it like she saw it. This was on the dining table.
Here’s the bakehouse … and next to it is their little donkey carriage . . .
The kitchen! I could feel very at home in here! If someone would teach me how to work that stove, it would be Hot Milk Cake for everyone!
Little details like this jar of cut herbs from the garden make it feel homey, like you could move right in!
And the garden! With benches and lawns to sit and stay in. Jane and her family grew everything they needed in their cottage garden, vegetables, herbs, and flowers; Cassandra kept bees so they made their own honey.
Their favorite flowers were “Sweet Williams, columbines, peonies, pinks and laburnums” … they also grew “gooseberries, raspberries and currants” … they made their own jams and jellies and summer wines, kept a pig and chickens and had two donkeys to pull them in their carriage.
The garden smelled like perfume and sounded wonderful too; see the blackbird on the garden wall? He was singing his heart out . . . we took the equivalent of a whole “roll of film” just on him!!! What a perfect last day it was . . .
Then it was back to the gift shop again, of course . . . I had to get my quill pen and ink! And some postcards and some books …. and this ….
. . . my irresistible Chawton House dishtowel, which is hanging now on my stove, because we are HOME ; I’m writing this from my studio; Jack is asleep on the pillow on top of the fax machine (I’m speaking of my kitty Jack, not my dad Jack, just so you know!), Girl is in the chair; there are lawnmowers going outside; a soft breeze is coming through my window and I can see butterflies flitting around my picket fence garden . . . Joe is out back trying to bolster the rose arbor so it will last another summer!
We’ve been unpacking slowly and opening our mail so there is an impromptu gathering of little things on the shelf in our kitchen … ♥♥♥
And we finally got to drape our Jubilee bunting on our own kitchen windows!
As you know, we all got a bit drenched and waterlogged in England! Personally, I didn’t mind at all; it was moody and wonderful having fires and wearing sweaters, watching the black clouds roll in across the dales, getting to use my new William Morris umbrella, and the gardens were green and lush and so beautiful . . . so we didn’t know we missed the sun . . . but this was the view out on our walk this morning! Oh yeah, it feels very good to be home!
OK girls, I guess I better get going . . . I hope this post was long enough for you!! But I just couldn’t let you miss anything!!! Hope you enjoyed it! I will try to make the next one shorter!!! How are you all doing? I’m worried about the heat, the fires and the loss of electricity for so many! I hope you’re all holding on! Stay cool Girlfriends, watch out for neighbors and pets and see you soon!!! xoxo