Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Visit to Jane Austen's House, Chawton

This post originally appeared on my blog Travels Old and New.

The Jane Austen's House Museum, Chawton, UK

Some vacation destinations are actually pilgrimages.  Such was the case when we took time out from a visit to London to make a day trip to Chawton (where Jane Austen spent the last eight years of her life and where she revised and/or wrote Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey andPersuasion) and Winchester (where she is buried).  I've read all of Jane Austen's work many times.

Many times.

Painting of the house in the Jane Austen's House Museum.

There are several ways to get to Miss Austen's house, by bus or a combination of rail and bus, but since we wanted to visit the city of Winchester as well, we opted for the train/bus combination.

It's an easy trip by train from London Waterloo station to Winchester, in Hampshire.  You then take a local bus (Route X64) from Winchester to a spot near Chawton, which is a mile southwest of the town of Alton.  This bus ride gives you a chance to see some of the nearby communities.

We found this map on the Museum's website, at
Tell the bus driver you want to visit the Jane Austen House, and he/she (or a friendly local resident coming back from a day's shopping in Winchester) will give you the correct bus stop to get off.

To get to the Jane Austen's House Museum, you take a very pleasant 10 to 15 minute walk through the pretty English countryside.  We visited in December, so the day was a bit chilly but quite pleasant.

No, this isn't Jane Austen's house, but it's lovely.
The Museum is well sign-posted.

When you go inside the Museum, you meet a volunteer docent who can answer questions, and then you are free to walk around the house and grounds.

The bakehouse (kitchen) is separate from the main part of the house.  

Inside the main house, objects that belonged to the Austen family as well as other period pieces are on display.

The piano (below) is similar to the one Jane Austen played.

Small bouquets of flowers adorned window ledges throughout the house.  I thought these little splashes of color were appropriate to the mood of the museum.

One of my favorite parts of the Museum is the display of Jane Austen's writing table.

Another favorite exhibit is the collection of family jewelry.  These photos show the topaz crosses that Miss Austen's brother gave her and her sister Cassandra.  (We visited the Museum before it became the home of Jane Austen's ring.)

Dining table and period dishes.

This prayer (above) was composed by Jane Austen:
Give us grace, Almighty Father, so to pray, as to deserve to be heard, to address thee with our Hearts, as with our lips. Thou art every where present, from Thee no secret can be hid. May the knowledge of this, teach us to fix our Thoughts on Thee, with Reverence and Devotion that we pray not in vain.... 
A chair used for kneeling in prayer at home.

A quilt made by Jane, Cassandra and their mother.

As I walked around the inside of the house, I became aware of the clip-clop of hooves outside.  This is not the sort of sound I expect to hear in the 21st century, so I looked out the window and saw that a local horse and rider were going by.  I wondered, How many times did Jane Austen look out the same window at someone going by on horseback?  That experience really brought home to me the thought that Jane Austen really did live here.

We went back outside to visit the garden.  Even in winter, it was a lovely, quiet, peaceful place.

All too soon it was time to leave.  We walked back to the bus stop along the road, encountering a local couple walking their dog along the way.

On the trip back to Winchester, we saw that many people who lived along the road had mounted small lighted Christmas trees, like they were flags or wind socks, outside their homes and businesses.

Here's a link to the virtual tour of the Jane Austen's House Museum:  http://www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk/about/house_tour.htm

Here's a three-minute video tour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oy935wQVQRA

No comments:

Post a Comment