Jane Austen's Hampshire

Chawton - Jane's literary home

In 1809, Mrs Austen, Cassandra, Jane and Martha Lloyd moved to  Chawton, near Alton. Here they lived in the former bailiff's house on the Chawton estate. The estate had been left to Jane's brother Edward, who had been adopted by a wealthy childless cousin of their father's.

It was Jane's last home, where she lived with her mother and sister Cassandra from 1809 until 1817. The rooms on show include the drawing room, and the parlour where Jane wrote on the small round table. Upstairs is her bedroom with the patchwork quilt she made with her mother and sister.There are four other rooms, one of which has memorabilia of her two brothers, Frank and Charles, who both had distinguished careers in the Royal Navy. Another room houses a period costume display.

The Jane Austen House Museum is housed in the charming red-brick 17th century house, listed in the National Archives as a building of historic interest Chawton House Library.

There is an extensive collection of family mementoes and documentary material, including copies of letters written by her. A pretty garden surrounds the house, stocked with many old varieties of flowers and herbs and Jane's donkey carriage is displayed in the adjoining old bakehouse.

At Chawton, which is today naturally regarded as Jane's literary home, Jane led a quieter life and resumed novel-writing. Jane revised both Sense & Sensibility which was published in 1811 (and made Jane £140), and Pride & Prejudice, which was published in 1813. This was an instant success. All Jane's novels that appeared during her lifetime were published anonymously, merely bearing the legend "By a Lady", which was not uncommon at the time. Mansfield Park was published in 1814 and Emma in 1815. Persuasion was completed in 1816 but was not published until 1818, after Jane's death in 1817. Northanger Abbey was also published in 1818.

Jane and Cassandra normally went for a walk every day and used to go shopping in Alton, where their brother Henry, who was a London banker, had a branch bank. This was at 10 High Street, where the family post was delivered and collected

Also near Alton, and within walking distance of Chawton, was Wyards, the home of Anna and Ben Lefroy. Anna was the eldest daughter of Jane's brother, James, from his first marriage to Ann Mathew. Jane and Cassandra were very fond of their niece, often visiting her or having her to stay with them in Chawton, and her memories recorded in later years provide a lot of biographical information about Jane Austen.

Right - A pencil and chalk sketch of Anna Lefroy, (1793-1872) attributed to her sister-in-law, Emma Austen-Leigh, Hampshire Record Office ref 23M93/84/3

Finally, in Chawton, a short walk from Jane's home is St Nicholas's Church where Jane's mother and her sister are buried. The present church was rebuilt in 1872 following a fire which destroyed the church that Jane would have known.

 
Jane Austen's House in Chawton Jane Austens writing desk Pencil and chalk sketch of Anna Lefroy Gravestone of Jane's mother