This week we took a visit to Jane Austen’s House in Chawton, the family home where she lived the last eight years of her life.
Jane Austen (1787-1817) was one of England’s best-known authors and is still loved and respected around the world. The house in Chawton is where she wrote and revised her six great novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion.
A visit to the Jane Austen House is a treat for any Jane Austen fans but also makes an interesting day out for anyone looking for things to do in Hampshire.
Chawton is a quaint village in Hampshire, on the outskirts of Alton. It is a cute place, with thatched cottages, a playground, and open fields. Chawton is only 16 miles from the medieval city of Winchester, Jane Austen’s resting place.
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Jane Austen's House Museum
The 17th century red-brick cottage where Jane Austen spent her final years is now a museum. Visitors can take a self-guided tour around this Grade-I listed building, which celebrates the life and works of the beloved author.
Nowadays, the Jane Austen House is brimming with memoirs and souvenirs from the Austen household, providing a real insight into Jane’s life. So, it’s really no surprise that the Austen home is now one of the world’s most important literary sites.
Some rooms carefully replicate how it might have looked in Jane Austen’s time, with furniture and household objects from Jane’s house. Others are more museum style with cabinets displaying personal possessions and treasures. Everywhere you’ll see information boards about the objects and her family, so you’ll discover loads about Jane’s lifestyle. Even if you’re not a fan, there’s a historic interest that will appeal.
One of the highlights of the Jane Austen collection is her tiny wooden writing desk by the window. It was here that Jane would write her letters and celebrated novels. Strangely enough, Jane was a private writer and would hide her papers away if anyone entered.
As well as personal possessions, you can also see costumes and collectibles from the Austen films and the drama “Becoming Jane”.
Jane was a prolific writer. In addition to her novels, she wrote regularly to her sister and best friend, Cassandra. In these letters she would share every detail of her daily life, which has greatly informed historians about her. In the museum, you’ll see a unique collection of letters, manuscripts, and first-editions of her books.
“but indeed I would rather have nothing but tea”
Looking around, snippets and quotes from her books adorn the rooms and shed light on the Austen family’s lifestyle.
Jane Austen's grave
In 1817, Jane left her house in Chawton to move closer to her physician in Winchester. Unfortunately, she’d suffered a period of ill health and eventually died on 18th July 1817.
Jane Austen is buried in Winchester Cathedral. However, her sister and mother continued to live at the Chawton house for the rest of their lives.
Jane Austen's House Gift Shop
After your tour of the house, you can visit the pretty cottage garden. We gave this a miss, as it was raining so hard. However, we did head to the Brewhouse, for some Jane Austen dressing-up (some photos that we won’t be sharing!).
The exit from the museum leads back through reception to the little Jane Austen gift shop. Here visitors can choose from a selection of special edition Jane Austen books, gifts, jewellery, and clothes.
Jane Austen Walk
If you have time, I’d recommend the Jane Austen circular walk. Follow in the footsteps of Jane to local places she regularly visited when she lived in Chawton. Jane enjoyed spending time in the local countryside and would often visit local family and friends.
This circular walk takes you past Chawton House to the nearby villages of Upper and Lower Farringdon. Jane often visited the family of Revd. John Benn, the curate of Farringdon.
Jane Austen wrote,
“Harriet Benn sleeps at the Great House to-night and spends to-morrow with us; and the plan is that we should all walk with her to drink tea at Faringdon”
The Jane Austen trail is a scenic walk of 4.5 miles, which took us about 1.5 hours. However, it was muddy in places. It also has some steep steps and uneven paths, so may not be accessible for all.
Download a map of the literary walk here.
St Michael's Church, Chawton
The first stop on the Jane Austen walk is at St Michael’s Church, which is at the entrance to Chawton House. At the rear of the churchyard, you can visit the graves of Jane Austen’s mother and sister, Cassandra.
As well as the graves, you can see a sculpture of Jane Austen and some magnificent ancient yew trees. So, it’s worth a visit to the church, even if you’re not doing the walk. St Michael’s Church is only 8 minutes’ walk from the Jane Austen House.
Chawton House and Library
Beyond the church you can see 400-year-old Chawton House, home of Jane Austen’s third brother, Edward. Edward inherited the large Edwardian house and estate from Thomas and Katherine Knight. These distant relatives of the Austen family adopted Edward to be their heir, as they had no children of their own.
After moving in, Edward provided Jane, his mother and sister Cassandra, with use of the Chawton cottage on the grounds. Jane and her sister had fallen on hard times after their father’s death and were living in temporary accommodation.
The author often visited her brother and family at the “Great House” and Jane wrote fondly of her times there. She was one of eight children, and it’s believed she took much inspiration for her novels from family get-togethers.
Today Chawton House is open to the public. As well as many artefacts from the Austen family, the house showcases exhibitions of inspiring women writers. It also has an amazing library, with many original rare books.
For Jane Austen fans, a visit to Chawton House ties in well with a visit to Jane Austen’s House. You could also stop for refreshments in the Tea shed or do a parkland walk around the grounds.
Chawton House is open from 10am. Click here for prices and full opening times at Chawton House.
Where to eat in Chawton
You’ll find several places to eat in Chawton. Opposite Jane Austen’s house is a cosy teashop, Cassandra’s Cup. Here you can choose from a selection of drinks and homemade cakes. Remember to look up, as the teacups are hanging from the ceiling.
Next door to the café is the The Greyfriar pub. This is a lovely country pub with a choice of a bar menu or à la carte. The food is tasty, and the service was excellent. I would recommend booking, as they were turning people away when we were there.
You can also eat at The Old Kitchen Tea Room in nearby Chawton House. Here you can get light lunches from Wednesday to Sunday or afternoon tea.
Practical information for your visit
Jane Austen's House Opening Times
Jane Austen’s House Museum is open from 10am to 5pm (with last admission at 4pm) at peak times. During the winter months it is not open every day.
As admission is limited to 12 people per session, it is advisable to book (especially Friday-Sunday).
You can find details of prices and availability here at Jane Austen’s House.
How long does it take to visit the Jane Austen House?
Although the house is not big, you will probably need 45 minutes to an hour to tour the house. This will allow time to look at all the momentos and read the information boards.
How to get to Chawton
Chawton is between Farnham and Winchester in Hampshire, in South England. You can drive from London in one hour. Chawton is just off the A31 and is clearly signed.
There is a small public car park opposite Jane Austen’s House. Parking is free.
Regular direct trains run from London Waterloo to Alton and take about 1hr 17 mins. From here you need to take a taxi to Chawton.
Alternatively, take a direct train from London Paddington to Winchester. From here you can get the no 64 bus to and from Chawton.
The number 64 bus service runs daily between Alton train station and Winchester. The bus stops at the A31 (junction 32) roundabout near Chawton.
Places to stay near Chawton
Upper Neatham Hall is a 17th century barn in Alton. Click here for prices and availability.
The Sky Penthouse has a good location, between the station and Winchester Cathedral. For something more traditional Hang your Hat is set in a former brewery worker’s cottage. It is just 5-minutes’ walk from the city centre.
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