On July 7th 1809 Jane Austen, her mother, her sister Cassandra and their friend Martha Lloyd moved from Southampton to Chawton in Hampshire. Their new home, known as Chawton Cottage, was offered to his widowed mother and sisters by Edward Austen Knight.
What a gift - it must have meant everything to the women who, like so many of Austen's heroines, were so reliant on the kindness and goodwill of male relatives.
It was here that Jane Austen prepared "Sense and Sensibility", " Pride and Prejudice" and "Northanger Abbey" for publication and where she wrote "Mansfield Park", " Emma" and "Persuasion". As Virginia Woolf would write one hundred years later, having a room of her own, a place to write in, made all the difference to Jane. Freed from the mundane daily chores, taken care of now by her sister Cassandra, Jane Austen found the space and time to focus on her writing and perfect her art.
Jane Austen was very happy to return to her beloved Hampshire. Writing to her brother Frank on July 26th 1809 Jane says:
"Our Chawton home how much we find
Already in it to our mind
And how convinced that when complete
It will all other houses beat
That ever have been made or mended
With rooms concise or rooms distended"
In 1949 the house was donated to the Jane Austen Society (founded by Dorothy Darnell of Alton) by T. Edward Carpenter , who had bought the house in memory of his son who was killed in World War Two.
The house was opened as Jane Austen's House Museum in 1949. In it can be seen, among many items of Austen memorabilia, the little mahogany writing table where Jane sat while writing her wonderful works of literature.
A great place for any Austen fan to visit!
By Eileen Collins