As part of the Regency Week events, Jane Austen House at Chawton opened late for a Midsummer Evening amble.
A beautiful warm evening and the story of Jane Austen is introduced by way of a very informative film, which to be fair, really did tell you a lot about her and the place. Born in 1775 and died in 1817 Jane Austen really did contribute a lot and is a much loved writer. Her stories have stood the test of time, and they must be good as TV and film productions are regularly made and remade revelling in a period of great historical interest.
Jane moved to Chawton with her mother, sister and friend Martha Lloyd in 1809 and this is when she wrote prolifically.
The house is very pretty, and a real sense of history is mentioned with the displays, walking around the rooms is quite thrilling and hearing Jane’s story does make you feel that Mr Darcy is not too far away!
The garden in the summer is picture perfect and you are treated to a guided tour by Head gardener Celia Simpson, who answered questions and spoke of the work that has been done. Quaking grass was a feature of the boarders and a favourite with younger visitors.
The boarders are full of strong smelling flowers, old fashioned roses, Campanula, Canterbury Bells, and a magnificent cardoon ornamental plant (related to the artichoke). Beds also contained herbs and flowers for dye’s, medicine, and herbs for culinary flavour.
Occasionally there is a chance to explore a part of the attraction that is not regularly in use, in this case a chance to visit the attic rooms of Jane Austen’s house. The talk given by Madeline Smith was brilliant, her knowledge of the house gave both older and younger members of the tour a real sense of place. The attic was believed to have been servants quarters, now mannequins with costumes from a TV series are set up and candles shed a little more light into a part of the attic that you can not venture into.
One of the most exciting parts was to see the history in the visitors book; from 1949 when the museum opened its doors, the first signatory on the page is that of the Duke of Wellington! Looking down the list you can see a fair few family names of well connected patrons that also came to enjoy the building. The Carpenter family purchased the building to be held in trust for prosperity after its importance was recognised.
The majority of the Jane Austen collection is held in climate controlled conditions at the Hampshire records office, but the items out on display in the house did not disappoint, the volunteers and guides with their enthusiasm brought a sense of Miss Austen to this place.
One of the demonstrations on this evening was by Julienne Gehrer, a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. She has researched and collated a book of the family recipes she had made some for visitors to see and smell. All proceeds from the book: Dining with Jane Austen, go towards the Jane Austen House and Chawton house library.
The evening really came to life with the Jane Austen Pineapple Appreciation Society, who dress up and simply enjoy talking about Jane Austen, find out more @laughingwithlizzie.
Why not stick on Pride and Prejudice (2005 Matthew MacFadyen and Keira Knightly) and then come along for a visit.