One of the most prominent female writers of all time is, undoubtedly, Jane Austen and so one of the most inspirational places for a writer to visit is the place where she was at her most productive. Jane Austen lived in a number of houses throughout her life, but it was at the house in Chawton, Hampshire, where she lived with her mother and sister, that she saw the completion of her many novels.
The house itself is rather beautiful. It sits on the corner by a quiet road, and opposite a scrumptious tea-house. You enter through a side-building which houses the gift-shop (full of delightful books and Austen-inspired merchandise). This then takes you into the garden which is something mine can only hope to aspire to. It’s a peaceful place to sit and contemplate but also contains a number of interesting herbs and plants.
The main attraction is, of course, the house itself. The rooms are a blend between museum and home. It contains artefacts from Jane Austen’s time, including some of her own possessions and those belonging to her closest friends and family. This truly gives you a sense of stepping back into Jane Austen’s world and seeing how she lived.
The most humble yet most extraordinary feature of the house is the original table that Jane Austen used to write her novels. Despite its importance to the books’ creation, it is nothing special to the eye. Indeed, it is rather small, with barely enough space to fit a laptop today, and there are no ornate decorations. It is very easy to walk past it at first glance before doubling back upon realising what the table actually is. But once you do, it is strangely captivating and haunting in the way you can almost see Jane Austen at work.
Walking out of the house, I found myself feeling desperate to return to my own writing and follow even the faintest of Jane Austen’s footsteps. But, before I could do so, a visit the Chawton House was in order. Chawton House is the house Jane Austen’s brother lived in, and is now a centre dedicated to the study of early women writers. It is also open to the public to explore, and have a further glimpse into the past. I was only there a short time, but it is a stunning building with a library that surrounds you with the musky smell of old books upon entering and is a room you never wish to leave. There is plenty more of the house to explore and I hope to do so again in future.
If you ever wish to visit, next year (2017) is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death so there is likely to be a number of interesting events occurring in celebration – certainly an entertaining time to go.
Jane Austen’s House Museum: http://www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk/
Chawton House: http://www.chawtonhouse.org/