Wednesday, 27 August 2008

It is a truth universally acknowledged

... that a lot of 'tourist attractions' are deathly dull and not worth the money. Not so the two houses we visited on a recent visit to Chawton in Hampshire, famed as being the adult home of Jane Austen. The house everyone visits -and with reason - is her cottage on the main street in the village. In 1809 she moved here and spent all but the last few months of the rest of her life living here. It was from Chawton that her works were published, and many of them written.


The (dodgily named) Cassandra's Cup teashop across the road makes a mean treacle sponge and custard too.

But on the day we visited, by stroke of luck Chawton House was also open - Jane's brother Edward was adopted by the Knights, who were relatives of the Austens and had no children of their own. He changed his name (and indeed in an early example of Girl Power all the men who married into the Knight family were obliged to change their name to Knight), and apparently Jane spent many happy visits there.


These days it is the home of the Chawton House Library which focuses on "women's writing in English from 1600-1830" and has a craftily concealed gin cupboard in one of the bookshelves. We thought it might be a good place to store naughty children but the librarian was having none of it.

In one room was a portrait of Kitty Fisher, as in "Lucy Locket lost her pocket, Kitty Fisher found it". Don't want to worry you Lucy, but apparently the Pocket was Lucy Locket's young man who was pinched by the naughty Miss Fisher ...

It's been gorgeously restored and you can almost imagine Jane's characters strolling around. Could this have been the "prettyish kind of a little wilderness" where Lady Catherine de Bourgh took Lizzy to task over Mr Darcy?


Chawton church is in the grounds of Chawton House and here, in a quiet corner, are the graves of Jane's mother and her sister Cassandra.


One of the highlights of the day was a dancing demonstration by a local group of Regency dancers, in full costume, who gave fascinating little chats along the way about the history of the dances and the language of fans. I tried to channel Persuasion (who could resist Captain Wentworth?) rather than Armstrong and Miller, and I nearly succeeded. Nearly. I can't find a clip of one of their dancing sketches, but since I adore them here is a clip that might make you feel better about this year's joke of a British summer.


28 comments:

  1. Crumbs Locket! Best you go now and tie the lovely Mr Locket down! Errrr.... or something ;-)

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  2. Oh! We loved Chawton and the very reverent atmosphere in the house. You were so lucky to go to Chawton House too - MissM will be very jealous.

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  3. This post truly took me to another world...

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  4. This was a perfect post in every way! Thanks for "taking us along." (Still chortling over naughty children in the gin hiding place.)

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  5. Oh dear. We used to live about 10 miles from here and I'm ashamed to say I never once visited. I shall make a point next time I'm back (less than four months!). Loved the weather clip - he he!

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  6. I loved reading your post!! It was so charming and funny :o) What beautiful pictures! I would love to visit those places... someday. And that video clip made me laugh, too. Take care & have a great Thursday.
    xox,
    Linnea

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  7. How come your piccies are sunny?

    I smiled at the clip (and reached for the phone to place my request, er I mean vote).

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  8. Hmm, a gin cupboard. Can you buy one of those from Ikea? Or perhaps the classifieds at the back of Country Living. No? I see a gap in the market and a business opportunity!

    Lucy better keep Mr Locket away from that Fisher strumpet! What a piece!

    Loved that sketch - I haven't been tuning in to Armstrong and Miller but I think Mr P and I would definitely enjoy it.

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  9. Oh, when you walked into Chawton house, did you say 'what an extreeeeemely small hall!' in a haughty voice? Lady C de B is the best snooty old baggage!

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  10. What a delightful post - it felt like walking back into another era. I'm rather taken with the idea of a gin cupboard.

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  11. Lovely post. I like the sound of the gin cupboard, too. Up with girl power!! Great weatherman clip too, thanks

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  12. Thanks for little tour through Austen land!
    The wheather clip is great!

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  13. That bad Miss Fisher!
    Those both look fabulous and I want to go and visit them right this second!!

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  14. Trying to think of a connection between a gin cupboard and a library but I can't. It just makes me smile. I've always loved the romance of books written around those times (Austen), but could you (me) really imagine being female and living at that point in history? Frightening really.

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  15. Oh, how wonderful! So wonderful to see this! I've been wanting to go to Chawton a long time. We had hoped to take a daytrip there when we were in London last month...but it rained and rained the day we planned to go, and we ran out of time to do another day. I hope we can get there next time. Such a lovely post--thank you! Happy Day ((HUGS))

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  16. So...Kitty Fisher was no do-gooder helping out a friend by 'finding' a lost item!

    Looks like a wonderful place to visit.

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  17. what a lovely post - i just love jane austen - its nice to be transported into another era sometimes! great pics - put it on my list of places to visit!
    i'm just trying to visualise where i might put a gin cupboard!! under the stairs maybe!
    xx

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  18. Thanks for sharing your wonderful day out!
    And the lovely history about it...
    Not just a pretty post to look at... but very funny and interesting to read!
    Keep up with the good work!
    Kisses
    Debbie Moss

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  19. I love learning about new places to visit 'fairly' nearby. Chawton is definately on the 'list' now, it looks a fabulous day out and I can't wait to visit.
    Great weather clip by the way!
    Jane. x

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  20. That looks like a great place - I'd like to visit it.

    Sorry to hear about the rain. Over here people have this annoying tendency to keep saying 'I'm glad it's raining as we needed it so badly' everytime it does rain - as if the bi-annual drizzle and not the sprinkler systems are what's keeping the gardens alive...

    I was telling my friends about summers spent on the south coast as a kid, sitting on the beach in the rain, as we were sure it would soon pass... and that there would be plenty of others doing the same. I think they now think the English are a little nuts.

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  21. Thanks for the great tour -- now I want to visit! What beautiful pictures you've taken too. I loved the video -- so fun to have a glimpse of what you're experiencing over there -- I wonder how the phone vote turned out???

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  22. Must add Chawton to my increasingly long list of places to visit! K x

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  23. May I lower the tone just to say I LOVE Armstrong and Miller?

    I do love Jane Austen too...

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  24. Hmmmmm - sounds good - but did it tell you what Kitty Fisher and Lucy Locket actually were? I may not have chosen the name if I'd known before hand! Although the fact that Lucy Locket ran through all her man's money before Kitty Fisher ran off with him (hence the pocket with no money in it) would ring true! Lucy x

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  25. What a lovely post. I have a gin cupboard aswell. It also has rum and absinthe in it - but no books.

    LOVED the clip. I nearly reached for the phone too. I mean surely theres' SOMETHING we can do? Perhaps just best to stick to a Sundance for now .. but if we get the same again next year, Watch out you Weathermen!!

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  26. Chawton looks beautiful and almost on our doorstep so I must visit!
    I love that clip too!!!

    xxx

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  27. Thanks for the Jane Austen moment and deconstruction of the Lucy Locket rhyme. Great photos.

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  28. I have a gin cupboard. Well it's the same cupboard as the cereal, but as it's the only spirit I drink (and dear old husband drinks no alcohol), it can be called the gin cupboard (there are 3 different types of 'regular' and a bottle of sloe gin in there...it depends on the calibre of visitor as to which gin I offer...)
    I wish I could swan about in a big old country pile speaking frightfully haughtily and posh-like...I'm off to pretend....

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