Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Jane Austens House

Last week I had my step mother-in-law from Manchester staying from Tuesday to Saturday. She has always been a regular visit to see us in the South, however with all that has happened to us in the last 18 months (the death of my mother in law and my sister amongst other things) we have not been able to accommodate her. I have not been physically or mentally up to doing much and when discussing what we would do on Friday I was not sure I would be joining her and my husband.

That is until I heard them talking about going to see Jane Austens house in Chawton (about 40 minutes away from us). You can visit their website here. We really did have the most amazing few hours.

It was lovely to be looking around without the children there - that sounds terrible doesn't it? I would love to go around again now (and I will do), taking my youngest, having read all the information on this first visit I know that I would be able to help her investigate her own interests.

It is years since I have read any of Jane Austens work, but now, having seen where much of it was written and knowing so much more about her life it has definitely inspired me to go back to her writings. There were so many personal letters and gifts on display that talk or show things that were put into books.

There were lots of costumes of the era on display, it was great to be able to go right close to them (some were not behind glass, being reproductions made in exactly the way they would have been). Getting so close I could see just how parts were stitched by hand - WOW - they were so intricate, so delicate.

Being in the actual rooms, standing next to the actual table that she wrote on, touched me very deeply. After looking around the house we went for a short walk to the village church where her sister and mother are buried. Walking those steps knowing this was the same journey she herself would have made to the church was just awesome. I had never realised before what sort of a life my name sake had had, especially her dying so young (41 almost my age). We do all have a short time on earth, I am very thankful that Jane Austen left such a wonderful gift in her writing for us to cherish generations down the line.

We also visited Cassandras Cup, for lunch which was absolutely exquisite, decorated with beautiful china tea cups and with a menu that made me feel quite giddy. We enjoyed this so much that noticing that they do Christmas lunches in December my husband and I have booked ourselves in - there were very few places available, so it obviously does have a tremendous reputation. What's more we did notice they have a B&B there, maybe we will have to try and have a hide-away there some time.

So anyone now coming to visit us is going to be encouraged to go along, it may not have inspired my writing too much but boy it has so enticed my creativity I am almost fit to burst.

If you do visit the site, why not look at their blog - it looks quite interesting, I didn't find out too much about their resident writer, Rebecca Smith, though her recently published novel looks very intriguing. You can find out more about her from here.
Finally I was so touched by this prayer which is on display in Janes beautiful handwriting that I thought I would copy it out for you to see:


Give us grace almighty father, so to pray, as to deserve to be heard, to address thee with our hearts, as with our lips. Thou art everywhere present, from thee no secret can be hid. May the knowledge of this, teach us to fix our thoughts on thee, with reverence and devotion that we pray not in vain.

May we now, and on each return of night, consider how the past day has been spent by us, what have been our prevailing thoughts, words and actions during it, and how far we can acquit ourselves of evil.
Have we thought irreverently of thee, have we disobeyed thy commandments, have we neglected any known duty, or willingly given pain to any human being? Incline us to ask our hearts these questions oh! God, to save us from deceiving ourselves by pride or vanity.
Give us a thankful sense of the blessings in which we live, of the many comforts of our lot; that we may not deserve to lose them by discontent or indifference. Hear us almighty God, for his sake who has redeemed us, and taught us thus to pray.


  1. Wow! Absolutely incredible! If I ever get back to the UK, I am SO going to Chawton. I am a huge Austen fan, having read all of her books multiple times and reading also her letters to Cassandra. If I ever get to the UK, we'll go there together and have tea, okay?

    Your California friend (as far removed from Chawton as is possible on earth),

  2. absolutely most definately Susanne! Can't wait!

  3. I'm coming along with Susanne! This looks SO inviting! We'll all go once alone, and then we can have our daughters join us . . .

  4. And can you take us to see Shamu (or one of his/her descendants/cousins/namesakes) one day?!!

  5. I think my husbands comment above is for you Susanne, Katharine wouldn't that just be so much fun!