Fiction on Location: Chawton, England

          Chawton is a small English village located in the county of Hampshire in the Southern part of England. Many people would not be familiar with such a place unless you are a Jane Austen lover, like myself, this small village is home to something very precious to us. This small village is the place that Jane Austen called home for the last 8 years of her life and where she wrote all her famous novels we have come to love today. Her cottage is where she lived with her sister, Cassandra, her mother and fellow friend Martha Lloyd from 1809 to her death on 1817. The house was given to her and family members by her brother, Edward, who became the heir to the Knight family due circumstances of that family. The cottage was a comfort to Jane who was very unhappy moving from house to house upon leaving Bath with her father’s death in 1805. The cottage today is now the Jane Austen’s House Museum where it is open to the public to view some of the splendor that Jane left behind. Here is the link to the museum itself:  

http://www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk/

               When adventuring out to see the house that gave so much creativity to one of my favorite authors, I did not realize the trek it would take me to get there. Upon leaving London by train you have to go into the neighboring village of Alton, since Chawton is so small it does not have its own rail station. I left the rail station and walked into the quietest high street I have ever witnessed, mind you that it was a Saturday morning but as I walked down the road towards my destination I took in my surroundings. There were the normal shops of which English high street possesses mixed in with local village shops. I made sure to make a mental note of the small second-hand bookstore on my walk that was piled high with novels for floor to ceiling, I would be sure to visit it on my way back. The village expanded west to a small church and side streets that laid the homes of the village inhabitants. I have to say that if you are not a keen walker then this voyage may be a bit of a stretch for you. It is around 2 miles to the museum from the rail station but every step is worth it. So finally maneuvering myself across suddenly busy streets to a small single lane, which was to take me to the village, my world had changed.

              

            The sounds of the cars died down, and the only sound that was heard were my shoes clicking against the pavement, the wind blowing through the leaves on the tress and the local birds calling to one another. There were rolling green hills for as far as the eye could see; it was hard for a viewer not to label this scene as picturesque and it was easy to see how Jane could find comfort in such a place to write. By following the walking signs to the museum I felt a transformation upon getting closer to such my destination. The houses changed around me and the air felt and smelt different; like fresh grass, a crisp wind zipped through my coat along with the sun warming my face as a venture on to the house. Under a tunnel and within seconds you are in the village; its one street long with houses on either side made of stone, and wood that allow you to be taken back in time. As I walk, still the only sound I hear is my shoes on the pavement, the street is empty and a few cats bask in the sunlight while it is out. Finally towards the end, there is a break at the street where it forks off and any other person would have simply walked on, which I did but then stopped, turned and stood in front the house I came to see.

(The front of the house)

       The cottage is perfectly situated on the corner surrounded by a small stone wall, with red bricking for it’s exterior and white windows that allow visitors to experience the views. The house itself is, I hate to say it, picturesque with its small but elegant garden that reaches around the house. The guide at the house told me that flowers are always in bloom; she was not sure why this was so but it always brings a smile to the visitor’s faces. The house’s interior is just as beautiful as its exterior with perfectly situated chairs, tables, and regency period clothing to give the visitor an idea of how people dressed during those times. The atmosphere is one of comparison to a library; when people spoke it was in a low whisper but to be honest most people did not speak when entering the house. They were in marvel of their surrounding and everything it had to offer, it was heartwarming to see that a place that a person I look up to once stood in the room where I was. There she and I were walking down the same hallway and we both were sitting in the same garden looking up as the sun shone on that afternoon. The museum is still in possession of Jane’s writing desk which is where she wrote and finalized her novels. Here is a picture of it:

       

(Jane’s Desk and a picture of the lounge/writing room)          

The house itself was an experience that I will treasure forever, and if I am lucky will be able to visit once more. My day was memorable, exciting and it allowed an inner peace to come over me. I decided to write about this place, not just because it is the home to one of the England’s most famous writers but that this place inspired great works of fiction. This place with its lush gardens, rolling green hills, trees that gave the frame to the natural views, and quite atmosphere that gave Jane everything she could need when completely her brilliant works. Jane has always been an inspiration to me as well as many other readers, and even though she only lived a short life she still makes an impact of people and literature today. I wrote a longer post about her and her impact on me, here is the link below if you wish to read it:

https://acomfychair.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/author-as-a-glance-jane-austen/

I do hope that if you are a Janeite like myself, or are a lover of all things fiction, then you will someday make the journey like I did and go to the house that inspired it all.

Below are picture of her garden and the view to the street:

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