From 1809 until 1817 Jane lived in Chawton village near Alton with her mother, sister and their friend Martha Lloyd. Restored to the rural Hampshire she loved, Jane turned again to writing and it was here that she produced her greatest works, revising all previous drafts and writing Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion in their entirety.
Remarkably, even now the approach to Chawton is not so changed by progress as to be unrecognisable from what it was in Jane Austen’s day, with thatched cottages remaining. The risk of flooding was a fact of life in eighteenth century Hampshire too, as Jane bemoans in March 1816: ‘Our pond is brim full and our roads are dirty and our walls are damp, and we sit wishing every bad day may be the last.’
A museum to Jane’s life, the house in which Jane lived so happily now showcases Austen family portraits and touching memorabilia such as the handkerchief she embroidered for
her sister, original manuscripts and a bookcase containing first editions of her novels.
Visitors can stand behind the modest occasional table at which Austen wrote, to admire the peaceful garden cultivated to feature 18th century plants.
Although there were adequate bedrooms for the sisters to have their own rooms, Jane and Cassandra chose to share a room, as they had done at Steventon. Jane rose early and practised the piano and made breakfast. We know that she was personally in charge of the sugar, tea and wine stores.
Also in the village is Jane’s brother Edward’s home - now Chawton House Library. The collection of women's writing from 1600 to 1830 stored here is accessible to visitors by prior arrangement.
From 2009, work has been underway to mark the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s arrival at the
house in Chawton.
‘Our Chawton House how much we find already in it to our mind, and how convinced that when complete it will all other houses beat.’