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Thursday 13th June 2024 

Visit to Chawton House and Library of Early Women's Writing

Chawton House, just outside Alton, was known to Jane Austen as the ‘Great House’. It was owned by her brother Edward who, in order to inherit the Chawton estate, had been required to change his name to Edward Knight. Jane was, of course, a frequent visitor. Since Edward’s death the ownership of Chawton House has continued to pass down the family line. 

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However, in 1992, Richard Knight sold a 125-year lease on the house to a Foundation established by Sandy Lerner, a computer scientist and co-founder of Cisco Systems, an American company.


Mrs Lerner’s main interest was in early women writers and within Chawton House she established The Centre for the Study of Early Women's Writing, 1600–1830 - a Library to promote the works of these literary pioneers. The Library was opened in 2003 to specialist scholars. It has a collection of over 9,000 books, together with related original manuscripts. It works in partnership with the University of Southampton, and provides an important resource for the university's MA in 18th Century Study.


Today the House, gardens and parkland are home to many treasures as well as the Library. There is a fine collection of portraits, Austen heirlooms such as the family dining table and historic landscape features including a magnificent walled garden and a ha-ha. The extensive gardens will be open to explore if you wish – either before or after the conducted tour. Some people may opt to have a picnic lunch in the garden before the tour. Jane Austen’s House is half a mile from Chawton House and will be open (entry £13.50).


This is a self-drive visit. Car parking is about 200 yards from the House but there is space for disabled drivers next to the House. Numbers are limited – just 30 for our group. So if you are keen, please apply promptly. Conducted Tours (3 small groups) of the House and the Library itself will start at 2pm. Cream teas (included) will be served at 3.30pm.

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