Monday, 21 June 2021

Wargrave Local History Society

MEMBERS were given a tour of Chawton House Library in Hampshire, the former home of author Jane Austen,

MEMBERS were given a tour of Chawton House Library in Hampshire, the former home of author Jane Austen, for their annual club visit on July 12.

The property began life as a medieval house before being bought by a local family, the Knights, in the 1500s.

They demolished the old building to create the present house.

It was passed down through the family but when Thomas Knight and his wife Catherine inherited the estates in 1781, they had no children so they made Edward Austen, Jane’s brother, their heir.

Mrs Knight handed full possession of the property over to Mr Austen in 1797, at which point he took the surname Knight.

When Austen’s father George died in 1805, her brother offered her free accommodation at a cottage at Chawton, where she moved with her mother, sister Cassandra and friend Martha Lloyd in 1809.

Austen died in 1817 but her mother and sister continued to live in Chawton.

In 1948 the cottage was bought by T Edward Carpenter, who set up the Jane Austen Memorial Trust.

The Jane Austen Society also paid for restoration of the cottage, which opened as the Jane Austen House Museum in 1949 and features the table where she did much of her writing.

Richard Knight inherited the main house in 1987 but found it was run down and derelict.

Repairs were paid for by leasing it to Chawton House Library, which was set up by American Sandy Lerner, a Jane Austen fan who wanted to move her extensive library of books on women’s writing into the house. The restoration of the house took 10 years and in 2003 it opened a research centre on female authors and their work.

The group’s next meeting will be on Tuesday, September 13 with a talk on “Wargravians and the First World War”.

On Tuesday, October 11, Sue Hourigan, conservationist at the Berkshire Record Office, will talk about archive records.

Meetings are held at the old pavilion in Wargrave recreation ground from 8pm.

For more information, call Peter Delaney on 0118 940 3121 or visit

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