Y7 Visit to Chawton House
On june 13 2011, 7G visited Jane Austens house. They have written accounts of their trip for you to enjoy.
When we arrived, the first thing we did was go to the education centre. There we learnt about Jane Austen in context, her childhood, life, family and education. We were informed that she wrote the first edition of Sense and Sensibility when she was a teenager and that she was brought up in ‘genteel poverty’ (not begging for money but none to spare). After she had been to a low standard boarding school, she was taught by her father in his school for boys, which is the reason why she was well educated. She used to write horror stories to please sharing the family home and learnt how to control the emotions of the reader through her writing. Her adult life was quite comfortable and she improved her books which her brother sent to publishers, but she never knew how famous she became. It was said that even though she died, she lived on. Nowadays she is the second most read author in the English language after Shakespeare.
Jane Austen’s house was amazing; it was quite small, however the gardens were beautiful. We saw all the rooms in the house and learnt a lot about her and the time she was living in. Her brother, who was adopted by a rich family, provided her with a home. This was a two-storey house and in one of the rooms, we learnt about her family and her life. I recommend everyone to visit her house and enjoy the experience as much as we did
Ayesha Z. 7G
For me, one of the most interesting parts of the day was when we were handling artefacts. It was absolutely bewildering knowing that these objects existed 200 years ago! The various objects included two different purses, each hand-beaded by women who lived in Jane Austen’s time. Other artefacts included mourning jewellery which was worn when a person died. These brooches, rings or any other jewellery contained a lock of the dead person’s hair. We also passed around some of the clothes that the girls and boys would have worn those days: dresses and cloaks. Later on in the day we got an opportunity to dress up in clothes just like that!
After a splendid visit to Jane Austen’s house we walked down to Chawton House, the estate owned by her brother Edward Austen Knight which has now been transformed into a library for young women writers but still has the evidence of Edward and Jane’s presence.
At a young age Edward was adopted into richer hands of new parents. Thomas Knight and his wife had been unsuccessful in having a child of their own. Edward’s parents agreed that they could adopt their son who would later inherit more than one estate with beautiful sceneries, go on a world tour around Europe and have enough money to help his poorer siblings.
Edward with all the money, still thought of his poorer family. His concern increased after his father’s death which left his family without much money. He managed to help by providing his family a settled home nearby his house.
When we arrived at Chawton House we were taken to the ball room where loads of paintings of young women authors were hung on the wall alongside one of Edward himself which was placed in the next room - the dining room - where weddings and ceremonies are now held. After hearing the history of Edward Austen Knight, we separated into groups and visited the library where limited editions of Jane Austen’s books were held in secure conditions, which was fascinating. The illustrations and writing were presented differently but the most interesting fact was that Jane Austen was not credited as the writer on the cover of the original book. Eventually we gathered back at the ball room where we dressed as people would do in that era and we learnt a lovely courtesy dance to end our trip.
After touring Jane Austen’s brother’s house, we all got a chance to dress up in the clothes of the time. This meant lots of buttoning and knotting - very complicated stuff. If any pupils were not in the mood for lady-like long dresses then they were free to dress up in men's jackets. Everybody looked splendid in their outfits, especially when we had our pictures taken in front of the grand house. It was a great idea to make us feel more 'in place' when we were dancing.
The Jane Austen trip led up to the dance - a dance which plays a small part in the film “Pride and Prejudice” - a famous novel of Jane Austen’s. The dance was simple, but there were a few steps and all though they were hard to remember at first we finally got the hang of it. We kept tripping over the dresses that came way down past our knees, so we had to hold them up as we stepped in and out, and circled and skipped and generally just had fun learning an old-fashioned dance.
When I say this, and I am sure all of 7G will agree, this trip was great fun, whether their favourite part was dancing, the house or handling artefacts. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip from the tour of Austen’s house to dressing up and learning a terrific dance. Obviously, we learned lots from it! We are also all thankful for the advantage and opportunity of learning about Jane Austen’s life. The staff at the museum had organised a complete day of activities: a very engaging talk on the author’s life and family, a tour of her home, handling crafts and clothes of her day, a visit to her brother’s fine mansion house including the library. The day concluded with all students dressing in appropriate costumes to learn a Regency dance which was great fun. We experienced a range of activities which enhanced our appreciation of the novel we are reading in class.