Gentle Readers, these fantastic images are by Tony Grant from London Calling. The text are quotations from the fabulous Chawton House Library site. This site is rich with information and history. I am so impressed with the section on chickens, which were rescued and given a chicken-friendly coop for roosting and free ranging. The horses are magnificent as well. Sandy Lerner has done a magnificent job of turning this once ruin of a house into an historic library and museum. As Tony’s images show, this house is a world treasure .
In April 1551, the land was sold for £180 to John Knight, whose family had been tenant farmers in Chawton since the thirteenth century and who had prospered sufficiently to wish to acquire a large estate.
The medieval manor house was replaced by John Knight’s grandson, also called John, with the largely Elizabethan house that can be seen today. - History
In 1781, Thomas Knight II inherited, but when he and his wife Catherine showed no sign of having children of their own, they adopted a son of the Reverend George Austen, who was a cousin of Thomas Knight’s.
Edward Austen Knight eventually took over management of the estates at Godmersham and Chawton in 1797, living mostly at Godmersham and letting the Great House at Chawton to gentlemen tenants.
In 1809 he offered a house in the village to his mother and two sisters Cassandra and Jane, and it was there that Jane Austen began the most prolific period of her writing life.
By 1987, when Richard Knight inherited, parts of the house were derelict, the roof leaked, timbers were rotting and the gardens were overgrown with scrub. The decline was halted in 1993 with the sale of a 125 year lease to a new charity, Chawton House Library, founded by the American entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sandy Lerner, via the charitable foundation established by her and her husband Leonard Bosack, the Leonard X. Bosack and Bette M. Kruger Foundation.
The grounds and gardens at Chawton House Library continue to be in the process of restoration although a great deal has already been achieved. The focus of the restoration is the English landscape period of the eighteenth century together with Edward Austen Knight’s early nineteenth-century additions of walled kitchen garden, shrubberies and parkland. – The estate
The Library Terrace was built between 1896 and 1910 (probably in 1904-05) by Montagu Knight (1844-1914). The terrace was actually an Arts & Crafts addition and almost certainly influenced by Edwin Lutyens.
Gravel paths are not typical of the English Landscape period and were probably introduced by Edward Knight II (1794-1879).
According to Montagu Knight, the brick Upper Terrace was built in 1901. In the early twentieth century this was a broad grass terrace with a central gravel path, recently uncovered.
In Jane Austen’s time, the kitchen garden was located to the north of the Rectory (opposite the current entrance to Chawton House). Edward Austen Knight had the idea to build a new walled garden during his sister’s lifetime: in 1813, Jane Austen wrote to her brother Frank:
‘[h]e [Edward Austen Knight] talks of making a new Garden; the present is a bad one & ill situated, near Mr Papillon’s; — he means to have the new, at the top of the Lawn behind his own house’.
However, her brother’s plans did not come to fruition until after her death in 1817. - The estate
The Wilderness dates from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and was originally set out geometrically with trees in straight rows, a practice which was later dropped. It survived the English Landscape improvements.
Church Copse. This area to the rear of St. Nicholas Church was cleared between 1999 and 2000, revealing the Knight family pet cemetery and the rear lychgate into the churchyard. Of particular interest in this area are the several large, important eighteenth-century lime trees and a yew tree, probably from the same period. - The estate