Heavy Horses at Chawton HouseFirst horse fun ride at Chawton House Library to raise funds for estate’s heavy horses to preserve agricultural tradition.

Chawton House Library is hosting its first horse fun ride across six miles of normally restricted farmland on the Chawton estate to raise money for the upkeep and training of five heavy horses that work on the land.

More than 100 riders have already signed up for the event on Sunday, 21 September, which runs from 10am to 4pm.

Each participant will receive a Chawton House Library rosette and riders and their helpers will also enjoy free entry to explore the gardens, which includes a walled garden, wilderness and a ha-ha.

Tea and cake will be on sale in the Old Kitchen and there will be other refreshments available.

Children from Chawton CE Primary School have created some wonderful artwork showing horses and Hampshire rural landscapes for one of the many optional cross-country jumps on the course for more experienced riders.

Chawton House Library, a leading study centre for early English women’s writing, is home to the best preserved and, possibly, the only Elizabethan riding stables in Hampshire.  Visitors on the day will be able to see the building, now converted into accommodation for Chawton House Library’s visiting fellows.  There will be the chance meet the heavy horses and learn more about the role they play in maintaining the estate using traditional agricultural methods. Visitors who are interested in this cause will also have the opportunity to sponsor a Chawton House Library Shire.

Angie Mclaren, Head Groom at Chawton House Library, said: “Heavy horses that are trained in traditional agricultural methods are essential to work on the estate. Horse’s hooves are far less damaging to flora and fauna than machinery and therefore horses are ideal for forestry and timber extraction work.”

She added: “The horse fun ride is a fantastic opportunity for riders to gain rare access to some really beautiful Hampshire countryside.  We are thrilled at the level of interest we have received so far and hope this is the start of an annual event at Chawton House Library.”

Tickets are £12.50 in advance or £18 on the day.  Horses under four-years-old are not eligible to participate and children less than eight-years-old must be accompanied by an adult.

Book tickets here or call Chawton House Library on 01420 541010.


Event revives a long tradition of riding on the historic Estate and Parkland.

Fun Ride on the 21st September will draw a crowd of horses and riders, the likes of which have not been seen for many years on the Chawton Estate.

The long tradition of riding is visible on the Chawton Estate due to the presence of the best preserved, and possibly the only, Elizabethan riding stables in Hampshire.  This very high status building was built to emphasise the architecture of the Great House and would have stabled up to 15 fine riding horses (the Rolls Royces of their day).  Such animals were an essential need and symbol of money and power for the aristocracy.  During the Tudor period in which Chawton House was built by the Knight family, there were special incentives to keep and breed horses, as Henry VIII took steps to reduce the acute shortage caused by his military campaigns and the dissolution of the abbeys.

The Hampshire Hunt meet at Chawton House in 1915

The Hampshire Hunt meet at Chawton House in 1915

Riding continued to be a prominent feature of life on the estate throughout the Georgian age with Jane Austen’s nephew Edward, whose main home was at the manor, referred to as an ‘unrivalled horseman’. Hunting and gymkhanas took place throughout the 19thand 20th centuries with the Knight family displaying a keen interest in horses, right up to the last Knight to grow up in the house, who held an amateur jockey’s licence.