Chawton House Library was featured on the BBC Glorious Gardens from Above, Hampshire episode.
The programme offers spectacular views of the house and grounds from a birds-eye perspective. Viewers can see Jane Austen’s brother Edward’s walled kitchen garden, the serpentine path and natural open parkland. An interview from inside the library with Dr Stephen Bending, a senior lecturer in English Literature at the University of Southampton, offers fascinating insight into what the gardens can tell us about the lives of 18th and early 19th-century women.
Formal and flower gardens were seen as extensions to the house and a safe, enclosed place for chaperoned women to walk. The parkland beyond, however, represented something dangerous and off-limits – an open space associated with liberty that allowed for freedom of movement. Dr Bending reads a passage from an 1894 edition of Jane Austen’s Pride an Prejudice held in our collection, where through Elizabeth Bennet’s walk across open countryside to reach her ill sister, Austen recognises that women can move beyond the confines of the house and formal grounds.
‘crossing field after field at a quick pace, jumping over stiles and springing over puddles, with impatient activity, and finding herself at last within view of the house, with weary ancles, dirty stockings, and a face glowing with the warmth of exercise.’ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813).
Watch the episode on iPlayer by following the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04t6vp3/glorious-gardens-from-above-14-hampshire
Chawton House Library is featured at 15 minutes.
Dr Stephen Bending will be returning to Chawton House Library in the spring for a study day dedicated to imaging the 18th-century garden. More details and the opportunity to buy tickets coming soon to our website.