Isabel Rogers, Poet Laureate of Hampshire, has written four poems inspired by her time at Chawton House Library.

This is the first of four poems and was composed in our Long Gallery. This broad corridor was originally used for exercise by the ladies of the house when the weather kept them indoors. A gallery like this was traditionally used as a space for the display of family and other portraits to impress visitors. The heraldic stained-glass windows referenced in the poem were added by Montague Knight between 1910 and 1913. They show the coats of arms of successive freeholders together with their date of accession.

Long Hall

Twenty paces end to end,

an hourglass narrowing

like a waist from the future.

Floorboards cross my path.

They lie to bar my way

not smooth it, each step

a creak of old wood.

It lists like a ship –

cracks, shifts,

slopes to the stairwell.

The house is alive

and nothing is square.


We are cocooned

by inclement weather

and may run mad,

a tiger pacing behind bars

in our soft slippers,

petrichor a heady rush

reserved for gentlemen’s lungs.


There is no view here,

no sweep of landscape

or horizon,

only two windows in one wall,

so we crane our necks

to glimpse the Courtyard 

through a dozen coats of arms

set in pocked glass.

We oscillate,

a tacking ship

controlled by the gales

men send to blow us back

to safe harbour.


I can leave at any time.

There are seven doors

but none leads to a land

I can command.

The Long Gallery


Heraldic Glass