For the third time Chawton House Library has won a Sandford Award for Heritage Education. This prestigious prize is awarded once every five years, and celebrates education programmes at heritage sites across Britain. Judge Caroline Marcus was very impressed by the learning programme on offer here, and felt that it was worthy of commendation by the scheme.
The judges had this to say:
“Chawton House is a wonderful site to learn about Jane Austen and the social context in which she was writing. Chawton House Library can also offer a fantastic resource for students wanting to explore early women’s writing. It’s a place to literally step back in time whilst learning a regency dance whilst also discovering fascinating insights into 18th Century women’s lives and conventions. It’s also a place to take a tantalising glimpse in the old library of some of the authentic treasures of famous female writers.”
The judges visited the house in June and joined a school group to get a full sense of what we do here. After an introduction to the collection from our librarian Darren, they watched the students take part in a dance workshop in the Great Hall. This was carried out in regency costume and was similar in style to that which Jane Austen herself might have witnessed or taken part in at Chawton. Our volunteer educator, who led the activity, described the historical context around dancing: how it gave young, unmarried women and men the chance to meet and find suitable partners. This was less about romance and more about status, position and money! The group were then taken on a tour of the house. Students learned about how Jane’s early experiences influenced her novels, and were encouraged to ask questions about life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The judges commented that visiting Chawton House Library contributed to the student’s understanding of contemporary genteel life, as depicted in Jane Austen’s writings.
We are thrilled to receive such a wonderful recognition.