We are beginning 2018 with a change of name! Having previously been known as Chawton House Library due to our significant collection of early women’s writing, we have now shortened our name to Chawton House. Our Chair of Trustees, Louise Ansdell, explains: “The library collection, which features many treasures, including a unique manuscript in Jane Austen’s own hand, will still remain at the core of what we do. However, we’ve had feedback that potential visitors to the house and gardens are confused and – in some cases – put off by having ‘library’ in the name, which could mean that it is only open to library users when this is certainly not the case – we want all to come and enjoy what we have to offer.”
She adds: “Chawton House offers an immensely satisfying visitor experience for a wide range of people, which is demonstrated by our Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence and the glowing visitor feedback we regularly receive. The house, which dates back to Elizabethan times, is itself a fascinating building full of Knight and Austen family alterations and heirlooms. From lunching in the old kitchen tearoom to strolling in the walled garden and exploring the Wilderness, there is much to see and do, and this of course includes – but is not limited to – learning about our collection of some 10,000 volumes of early women’s writing: the women who were Jane Austen’s contemporaries and foremothers.”
Since opening to the public via ticketed admissions in 2015, we have seen a dramatic increase in visitor numbers (over 400%) and we see growing this visitor business further as part of the wider picture of securing our long-term financial sustainability. Many of our supporters know that we launched our new ‘Reimagining Jane Austen’s Great House’ campaign in 2017 following the news that our founder, Dr Sandy Lerner, would no longer be offering financial support through her foundation from 2018, leaving a significant gap in our operating income. We aim to continue to grow and diversify our income streams to secure our future, including both traditional fundraising and growing the visitor business. None of this will affect the continued work of the library, which is still a thriving hub of research activity.
Our most recent fundraising initiative is a ‘Brick by Brick’ campaign whereby supporters can ‘buy a brick’ for £25 or more to help save Jane Austen’s ‘Great House’ one brick at a time. The programme, launched in November, has raised £15,000 in its first three months. Jane Lillystone, our Director of Fundraising, says: “Our fundraising efforts have got off to a great start but there is still a long way to go. We know that Jane Austen’s ‘Great House’ has tremendous potential as a heritage landmark and we continue our campaign to enhance and reimagine this national treasure for all to enjoy.” Find out more about the buy a brick campaign here.
We will retain the legal registered name of Chawton House Library and we continue in our commitment to maintaining this outstanding collection of women’s writing.