I started off the week with an interesting and detailed tour of the House and its beautiful Gardens – this took many hours, as the property and wider estate is huge.
The House consists of many interesting features from the Elizabethan era (built in the 1580s), through to the Georgian and Victorian periods. For example, inside there is the ‘Great Hall’, which has a grand fireplace (lit when the weather is cooler). Above it are displayed many coats of arms from generations of the family. In the room there are also portraits of professional women writers from the eighteenth century. It was great learning about the lives and careers of these women writers.
Next up was the Dining Room, which holds an enormous table – suited for rich and glamorous banquets – and on which Edward Knight and his family, with Jane Austen, would have dined. The Dining Room also has a display on Edward Knight –with his portrait, some clothing and his journal documenting a tour through France to Switzerland in 1786 – including a portrait of one of the earliest women travel writers.
Overall, I through the interior of the House was stunning, from the great staircase, the stained glass windows and the period furniture to the Lower Reading Room with its unique collection of books.
But one of my favourite parts of the House is the Old Kitchen tearoom. I enjoyed working here and helping Mandy and Carol in the kitchen – and I loved serving the customers their orders, it felt like I had a real job.
I have really enjoyed my week here at Chawton House. I have met wonderful new people and learnt so many new things about the eighteenth century women writers – and about Jane Austen and the Knight family as well. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy and learn so much from my work experience. Chawton House is an amazing place – and this has been a great opportunity. I hope to come back soon and learn even more.
I would finally like to thank everyone who has helped me and been friendly and supportive throughout the week. With a special thanks to ‘Toby’ the dog (who meets and greets everyone) – and who is probably the cutest dog I have ever had the pleasure of meeting!
Sam Halstone – July 2018