Villains In Power 

16 October – 4 November 

‘You speak like a heroine […] We shall see if you can suffer like one.’

Montoni to Emily, Ann Radcliffe The Mysteries of Udolpho

From the wicked uncles sinister patriarchs of Radcliffe’s novels to the Byronic heroes that developed into the first English Vampires, and the brooding heroes of the Brontës, the nightmarish worlds of early Gothic novels are filled with depictions of villains in power. Although primarily men, powerful seductresses and female devils in disguise also made their mark on early readers, thrilling and terrifying them in equal measure. In the shadowy corridors and subterranean passages of ancient castles and ruined monasteries, these malevolent figures reign with absolute authority, wielding their influence over the innocent and vulnerable.

Our 2023 Gothic season explores these characters, some representations of pure evil, and others more complex. We revisit the struggles between darkness and light in bestselling and lesser-known Gothic works, showing how these novels reflect on nature, nurture, and the capacity of humans for evil.

The Programme:

Starting 16th October – Gothic Library Display: Villains in Power

Enjoy a special display in the Long Gallery showcasing the villains in power in our collection. You will find
canonical Gothic novels alongside their popular chapbook imitations, exploring the female-authored villains who froze the blood of their readers.

October Half Term – 21st to 31st October: Kids Trail: Villains & Superpowers 

During half-term, all kids wearing their Halloween costume get to visit for free! Bring little ones dressed as green witches and warlocks to fly around Chawton House’s autumnal gardens this October half-term. Explore the House and Gardens with brand new kids’ trails – spot the Queen of Hearts and the Bride of Frankenstein, along with witches, spiders and poison apples. Or delve into the ghoulish gardens with quiz trails of riddles and rhymes based around Villains and Superpowers.

 Monday 16th October – Online Talk: Rose McKean, Tales of Terror!

8-9pm BST

Rose Mckean was a Chawton House Visiting Fellow in July, and is a Wolfson Foundation Funded PhD-researcher at the University of York.

Friday 20th October – Gothic Supper & Ghostly Tales

Friday 3rd November – Gothic Supper & Ghostly Tales


Enjoy the shadowy corners of our atmospheric old kitchen or the eerie ambiance of the smoking room as you immerse yourself in an evening of evening of Gothic gastronomy and ghostly tales.

As the night deepens, enjoy a specially-created Gothic themed menu, inspired by the wicked villains in the Chawton House collection. Afterwards, gather by the fire in our historic Great Hall and lose yourself in ghost stories, performed by Sasha Dean.

Monday 23rd October – Gothic House Tour

Tuesday 31st October – Halloween House Tour


Are you brave enough to visit Chawton House after dark?

Join us for a night to freeze the blood as we step into the world of Gothic literature, where great villains and the ingenious women writers who breathed life into them await your presence. Enjoy the atmospheric surroundings of Chawton House, and learn the secrets of the house, the portraits, and the books within. Be on the lookout for ghostly apparitions and veiled mysteries as we shine our lanterns into the darkness.

Wednesday 25th October – Moonlight Wilderness Walk


Experience Chawton House in the moonlight. Join one of our knowledgeable guides on a tour of the grounds and discover more about Chawton House’s eerie family history. Don’t forget to look out for the creatures that only emerge in the darkness of night.

Friday 27th October – An Evening with Frankenstein: late night screening


After an introduction in our atmospheric Library, curl up in the Great Hall and enjoy a screening of Frankenstein (1931). In a village of the Bavarian Alps, in a laboratory inside a watchtower, Henry Frankenstein and his assistant Fritz piece together a human body, aiming to discover the secret of creating human life. Frankenstein is a 1931 sci-fi/ horror film directed by James Whale, and adapted from a 1927 play by Peggy Webling, which in turn was based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.

We look forward to welcoming you!