Our books and manuscript collection contains over 4,500 rare and early editions of works by women writers in the period 1660 – 1860.
Our historic collection focuses on women’s literature in English, with manuscripts, rare and early editions, and for some works, the only known surviving copy. This is supplemented by an extensive collection of scholarship on women writers and the long eighteenth century, alongside contemporary editions.
The Reading Room can be opened Wednesday – Friday, by prior appointment
Please note that the Reading Room has reached capacity for Friday 20th May, Wednesday 8th June (afternoon session) and Thursday 30th June.
We accommodate researchers throughout the year, who would like to consult the library collections of women’s writing.
Appointment requests are to be made at latest three working days in advance, via the below form. The Curator will then confirm that we can accommodate your visit on the requested date, via email. Please do not organise accommodation or travel prior to confirmation, as the Reading Room may already be full. We will respond to you within 3 working days.
Opening hours are 10:00 – 13:00 and 14:00 – 16:30.
The Reading Room is closed from 13:00 – 14:00, for a one hour lunch break. Researchers will be asked to vacate the room.
The Reading Room will always be invigilated by a member of staff.
Core works to be studied must be selected in advance. Readers may consult up to 10 works at one time, but fewer may be stipulated depending on the scope of the request. Readers may be asked to consult manuscript materials one at a time.
Readers may access plug points for laptops and on-site Wifi.
Readers can access Orlando, the database of women’s writing in the British Isles, on-site, free of charge.
As an Elizabeth manor house, Chawton House does not have a lift. Readers with access requirements may use a ground floor study room.
Readers relying on local transport, such as taxis, are advised to book well in advance to ensure availability.
Readers are asked to not to wear nail polish, as this can chip off and damage the books.
There are a number of local hotels and B&Bs in Alton for researchers wanting to spend a few days in the Reading Room. We recommend Riversdown House for scholars wanting a peaceful environment nearby, and you can find out more about staying at Riversdown here.
Anyone wishing to use the Reading Room should contact Chawton House using the enquiry form below.
Fields marked with an asterisk (*) are compulsory.