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.

Search the collection with our online catalogue.

The Reading Room can be opened Wednesday – Friday, by prior appointment

Please note that we have limited capacity in the Reading Room on 16th, 17th and 18th March 2023. 

open bookWe accommodate researchers throughout the year, who would like to consult the library collections of women’s writing.

Key facts

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.

On arrival, all Readers will be required to fill out a Reader Application Form, in which they confirm that they have read and understood the Rules of the Reading Room, Handling Guidelines, and the Guide to Reproductions.


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.

Appointment Request

Anyone wishing to use the Reading Room should contact Chawton House using the enquiry form below.

Fields marked with an asterisk (*) are compulsory.

    Your name:*


    Phone number:*

    Reason for visit (e.g. MA student, personal interest):*

    Educational establishment or organisation?

    Accession number of each work requested
    (Up to 10 works. Listed at the bottom of each catalogue entry):

    Requested date and time of visit:*

    Please note, we require three working days' notice:

    Do you have any requirements we should be aware of?

    in line with the website's Terms of Use and the Privacy Policy.

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