Welcome back to Romance Wanderlust, where I write about romantic destinations to which I have not been. This is not a review or an endorsement, just a description of a thing I read about online while sitting at home in my pajamas.
This month’s destination is Chawton House, where you cannot spend the night (alas) but you can eat, read, and get married. Extra points if you do so in Regency attire and if you can successfully convince your fiance to declare, “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you” on a daily basis.
Chawton House is located in the Hampshire (England) countryside. It is Elizabethan in style, built in 1580. It was the home of Edward Austen, Jane Austen’s brother. He was essentially adopted by the wealthy Knight family when he was twelve. This adoption gave Edward opportunities that the money-strapped Austens could not provide, and provided the Knights with a male heir.
As an adult, Jane Austen visited “the Great House” often, and during the last decade of her life she lived a few miles away in a cottage in Chawton. The cottage is a museum run by a different nonprofit and although you can’t sleep in it, you can go into it and see many incredible Jane things and I would live there if they would let me but they won’t.
Here’s what Chawton House does now, according to their webpage:
We foster research and understanding of early women writers, restoring them to their rightful place in the history of English literature and enabling them to speak directly to – and inspire – future generations.
We have a unique collection of women’s writing which is accessible to anyone who wishes to use it. Many of the works in the collection were entirely neglected throughout the twentieth century – research carried out here is helping to put these books and their authors back on the intellectual map.
The House and Gardens are open to visitors, and the historic setting brings to life the context within which our women writers lived and worked.
They have this amazing collection of women’s writing, primarily dating from 1600-1830 and you can go into the Reading Room and look at all the things. If you live in the area you can join the Reading Group and discuss women’s literature over afternoon tea. You can also explore the catalog online.
If you want to pry yourself away from the books, and why would you, you can get married at Chawton House which is very Austen-y and romantic. You get to use the house and the grounds. You can dance in the Great Hall. You can wander the restored and gorgeous grounds, which include an herb garden, terraces, and a lime avenue. You can wear a dress like this if you can find or make one:
Usually in Romance Wanderlust I look for destinations at which one can stay. Perhaps I can stay at Chawton House if I hide in a closet. Anyway, they had me at “books,” and, if I have to come up for air, they have gardens and tea.
If you’ve been to this lovely location, tell us all about it!