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Summer 2008

Welcome to the Summer edition of your Letter from Chawton, the quarterly newsletter from Chawton House Library. We have lots of exciting plans for this year, and more for 2009, which is the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s arrival in Chawton. We hope that you enjoy reading our latest news and that you can join us for some of our events in the year ahead.

Short Story Competition As part of the celebrations for the bicentenary in 2009 of Jane Austen’s arrival in the village, Chawton House Library is to run a short story competition aimed at inspiring new literary talent. The competition will be open to any writer in the English language aged eighteen and over who has not yet had a work of full-length fiction published. We are looking for stories inspired by the themes in Jane Austen’s novels or by Chawton House itself. A range of significant prizes will be awarded to the winners and the best stories will be published as an anthology. Full guidelines and an entry form will be available on the website from the beginning of September: www.chawtonhouse.org

Chawton Chickens The walled garden at Chawton House has recently become home to a dozen ‘rescue’ hens. The Chawton Twelve were liberated from a battery farm in Surrey by the Battery Hen Welfare Trust and were collected the same day by Emma Heywood, our Operations Manager, in mid-July. At one year old, the hens had reached an age when they would have been slaughtered and turned into dog food. They had never seen daylight before they came to Chawton and didn’t have any room to roost or stretch their wings. A henhouse and run were built for them in the walled garden and despite tattered feathers and sore bottoms (from the ammonia in layers of droppings in the confined space at the battery farm) they were soon pecking about happily and began laying eggs. All twelve are now recovering well and proved a great attraction at the Open Day held here at the end of July. They have also been a big hit with the staff. There’s little to beat the tranquillity of a summer lunch break spent sitting amongst the

Events for 2009 A varied programme of events is currently being planned for next year’s bicentenary. We aim to hold one Jane Austen-themed event each month throughout the year, with a mix of talks, entertainment and workshops. A full programme will be published in the next Letter from Chawton, but to give a flavour of what’s to come, a costume ball, a Regency concert and a Bridge afternoon with Mrs Bennet’s Tea are a few of the treats in store. Chawton House Library,Chawton,Alton,Hampshire,GU34 1SJ T: +44(0) 1420 541010 F: +44(0) 1420 595900 E: info@chawton.net W: www.chawtonhouse.org Registered Charity No. 1026921 Company Registration No. 2851718


flowers and vegetables listening to the quiet clucking of contented hens.

Fellow’s Lectures Two fascinating lectures are coming up this autumn. The first, entitled ‘Mad, Bad and Dangerous To Know: Byron and Women’, takes place on Thursday October 16. Given by Peter Cochrane – well-known expert on Byron – it will examine the poet’s attitudes to the different women in his life, from casual affairs to the relationships he had with his wife, his mother, his Italian mistress and his close confidante, Lady Melbourne.

is that after lying in storage for two years, some progress is now being made on restoring the timbers to their former glory. Following the most generous support of the Linbury Trust (which has pledged £50,000 to the restoration initiative) the wood has now been fully treated and preserved. Planning permission is also in the process of being finalised. We still have some way to go before the funding is in place to enable us to erect the barn and we are actively seeking further support. If you are interested in contributing to this exciting programme and would like further details, please contact our Chief Executive Steve Lawrence on: stephen.lawrence@chawton.net

Heritage Open Day

The subject of the November 6th lecture by Kirsten Ellis, is Lady Hester Stanhope – the greatest woman traveller of her age. The niece of Prime Minister William Pitt, she counteracted cruel losses and heartbreak by striking out for new territory. Taking a younger lover, she became the first western woman to cross the Syrian desert. The Bedouin Arabs – whose cause she championed – called her their ‘Star of the Morning’, which is the title of the lecture. Both events begin with a reception with wine at 6.30pm. The cost is £10 or £7.50 for Friends/students.

The Barn Project You may have read about the Barn Project in previous editions of the Letter from Chawton. This eighteenth century structure was given to us by Sainsbury plc after it was dismantled as part of the store’s redevelopment scheme in nearby Alton. The plan is to erect the restored barn as an educational facility in Church Meadow on the Chawton House estate and the good news

On Saturday September 13th (not September 8th as stated in the previous letter!) we are open free of charge as part of the Heritage Open Days initiative. Visitors will be able to see the principal rooms including the Great Hall, the Dining Room, Tapestry Gallery and the Library Reading Room. The Liss Brass Band and the Hampshire Regency dancers will be performing at intervals throughout the day and there will also be Shire horse demonstrations. Children can take part in quiz trails in the house and the gardens. Home-made light lunches and teas will be served in the Old Kitchen. This event starts at open at 10am.

And Finally… The recent performance of music and poetry by Louis de Bernieres and the Antonius Players at St Nicholas Church, Chawton, was a great hit with the audience – especially when they were handed a variety of percussion instruments and invited to join in. Many of the instruments had been made by the author himself, the more bizarre among them being a skull shaker, a rabbit skin tambourine and a very large pair of wooden spoons. There was plenty of enthusiasm for the tambourine and the spoons, but for some reason the skull shaker was left behind on one of the pews at the end of the evening. Luckily an eagle-eyed member of the Chawton House staff spotted it. Not sure what the elderly members of the congregation would have thought if one of them had accidentally sat on it at Morning Service the following Sunday….


Letter from Chawton Summer extra 2008  

Newsletter of Chawton House

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