Category Archives: News

Book launch and garden tour at Chawton House Library to reveal how gardens inspired the nation’s best-loved authors

Jackie Bennett small Photo credit Richard HansonChawton House Library, a leading study centre for early English women’s writing, is to host a talk and book signing event for Jackie Bennett’s latest book, The Writer’s Garden, which reveals how gardens inspired the nation’s best-loved authors, including Jane Austen.

The garden writer and historian will read from Austen’s novels and letters to show how gardens, including the historic parkland at Chawton House Library, once the home of Austen’s brother, Edward Austen Knight, found their way into Austen’s work.

Other writers and their gardens in the illustrated book include Agatha Christie and Greenway, her home near Brixham in Devon, Virginia Woolf and Monk’s House, her 17th century cottage in Sussex and Roald Dahl and Gipsy House, his home in the Chilterns.

The event is on Wednesday, 3 September, from 11am at Chawton House Library and includes refreshments in the Old Kitchen and a tour of the listed gardens with the head gardener.

Jackie Bennett said: “It’s fascinating to learn how the writers used their gardens in lots of different ways.

“Some used them as a hideaway and somewhere to write, including Virginia Woolf, whose writing ‘shed’ is probably the most famous. Agatha Christie, on the other hand, used her garden at Greenway in Devon as a location for her crime stories.”

She added: “With other writers, including Jane Austen, it’s more difficult to pin down exactly which gardens are which in their work.

“What we do know is that Austen was familiar with grand houses, such as Chawton House Library, but her own situation was much simpler.

“She was brought up on a small holding at the family rectory in Steventon near Basingstoke, and then spent her last years at a cottage in Chawton which had far more modest gardens.”

Keith Arscott, Development Director at Chawton House Library, said: “This event is an opportunity to follow in Jane Austen’s literary and gardening footsteps and trace her journey from her childhood smallholding in Steventon, Hampshire, to the grounds of Godmersham in Kent and finally to the village of Chawton.”

He added: “Understanding how these writers across several centuries sought inspiration from their gardens, and how their outdoor space influenced their work, helps to bring both their homes and their writing to life.”

Chawton House Library aims to educate and inspire people of all ages to read the works of early English women writers from 1600 to 1830, from Aphra Behn to Mary Wollstonecraft, and preserve the literary heritage for academics and non-scholars for generations to come.

The house itself, which is more than 400 years old, is regularly open to visitors, alongside library readers, for tours and during public events.  It also provides research facilities for Visiting Fellows from around the world, learning projects with local schools and colleges and fosters links internationally through seminars and conferences.

Tickets for The Writer’s Garden event cost £11, or £8.50 for students or friends of Chawton House Library, and can be bought online at Eventbrite or call 01420 541010. Signed copies of the book, which is published by Frances Lincoln, will also be on sale on the day at an exclusive price.

 

Jane Austen Short Story Award 2014

NPG 3181; Jane Austen by Unknown artistWe are pleased to announce the winner, runners-up and finalists of the 2014 short fiction award organised by Chawton House Library.

The competition attracted entries from around the world and amongst the finalists are American, Australian and British writers. The standard of this year’s entries was very high, which made the process of adjudication challenging. It is clear from the range of stories that all of Jane Austen’s novels continue to inspire contemporary creative writers.

Our warmest congratulations to those who have made the winners’ list. Their stories will appear in an anthology to be published in 2015, details of which will be announced shortly on the Chawton House website.

Many thanks to everyone who entered the competition.

The final adjudication of entries to the competition is as follows:

First Prize:
Pamela Holmes – The Wedding Planner.

Runners Up:
Susan Piper – The Grey Lady
Marybeth Ihle – Ladies of England

Finalists:
Anne Thomas – The Power of Nurse Rooke
Claire Girvan – The Nemesis of Meryton
Deirdre Maher – Gorgeous George
Eithne Cullen – Benwick’s Tale
Elisabeth Lenckos -  Mary Crawford’s Last Letter
Emily Ruth Verona – Forgotten Things
Fiona Skepper – Farewell Lady Catherine
Janet Lee – Mary’s Silver Knife
Jocelyn Watson – The Tell-Tale Signs
Leslie McMurtry –Five Theories
Lucy Yates – Money the Hard Way
Marian Ford – The Austen Factor
Mary Fitzpatrick – My Name is Katherine Burrows
Price W. Grisham – Candour
Sandy Norris – All at Sea
Sarah Baillie – A Thing of Beauty
Sarah Shaw – Romance and Rehydration

New Executive Director For Leading Research Centre For Early English Women’s Writing – NEWS RELEASE 1st July 2014

Gillian Dow has been appointed the new Executive Director of Chawton House Library, the leading study centre for English women’s writing from 1600 to 1830.

Dr Dow will be focusing on developing a fundraising strategy to ensure the charity’s long-term sustainability. This will include increasing legacies and major donations from individuals, and building stronger relationships outside academic circles with the business world.

Dr Dow, 38, has been with the charity since 2005, and was previously responsible for organising conferences, lectures and events, as well as running the prestigious Visiting Fellowship programme with the University of Southampton.

She will continue to develop the academic activities at Chawton House Library with the support of colleagues in the Southampton Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies.

Prior to joining the University of Southampton in 2005, Dr Dow, a graduate of the University of Glasgow and Balliol College, Oxford, taught French and English at several Oxford colleges and at Paris-Est Créteil Val-de-Marne University, and also worked as a translator.

Dr Sandy Lerner, Founder of Chawton House Library and Chair of its Board of Trustees, said: “The commitment, intelligence, energy and creativity that Gillian has brought to our programme made her our obvious first choice.

“I’m grateful to offer this leadership and continuity to our friends, scholars and, of course, our ladies.” 

Executive Director, Dr Gillian Dow, said: “When people choose to support or make a donation to Chawton House Library, they need to have to have a clear sense of what it is they’re supporting.

“We’re a study centre and our collection of writings is unique: there isn’t one like it anywhere else and that needs to be our focus.

“Women’s writing of the period of the 1600 to 1830 period will be at the heart of everything we do. The women writers of this period were such a diverse and intrepid bunch that we will never run out of ideas for how to promote our collection.”

Chawton House Library aims to educate and inspire people of all ages to read the works of early English women writers from 1600 to 1830, from Aphra Behn to Mary Wollstonecraft, and preserve the literary heritage for academics and non-scholars for generations to come.

The house itself, which is more than 400 years old and belonged to Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen Knight, is regularly open to visitors, alongside library readers, for tours and during public events.  It also provides research facilities for Visiting Fellows from around the world, learning projects with local schools and colleges and fosters links internationally through seminars and conferences.

For more information, read Dr Dow’s blog post about her new appointment and vision for the Chawton House Library.

Chawton House Library appoints first artist-in-residence – NEWS RELEASE 11th June

George Rice Smith, Chawton House Library's new artist-in-residenceAn aspiring local artist has been appointed as Chawton House Library’s first ever artist-in-residence.

George Rice-Smith from Alton will spend the next three months creating drawings and paintings inspired by the architecture and landscape of the house and grounds that once belonged to Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen KnightHe will also look to the charity’s collection of early English women’s writing from 1600 to 1830 for ideas, including works by Jane Austen and Mary Shelley.

The artist’s work will eventually be displayed in an exhibition at Chawton House Library, with some pieces available for sale.

The new voluntary post is an opportunity for Chawton House Library to support and encourage talent within the local community whilst highlighting the history and heritage of its collection of women’s writing, along with the house and landscaped gardens set within the South Downs National Park.

The charity aims to educate and inspire people of all ages to read the works of early English women writers and preserve the literary heritage for academics and non-scholars for generations to come.

The house itself is regularly open to visitors, alongside library readers, for tours and during public events.  It also provides research facilities for Visiting Fellows from around the world, learning projects with local schools and colleges and fosters links internationally through seminars and conferences.

Keith Arscott, Development Director at Chawton House Library, said: “Finding new ways to build links with our local community and encourage interest in the literary heritage that we work hard to preserve is close to our hearts at Chawton House Library.”

“Having an artist-in-residence to capture the essence and spirit of the place and, in return, helping them to grow and develop and build a name for themselves, is a very fitting collaboration,” he added.

George Rice-Smith said: “When painting landscapes, it can be difficult to find a location with a number of inspiring motifs to paint within walking distance of each other but Chawton House Library has it all. It is also an unusually tranquil environment in which to work”.

He added: “It’s great to have interest and encouragement from such a unique organisation and the chance to develop my skills in landscape painting and build up my portfolio. I also hope my appointment will help establish the residency for other artists in the future.”

George studied art and visual culture at the University of West England in Bristol before completing a post-graduate programme at the Prince’s Drawing School in London in 2013. Visit George’s website for examples of his work.

Women’s writings from First World War to be celebrated at Chawton House Library – NEWS RELEASE 4th June

War Girls CD cover 2014Poetry and prose by women in the First World War, recorded for the first time for an audio book, will be performed at Chawton House Library to commemorate women’s unsung wartime experiences.

Actress Ruth Sillers will talk about and perform extracts from her own audio book compilation, War Girls, which includes writings of ordinary women alongside well-known poets and novelists.

The collection depicts women’s loss of husbands, sons and brothers, the dangers or working in munitions factories, experiencing life in the services and their first glimpse of greater freedom and opportunities.

The event is on Wednesday, 11 June, from 2.00pm at Chawton House Library, a leading study centre for early English women’s writing, and includes afternoon tea.

The audio book includes works by Katherine Mansfield, Sylvia Pankhurst, Edith Sitwell and Virginia Woolf, as well as a poignant poem by Nora Griffiths, The Wykhamist, about a dead soldier and former Winchester College pupil.

War Girls also features much-loved songs from the period, including Keep The Home Fires Burning, Till We Meet Again and Roses of Picardy.

Ruth Sillers said: “I tried to pick pieces not simply because they were written by famous authors but because they had something relevant and powerful to say. A lot of the writings are by unknown women: just ordinary women living in extraordinary times.”

She added: “I wanted to show the widest range of women’s experiences of the First World War and the social impact it had on their lives at the time, as well as the legacy it left behind.”

Keith Arscott, Development Director at Chawton House Library, said: “For an organisation which preserves and promotes women’s writing, we thought it fitting for Chawton House Library to remember the First World War with an event that recognises and celebrates women’s contribution to the war effort and their experiences.”

“The role that women played in the Great War has been largely overlooked and War Girls is a treasure trove of women’s writing from that period and a wonderful tribute that acknowledges women’s personal hardship and suffering, as well as the beginning of greater opportunities for them,” he added.

Chawton House Library aims to educate and inspire people of all ages to read the works of early English women writers from 1600 to 1830 and preserve the literary heritage for academics and non-scholars for generations to come.

The house itself is regularly open to visitors, alongside library readers, for tours and during public events.  It also provides research facilities for Visiting Fellows from around the world, learning projects with local schools and colleges and fosters links internationally through seminars and conferences.

Tickets for the War Girls event cost £11, or £8.50 for students or friends of Chawton House Library and can be bought online or call 01420 541010. Copies of the audio book, which is published by Crimson Cats, will also be on sale on the day.

CEO bids farewell to Chawton

steve3After six and a half years at the helm, CEO Steve Lawrence is sadly leaving Chawton House Library. Read his blog here.

Talk and Afternoon Tea, Wednesday 11th June 2014

Talk and Afternoon Tea, ‘War Girls’ with Ruth Sillers

Ruth Sillers, who began her career with the National Youth Theatre and reads regularly for Radio 4 and the BBC world service, will be talking about and performing extracts from her own audiobook compilation, War Girls. The study is a commemoration of the remarkable and largely unsung experiences of women in the First World War told in their own words. Some are the writings of well-known poets and novelists, but many more are the stories of ordinary women living in extraordinary times. These are stories not just of hardship and suffering but joy and excitement at the new opportunities opening up for women.

2.00 p.m. Talk, 3.00 p.m. Afternoon tea.

Tickets £11; Students / Friends £8.50

Book tickets online or ring the library direct: 01420 541010

 

Jane Austen Short Story Award 2014

Jane_Austen_coloured_versionShort List Announced

The selection of those who have made it through to the third stage of the competition – the ‘Shortlist’ – has been made. Congratulations to these entrants. The winner, runners-up and finalists will be announced on July 18 2014.

Thank you to everyone who submitted a story. The competition attracted entries from all over the world, from as far afield as Australia, South Africa, Canada and the USA. The standard was particularly high this year, which led to some tough decisions in selecting a shortlist.

The short list:

Anne Thomas – The Power of Nurse Rooke
Christina Acosta – The Fall
Claire Girvan – The Nemesis of Meryton
Deirdre Maher – Gorgeous George
Eithne Cullen – Benwick’s Tale
Elisabeth Lenckos – Mary Crawford’s Last Letter
Emily Ruth Verona – Forgotten Things
Fiona Skepper – Farewell Lady Catherine
Janet Lee – Mary’s Silver Knife
Jocelyn Watson – The Tell-Tale Signs
Judith Hemington – Eyes Opened
Kristin Celms – The Altar
Leslie McMurtry -Five Theories
Lucy Yates – Money the Hard Way
Marian Ford – The Austen Factor
Mary Fitzpatrick – My Name is Catherine Burrows
Marybeth Ihle – Ladies of England
Moz Walls – Taking the Cure
Pamela Holmes – The Wedding Planner
Penelope Randall – Mary Bennet and the i-phone
Price W. Grisham – Candour
Sandy Norris – All at Sea
Sarah Baillie – A Thing of Beauty
Sarah Shaw – Romance and Rehydration
Susan Piper – The Grey Lady

From these entries 20 will be selected for publication. The first prize winner and two runners-up will be chosen from amongst the successful entries. The results will be announced on 18 July 2014.

Evening Lecture – Friday 6th June 2014

Evening talk and book launch with Deirdre Le Faye, Friday 6th June 2014

‘Jane loved the country, and her delight in natural scenery was such that she would sometimes say she thought it must form one of the joys of heaven’

Deirdre Le Faye will launch her new book with a talk and book signing here at Chawton House Library, set in the idyllic Hampshire countryside that inspired Jane Austen in many of her greatest works.  Richly illustrated with contemporary depictions of country folk, landscapes and animals, Deirdre Le Faye’s Jane Austen’s Country Life conjures up a world which has vanished more thoroughly than the familiar Regency townscapes of Bath or London, but which is no less important to an understanding of the life and work of this most treasured writer.

This is a wonderful opportunity to meet and learn from one of the world’s leading authorities on the life and times of Jane Austen.  Deirdre is a Patron and longstanding supporter of Chawton House Library and recently donated her collection of research and books on Jane Austen to the Library.  Apart from Austen’s letters and the novels themselves, her new book also draws on other Austen family manuscripts, as yet unpublished, which provide particular and unique information.

6.30 p.m. Welcome by Chawton House heavy horse in traditional plough harness, sheep and hens, plus the opportunity to meet our Head Horseman Mrs. Angie Mclaren.  Drinks and canapés will also be provided.

7.00 p.m. Talk, followed by the opportunity to purchase a copy of the book and have it personally signed by the author.

Tickets £11; Students / Friends £8.50

Book tickets online or ring the library direct 01420 541010

 

New legacy giving circle established

On the 27th  April 1817 Jane Austen, at home in Chawton signed her last will and testament. In commemoration of this date, the 1817 Legacy Circle was established on 27th April 2014 in Chawton, as a way to thank those supporters of Chawton House Library who have made a legacy pledge and to encourage more people to do so. Continue reading…..