Thursday, 10 July 2014

Chawton House Trip

by Lara Spirit and Pippa Harris

On Tuesday 8th July Miss Burden and Mr Richardson took eight year 12 pupils to Chawton House Library, Hampshire. Chawton House is the old home of Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen Knight, who was adopted by the family’s wealthy relatives in 1783 and inherited the property and fortune of the family at their deaths. Jane Austen’s house was provided by Edward less than half a mile from the manor house, where she spent the last years of her life and was said to write many of her novels. In 2003, American entrepreneur Sandy Lerner started the library and since it has become The Centre for the Study of Early English Women’s Writing, 1600-1800. The house now contains over nine thousand books, many of which are very rare, and includes writers such as Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft.

We set off at break and it took us little over an hour to arrive at Chawton where we were given a short break and then lead to the library. We all cleaned our hands in preparation for the invariably fragile books and were taught how to handle the volumes in a way as not to damage them. We all took out some pieces of interest and shortly after it was time for our highly anticipated pub lunch.

After numerous burgers, nachos and chunky chips which exceeded expectations, we returned to the library and continued reading what we had taken out, and after an hour or so set off home. The journey back to Portsmouth proved slightly problematic, with pouring rain and the search for a petrol station growing in urgency following Miss Burden explaining that we had ‘been on zero for a while’; it was nevertheless a surprise when we broke down just turning into the petrol station. We consequently spent the next few minutes pushing the mini bus into position in the rain, although the amusement of the situation allowed this to be done without objection. It should be noted that failing to arrive at a petrol station before this accident was no error of either Miss Burden or Mr Richardson, rather an ambiguous and misleading sat nav.

Overall the day was both useful and enjoyable, with all that went learning valuable skills surrounding rare book collections and some interesting historical context surrounding the house and Jane Austen’s family. The experience was useful to all taking on some form of an extended essay this summer and we would like to thank Miss Burden and Mr Richardson for the opportunity, and for a fun and eventful trip.

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