Skip to content

Our First Anniversary Give–Away

December 16, 2012

Today is the anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth in 1775 at Steventon in Hampshire. Visitors to the museum will be asked to join in our celebrations, as usual, by being offered a warming cup of coffee and a seasonal mince pie. And exactly one year ago we began this blog. So, to celebrate, we are going to offer a very easy competition with a rather special prize.

The rules are very easy. If you leave a comment to this post, then you will be automatically entered into a draw to win a copy the Chawton Edition of Sense and Sensibility  which has been especially commissioned by the Museum to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility in 2011.

2012-11-09 15.42.44

This edition includes a facsimile of the first edition of the book that was published by Thomas Egerton in 1811.  All three volumes are bound in one, and it has been published in a strictly limited edition of 500.

2012-11-09 15.43.10

The book comes in a beautiful presentation box, which also contains a reproduction of the Austen family seal, a feather quill, and a certificate of authenticity. In addition to all this, the Museum commissioned a foreword in the form of an essay about Sense and Sensibility written by Professor Kathryn Sutherland, of St Anne’s College, Oxford, who is the Museum’s Patron.  This is contained in a separate 20 page booklet which is also included in the presentation box.

2012-11-09 15.43.24

The competition will be open until the 17th January, 2013. You can add your comment until then, limited to one comment per person. The winner will be chosen at random by Louise West, the Museum’s Curator, on the 18th January and the result will be announced soon thereafter . We ought to emphasise that the competition is open to anyone who reads this blog, wherever you are in the world, for, we consider that if you take the trouble to read us, and to comment, you should be eligible to enter!

And now it only remains for us to say….Good luck!

Wedgwood Plates? Well, not quite…

December 12, 2012

Annalie, the Museum’s Education Officer manages to think up very intriguing and attractive activities for visitors to the museum and their children to take part in during school holidays. We have already seen that the chance to write with a quill pen was very popular earlier this year

During the Autumn Half-Term Holiday she organised another activity that has proven to be very popular: creating decorated paper plates inspired by the china that Jane Austen knew, some of which is on show at the Museum. The activity took place in the Kitchen:


She provided the visitors (of all ages!) with some photographs of an early 19th century Willow Pattern plate;

2012-11-09 14.28.26

A photograph of some of  the Wedgwood China that was made for Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Knight;

2012-11-09 14.28.20

We then went to Wedgwoods where my Brother and Fanny chose a Dinner Set. The pattern is a small Lozenge in purple, between lines of narrow Gold; & it is to have the (Knight) crest…

[Letter to Cassandra Austen, 16th September 1813]

And some  Wedgwood “foliage” china which is currently  very kindly on loan to the Museum. This china did not actually belong to the Austens but is from the same period, so it is very likely that the china Jane Austen writes about in her letter to Cassandra of 1811 (see below) was very similar in design.

2012-11-09 14.27.52


On Monday I had the pleasure of receiving, unpacking and approving our Wedgwood ware. It all came very safely and upon the whole is a good match, tho’ I think they might have  allowed us rather larger leaves, especially in such a year of fine foliage as this…

[Letter to Cassandra Austen, 6th June 1811]

The visitors then were invited to decorate a plain, white paper plate, inspired by these images and by their visit to the Museum. Here is one of the plates, and  more examples can be seen in the gallery at the end of this post:

2012-11-09 14.26.51

The results are now on display, very appropriately, in the kitchen and you will be able to see them on your next visit.

2012-11-09 14.26.31

As it has been so successful, the activity is still on offer for a limited amount of time.

Louise West and celebrating “Pride and Prejudice” on Radio Solent

December 8, 2012

Our Curator, Louise West, gave an interview to Katie Martin of BBC Radio Solent on Thursday 6th December, and we thought you might like to hear it.

Katie Martin of BBC radio Solent ©BBC

Katie Martin of BBC radio Solent ©BBC

Louise’s interview about Jane Austen and the Museum’s plans for the year-long celebrating the bicentenary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s most famous novel, begins at approximately 36 minutes into the programme. If you click here you can listen to the programme again. The interview lasts approximately ten minutes. It is available for the next five days.

We hope you enjoy hearing about Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice and our plans for next year!

The 2013 Young Writers Competition is Launched

December 4, 2012

The new Young Writers Competition has been launched by the Museum, which, this year, is being very generously supported by the Hampshire Branch of the Jane Austen Society.

2013 is a very special year for the Museum as it is the 200th anniversary of the first publication Jane Austen’s most popular novel, Pride and Prejudice. Her first version of that novel was entitled, First Impressions and that is the theme for the 2013 competition. Entrants to the 2013 competition are required to write a short story of between 300-400 words in length, inspired by the concept of First Impressions.



The three judges will be Professor Kathryn Sutherland of St Anne’s College, Oxford, Patron of the Museum; Rebecca Smith, novelist and 2010 Writer in Residence at the Museum and the Museum’s Education Officer.

The First Prize-winner in each age group will be awarded a £50 Book Token, Second Prize-winner in each age group will be awarded a £30 Book Token, and  the Third Prize-winner in each age group will be awarded a £20 Book Token.  Do note that there will also be a prize for the school/college library of the First Prize winners in each age group.

The competition is open to young people who are resident and or attend school in the UK and are in school years 7-11. Prizes will be awarded in two categories: School Years 7 – 8 and School Years 9, 10 & 11.

Full details of the competition can be found on the Museum’s main website, here. All entries must be received at Jane Austen’s House Museum by 4pm on Friday April 26th, 2013.

The winning entries will be published on the Jane Austen’s House Museum website, and winners will be invited to the Museum to collect their prizes.

The rules, term and conditions of the competition can be found on the entry form, which can be downloaded from the Museum’s website, and which you can access via this link, here.

The Museum to feature on BBC One’s “Countryfile”

November 28, 2012

The BBC were filming a fortnight ago at the Museum. A team from BBC One’s very popular programme, Countryfile spent the day in Chawton village  filming at the Museum  for a programme which will highlight Jane Austen’s last home in Chawton, which is, of course, set in the beautiful countryside of the South Downs.

Here is a picture of Countryfile’s very lovely presenter,  Ellie Harrison playing the Clementi square piano that is on show in the Drawing Room at the Museum during filming.

Ellie Harrison in costume, playing the Clementi square piano at the Museum for BBC One's Countryfile

Ellie Harrison in costume, playing the Clementi square piano at the Museum for BBC One’s Countryfile programme

The programme will be broadcast on Sunday the 2nd December at 18.20 and we do hope you will all be able to watch it!

Writing About Home Competition Winners

November 20, 2012

We thought you might like to see some pictures of the winners of our annual writing competition, which this year had the theme of writing about home, to tie in with the Museum’s celebration of At Home with the Austens.

1st to 3rd Place Winners of the Competition in the Museum's Garden

1st to 3rd Place Winners of the Competition in the Museum’s Garden

As you may recall the competition was open to schoolchildren in years 7 to 11.  All the winning entries can be read by accessing this page here.

Years 7-9 1st to 3rd Place Winners, with Rebecca Smith who was one of the judges (rear left) and Annalie Talent, the Museum's Education Officer( rear right)

Years 7-9 1st to 3rd Place Winners, with Rebecca Smith who was one of the judges (rear left) and Annalie Talent, the Museum’s Education Officer( rear right)

The Judging Panel included Rebecca Smith, teaching fellow at Southampton University and Professor Kathryn Sutherland of Oxford University, and they were very impressed by the high standard achieved by this year’s entries.

Years 10-11 1st to 3rd Place Winners, with Rebecca Smith and Annalie Talent, as before

Years 10-11 1st to 3rd Place Winners, with Rebecca Smith and Annalie Talent, as before

You can read their comments here.

The Jane Austen Young Writers’ Competition for 2013 will be launched towards the end of this year, and, of course, we will be delighted to let you have details of it here, so please do look out for it!

The Highly Commended Group with Rebecca Smith and Annalie Talent.

The Highly Commended Group with Rebecca Smith and Annalie Talent.

At Home with the Austens: Receipts for “Milk of Roses” and “Pot-pourri” from Martha Lloyd’s Household Book

November 1, 2012

Visitors to the Museum often comment favourably on the small and entirely appropriate flower arrangements which adorn most of the rooms and add life to them, adding to the impression that this was once a well-loved home.


During the summer months the vases can be filled with the same type of flowers that were grown in the garden when Jane Austen lived there. Celia, our gardener, has taken great care to ensure that old varieties of roses which Jane Austen might have known are still grown in the garden that surrounds the house.

Roses of this era were generally of the type that flowered only once a year, at midsummer, unlike modern varieties of roses which can repeat flower from May to October. The roses grown in the garden now include the ancient varieties Rosa gallica var. officinalis, also known as The Apothecary’s Rose due to its use, from the 13th century, in medicines and ointments, and Rosa Mundi ( Rosa gallica “Versicolour”) which, with its distinctive pink and white striped petals, was developed from a sport from the Apothecary’s Rose. Historically these roses were prized for their form and for their strong fragrance and were used not only to adorn rooms but also for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Rosewater was, at this time, often used as an ingredient in balsams and ointments designed to protect the complexion from the effects of the wind (redness/sunburn) and also to prevent the appearance of freckles. In Martha Lloyd’s Household Book, which is currently on display at the Museum, there is a receipt for Milk of Roses, a concoction which could be applied to the skin to protect one’s “bloom”:

Milk of Roses

 ½ pint of rosewater- ½ an oz. of Sweet Almonds- 12 grains of Salt of Tartar. To be mixed well all together.

It was given to Martha for inclusion in her book by Charles Austen, Jane Austen’s youngest brother who was, of course, a serving officer in the navy and eventually became an Admiral. He would certainly have known, from his active service at sea, of the effect that exposure to strong winds and blazing sun could have on the skin. Can we assume therefore that his complexion was probably in a better condition than the companion of Admiral Baldwin in Persuasion who had, according to the disapproving of Sir Walter Elliot ,

..a face the colour of mahogany, rough and rugged to the last degree; all lines and wrinkles

Persuasion, Chapter 3.

Perhaps we can. It is interesting to note that this product was so popular in the early 19th century that it was also available commercially, and was produced by Richard Warren and Richard Rosser of Bond Street in London. Charles Austen’s mixture has every chance of having had a good effect on the complexion due to the ingredients used. Rosewater and almond oil are still used by the cosmetics industry today because they have moisturising and calming properties.  Do note that the Cream of Tartar was used in the mixture only as a preservative.  In view of the benign ingredients in this mixture, it might have been wiser for Mrs Clay in Persuasion to have used it on her face in preference to Sir Walter Elliot’s choice, Gowland’s Lotion, for that lotion contained some ingredients, most prominently mercuric chloride, a derivative of sulphuric acid, which could and did have harmful effects.

Another recipe in Martha’s book concerns the use of roses. When the summer was over, then, provided the Austen ladies had been prudent and diligent when their roses were in bloom, they could still enjoy their fragrance by making their own Pot-Pourri. Pot-Pourri was a mixture of dried flower petals, which were preserved by adding orris powder (made from the root of Iris x germanica var florentina,) This mixture could be placed in open jars or bowls to scent a room, or in bags to scent linen and clothes stored in drawers.  Martha Lloyd’s receipt is a simple but effective version, and one that you might like to try yourselves:


 Gather your roses free from wet and dry them in a shady room, and lavender when quite ripe the same. When they are perfectly dry they must be put in a jar with ¼ to ½ lb of orris powder, according to the quantity of roses. Half an oz of Bergamun, some cloves pounded, some cinnamon. Cover it and stir, now and then. Put any perfume you like on a bit of cotton and when dry put it with the rest into sweet bags.

Then two large handfuls of salt thrown at the bottom of the pot. Then a layer of flowers, and continue one layer upon another till all the flowers are in. The flowers may be put in as they are fit so as salt is always thrown in with them. The ingredients should be stirred every day with a wooden spoon, and when the jar is full the spices should be put in  and the whole stirred up. It does best when put in to a large jar with a good deal of salt and the jar stopp’t close for two or three months.