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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.


Awards and Recognition for the Museum’s Educational Programmes

October 25, 2012

Recently the Museum’s Education Department has been the recipient of a wonderful report in the Times Educational Supplement regarding its Gifted and Talented Programme, and its learning courses, in particular its Pride and Prejudice day course for secondary school students, have been awarded a prestigious Sandford Award for Heritage Education.

The TES article written by Orlando Bird gave a wonderful review of a day spent at the Museum by Year 10 students from the Connaught School at Aldershot. It described how, on arrival, they were given an introductory talk by the Museum’s Curator, Louise West about Jane Austen’s life and works, followed by a group discussion guided by readings from Jane Austen’s own letters. The pupils were given a synopsis of her last complete novel Persuasion, and, after they had been separated into smaller groups, they discussed and analysed extracts from that novel. They then chose one of the extracts to adapt into a short script, and had to consider not only the text but exactly what props, costumes and locations they would need to use in order to bring the script to life. The students’ day at the museum, where they learnt not only about Jane Austen but also about the period in which she lived, helped them to complete this task with sensitivity and with historical insights gained from studying in this unique setting:

“Seeing the table Jane Austen wrote her novels on practically brought her back to life”

 was just one of the very illuminating comments made by one of the students during this particular day.

The table, in the Dining Room, at which Jane Austen sat when she was writing at Chawton

The Sandford Award was made in respect of all the courses currently offered by the Museum. The award is made by The Heritage Education Trust and it was instituted to encourage those responsible for running historic houses and to guide their educational endeavours by monitoring standards. The Sandford Awards were originally run by The Council for Environmental Education, but are now administered by the Heritage Education Trust, which was established in 1983.

Sandford Award 2012

Sandford Award 2012

A panel of independent Judges assesses entrants for Sandford Awards. The current panel of Judges is drawn from professional educationalists including OFSTED Inspectors, former head teachers, education consultants and heritage property based education officers.
 The Sandford Award Scheme currently encompasses 200 historic sites within the historical and cultural environments of the United Kingdom and Ireland and includes historic houses, museums, galleries, cathedrals, places of worship, gardens, landscapes and historic artefacts.
 The Awards are made annually and are non-competitive, and they recognize quality and excellence in the educational services and facilities offered by historic sites. The Award is valid for five years. The citation for the Museum’s award is as follows:

A visit to Jane Austen’s House Museum allows students to walk in the footsteps of a great figure in English literature.  The dedicated team makes effective use of partnerships and the resources of the site to bring the author to life and provide insight into her novels.

We are all terribly proud of the efforts made by all the staff and volunteers at the museum who made this award possible, and in particular, praise must go to our Education Officer, Annalie Talent and our Curator, Louise West for all the hard work they do to make these courses enjoyable and valuable experiences for all the school children who attend them. If you would like to arrange an educational visit to the Museum then please contact Annalie on the following email address ( and she will be only too pleased to make appropriate arrangements with you.

Charles Austen’s Sword.

October 9, 2012

The Museum has recently been the beneficiary of a very special loan, and we thought you might like to see some photographs of it.

Charles Austen's Sword on show at the Museum

Charles Austen’s Sword on show at the Museum

The object in question is the sword that was presented to Charles Austen, Jane Austen’s youngest brother, by Simon Bolivar in 1827. Charles Austen ( 1779-1852) was one of Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers: her brother, Francis Austen (1774-1865) was also a serving officer in the Royal Navy.

The decoration on the blade

The decoration on the blade

The inscription on the sword case  reads:

Presented to Charles John Austen R.N. commanding HMS Aurora at the city of Caracas 1st March 1827 by General Simon Bolivar the liberator of his country as a mark of esteem

The Inscription on the Sword Case

The Inscription on the Sword Case

 Charles Austen, on the orders of the British Government, provided naval and political support to Simon Bolivar in Venezuela. The sword is thought to have been presented to Charles as a token of Bolivar’s personal thanks to him as a representative of the British Government.

The beautifully decorated Hilt, with its cannon design

The Sword is now on display in a special display case in the Admirals Room on the first floor of the Museum, and will be on view there for the next five years. We do hope you will come to the House to see it for yourselves.

A Receipt for a Pudding in Verse

September 25, 2012

Martha Lloyd’s Household book is on display at the Museum throughout this year –The Year of at Home with the Austens–  and some of the entries in it are very unusual.

Martha was the sister of Mary Lloyd who married Jane Austen’s eldest brother, James. She lived with Jane Austen, her sister, Cassandra and their mother, Mrs Austen at Chawton.

Their household was, of course, very literary minded, and this was, interestingly, reflected in some of the entries in Martha’s manuscript recipe book. It might surprise you to note that Jane Austen was not the only person who wrote in her family: Mrs Austen was also a writer of verses.  It is considered that she may be the author of the following recipe – A Receipt for a Pudding– a bread-based pudding typical of many pudding recipes of the 18th century, which is written wholly in rhyme. It is a good example of the Austen family sense of humour at play!

A Receipt for a Pudding in Rhyme from Martha Lloyd's Household Book ©Jane Austen's House Museum Blog

A Receipt for a Pudding in Rhyme from Martha Lloyd’s Household Book ©Jane Austen’s House Museum Blog

Here is a the poem/recipe, transcribed in its entirety, for you to read:

If the vicar you treat,

You must give him to eat,

A pudding to his affection,

And to make his repast,

By the canon of taste,

Be the present receipt your direction.

First take 2 lbs of bread,

Be the crumb only weigh’d

For crust the good housewife refuses.

The proportions you’ll guess

May be made more or less

To the size the family chuses.(sic)

Then its sweetness to make;

Some currants you take,

And sugar, of each half a pound

Be not butter forgot.

And the quantity sought

Must be the same wit your currants be found.

Cloves and mace you will want,

With rose water I grant,

And more savoury things if well chosen.

Then to bind each ingredient,

You’ll find it expedient,

Of eggs to put in half a dozen.

Some milk, don’t refuse it,

But boil as you use it,

A proper hint for the maker.

And the whole when compleat (sic)

With care recommend the baker.

In praise of this pudding,

I vouch it a good one,

Or should you suspect a fond word,

To every guest,

Perhaps it is best,

Two puddings should smoke on the board.

Two puddings! – yet – no,

For if one will do

The other comes in out of season;

And these lines but obey,

Nor can anyone say,

That this pudding’s without rhyme or reason.

Come and Visit Edward Cooper, Jane Austen’s Evangelical Cousin.

September 17, 2012

As part of this year’s theme of At Home with the Austens the museum has on show, very kindly on loan, a portrait of Jane Austen’s cousin, Edward Cooper.

The Portrait of Edward Cooper on display in the Reading Room

The Portrait of Edward Cooper on display in the Reading Room

The portrait is by T. Barber and was painted in 1819. It shows him posing by a copy of the Holy Bible and with some of his sermons in his hand. Edward Cooper was an Evangelical Anglican minister and a noted writer of sermons and hymns. He published many volumes of his sermons, although it would appear from the evidence of her letters that Jane Austen did not admire all of them.  She wrote to Cassandra Austen, her sister on the 8th September 1816 after receiving a copy of his latest publication:

We do not much like Mr Cooper’s new sermons;- they are fuller of Regeneration & Conversion than ever-with the addition of his zeal in the cause of the Bible Society.

Edward Cooper was the son of the Reverend Dr. Edward Cooper and Jane Leigh, who was Jane Austen’s mother’s elder sister. He was born on the 1st July 1770, and was educated at Eton and Queen’s College, Oxford. He graduated in 1792 and became a Fellow of All Souls. He was ordained and became curate of Harpsden, near Henley in Oxfordshire. On the 14th March 1794 he married Caroline, the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lybbe Powys of Oxfordshire. In 1798 Edward was offered the family living of Hamstall Ridware in Staffordshire by the Honourable Mary Leigh of Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire. Jane Austen noted in her letter to her sister, Cassandra dated 21st January, 1799 that:

We collect from his letter that he means to reside there, in which he shows his wisdom. Staffordshire is a good way off; so we shall see nothing more of them till some fifteen years hence, the Miss Coopers are presented to us, fine, jolly, handsome, ignorant girls….

Indeed, it was seven years later, after visiting Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire in the summer of 1806, that Jane Austen was finally able to travel northwards to visit Edward Cooper and his family in Staffordshire. This was the furthest point north she was ever documented to have travelled.

Unfortunately, his relationship was Jane Austen does not, from the evidence of her mentions of him in her letters, appear to have been entirely happy.  One of his most awful offences in her eyes was his habit of writing what she obviously considered to be tactless letters of condolence. After the death of her sister-in-law, Elizabeth Knight in 1808, she wrote to Cassandra:

I have written to Edwd. Cooper & hope that he will not send one of his letter of cruel comfort to my poor Brother…

( Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 15th October 1808 )

 Deirdre Le Faye has speculated, in the Jane Austen Society’s Report of 2008, that this habit may have inspired certain aspects of Mr Collins’ character in Pride and Prejudice, in particular the episode where he sends a stern letter to Mr Bennet upon the news of Lydia’s elopement with Wickham becoming known. Be that as it may, we do hope that you might care to come and visit him the next time you come to the museum.

Pat in the Garden

August 8, 2012

Volunteers at the Museum not only work in the house and the shop but also in the garden, where they provide vital assistance to Celia, the Head Gardener. We thought you might like to see this photograph

 of Pat, one of our very valued garden volunteers, weeding in full sunshine but very sensibly wearing waterproofs to protect her from the all too frequent and heavy showers we have been experiencing this summer!

Commemorating the Anniversary of Jane Austen’s death with Roses.

July 18, 2012

Jane Austen died this day in 1817. Visitors to the Museum may not be aware that some of the plants in the garden have been carefully chosen to commemorate Jane Austen’s life.  There are two roses growing here which neatly represent a link from Chawton with her final resting place, Winchester, and also with her enduring fame.

The beautiful white English Rose, Winchester Cathedral, which was bred by the famed rose breeder, David Austin, is planted in the borders surrounding the house. The rose is named after the place where Jane Austen died and was buried.

She left her home at Chawton for the last time on the 24th May 1817 in order to go to Winchester to be treated there. Her health was failing and she needed more expert care than could be provided by the local apothecary. She lived in lodgings in College Street, but her treatment there was not successful and she died on the 18th July. She was buried in the north aisle of Winchester Cathedral.

The rose is a beautiful creamy-white flower, and flowers throughout the season, and is a fitting link between the two places.

Visitors to the museum enter the house via a side door, and next to it is the entrance to the kitchen. In the summer this is framed with fragrant pale pink roses.

 The rose is Blush Noisette, which was first raised from seed in America by the French horticulturist, Philippe Noisette. He sent plants of the rose to his bother, Louis Claude Noisette, in Paris, and he introduced it to the pubic in 1817. Which was, of course, the year Jane Austen died. The rose is a vigorous survivor from that year, rather in the way Jane Austen’s works and reputation have survived and blossomed for nearly 200 years since her untimely death which we commemorate today.

 So, when you next visit the museum in summer do seek out these fragrant and very appropriately chosen roses, to remember the woman whose works have so enriched our lives.