A visit to Chawton in Alton, Hampshire is a perfect day out for Jane Austen fans. Chawton offers everything from a Jane Austen trail to follow, her own home, and an Austen themed tea-room, to the magnificent Chawton Estate owned by Austen’s brother (frequented by Austen herself often).
Chawton is also a stone’s throw from the historic city of Winchester, in which you can visit several other significant Austen sites, including Jane Austen’s grave.
Discover everything you should do as an Austen fan in Chawton, as well as where to eat and Austen-related places to stay at nearby if you’d like to extend your trip.
How to Get to Chawton
Chawton by train: You can take the train to Alton, which takes an hour and a half if you’re coming from or changing in London. From London, the trains to Chawton are hourly. From the station you can walk 1.8 miles to the house, take the frequent number 38/64 bus for fifteen minutes or you can call a taxi from the station.
Chawton by car: Chawton is around an hour’s drive from London, through Hampshire, and you’ll find a number of places for parking including in front of Chawton House and next to Cassandra’s Cup tea room.
Tip: You can get half-price tickets to both Chawton House and Jane Austen’s house if you have an Art Pass. This also gets you free or discounted tickets to hundreds of other places and exhibitions across the country.
My Dearest Frank, I Wish You Joy
“Our Chawton home, how much we find
Already in it, to our mind;
And how convinced, that when complete
It will all other Houses beat
That ever have been made or mended,
With rooms concise, or rooms distended.”Jane Austen, 26 July 1809.
Chawton House and Library
Mentioned numerous times in Jane Austen’s letters as ‘the great house’, Chawton House belonged to Jane Austen’s brother, who inherited the home from Thomas and Catherine Knight, but was also enjoyed by Jane Austen as much as her own home. Over four hundred years old, the house was built in the 1580s.
Austen frequently dined at Chawton House, and the Knight family dining table where Austen sat is still there to be seen today. Many people believe that Mr Knightley’s Donwell Abbey in Austen’s Emma was modelled upon Chawton House.
It’s also a museum to early women writers; you will be able to see first editions of Austen’s works as well as works by Mary Wolsetencraft, Mary Astell, George Elliot, and many more.
Her brother’s early travel journals and suit are also in the museum as well as the Knight’s private library, featuring a number of their original rare books which are thought to only exist at Chawton House.
“I went up to the Great House between three and four, & dawdled away an hour very comfortably,”
What to do at Chawton House
The House: Spread over two floors, there’s a lot to see in the house itself and you’re welcome to sit on and touch anything that hasn’t been designated otherwise. Numerous portraits associated with the Knight family are present, the books mentioned above, and Mary Lawrance’s Sketches of Flowers from Nature.
You will follow a linear path through the house after a short introduction from the staff and end at the gift shop and library. There are numerous copies of Austen’s books to purchase as well as other souvenirs.
The Old Kitchen Tearoom: Sit outside in the courtyard and enjoy some cake, tea, soup, and sandwiches. Gluten-free bread is available, and the sandwiches are generous and truly excellent. You can also take a sandwich away and go sit in the parkland. They’re open from 10 am to 4 pm daily.
The Gardens: Take some time to wander the glorious gardens and woodland of Chawton, the highest point of the grounds is the Walled Garden which was built by Edward Austen and also referred to in Jane Austen’s letters. A garden map is available here to view and follow.
Make sure to catch the Elizabeth Blackwell Herb Garden inspired by her work A Curious Herbal which you can see inside the house.
You can also follow the parkland walk to really make the most of the grounds here or follow The Jane Austen Garden Trail which is a unique walking route around the grounds featuring quotations from Austen’s writings.
Tip: You can even enjoy a local falconry experience.
The Tea Shed: Open to ticket holders and non-ticket holders, you can visit the tea shed for refreshments to take on your walk. You will find it opposite St Nicholas church on the walk into Chawton House.
Find out more and book tickets on the Chawton House website.
‘Chawton may be called the second, as well as the last home of Jane Austen; for during the temporary residences of the party at Bath and Southampton she was only a sojourner in a strange land; but here she found a real home amongst her own people.’A Memoir of Jane Austen, James Edward Austen Leigh
Jane Austen’s House
Just eight minutes walk down the road from Chawton House is Jane Austen’s House. This is where Jane Austen lived for the last eight years of her life and is a beloved museum dedicated to Jane Austen. It was in this cottage that Jane Austen revised, wrote, and had published all six of her novels.
Smaller and more intimate than Chawton House, your journey through the building will take you through the simple life that she, her mother, and her two sisters lived in from the drawing-room to the dining room, and bedrooms.
One of the most splendid features of Jane Austen’s house is her original writing desk: a tiny round thing with a simple wooden chair. She wrote everything there, at a place in the corner of the room only big enough for a few sheets of paper.
It’s said that she was a very private writer. If she heard any creaking footsteps outside the door, she would stop writing immediately.
Every space is filled with fascinating information about Austen and her family. You will also discover many items that belonged to Jane Austen, as well as first editions of her work, and get a chance to explore the quaint cottage garden.
Jane Austen’s house is a true time capsule; it shows every visitor how she spent her days, what items and foods her life was filled with; the views she saw and the space she inhabited. These are the spaces and things that inspired her novels.
Your tour will end at the shop which is almost entirely dedicated to Austen and as a huge number of editions of her books. Including my personal favourite: Chiltern Editions. We also took Lucy Worsley’s Jane Austen at Home where you can learn lots of facts about the house and her life in it.
Find out more and book tickets on the Jane Austen’s House website. Your ticket to the Jane Austen museum is also valid for a year so you can come back anytime for free.
Jane Austen Circular Walk, Chawton
This 4.5-mile circular walk starting at the centre of Chaton allows you to enjoy some of the beautiful Hampshire scenery as well the key Jane Austen spots in the area including the village of Farringdon.
“…and the plan is that we should all walk
with her to drink tea at Faringdon”Letter to Cassandra, 29 May 1811
There is a downloadable leaflet (link here) that gives you a detailed account of the route and the significance of each stopping point.
Cassandra’s Cup Tea Room
Directly across the road from Jane Austen’s house with a lovely view of the cottage, you can enjoy an afternoon tea or light meal at Cassandra’s Cup Tea Room which is named after Austen’s sister Cassandra. They also have a bathroom and WIFI available to catch up on the day and a selection of local produce and food-related souvenirs.
On 24 May 1817, Jane left Chawton with Cassandra and moved into lodgings in Winchester, to be near Dr Lyford at the County Hospital. In Winchester, you will be able to visit Jane Austen’s grave at Winchester Cathedral.
Where to Stay in Chawton
Oakley Hall Hotel: This luxury hotel housed in an 18th-century house is not only a wonderful hotel but also has links to Austen who was born in Steventon and regularly visited her friends Wither and Mary Bramston at the estate.
The window transparencies at the estate which she mentions in her letters are also thought to be referenced in Mansfield Park within Fanny Price’s East Room.
The Anchor Inn: A traditional country pub with an idyllic waterside setting with an excellent breakfast and an award-winning restaurant for dinner.
Alton House Hotel: A charming and convenient hotel in Alton with four poster beds and situated on spacious grounds.
Tip: See an Instagram video of our day in Jane Austen’s Chawton for inspiration.