Continuing our series of occasional online talks, we were delighted that the Director of Jane Austen's House in Hampshire, Lizzie Dunford, agreed to give a virtual behind-the-scenes tour for WHS members.
Lizzie took up the post of Director just as the Covid pandemic took hold in the UK, which made her first year in the job interesting as well as challenging. One aspect of the work that benefitted from the lockdown was the development of their online tours and talks.
The House was purchased by the Jane Austen Society soon after the Second World War and opened to the public for the first time in 1949. On our virtual tour we saw many interesting artefacts held at the House, including a handwritten note by Winston Churchill describing how relaxing he found Jane Austen's writing. As Lizzie explained, even during the First World War, Austen's books were read to sick soldiers to comfort them.
We had asked Lizzie to especially focus on the wallpapers in Jane Austen's House and she explained how fragments of original vibrant green paper found in the Dining Parlour in 2018 had been recreated by Hamilton Weston and then rehung in 2019/20, to present the room in its original early 19th century decorative scheme. Hamilton Weston were able to create the vivid green pigment without the use of arsenic that would have been used in the original printing. The Dining Parlour holds particular significance in the House because it is the room where Jane Austen wrote many of her novels. We also saw an attractive original diaper patterned paper in the Family Room that would have been Jane Austen's mother's room.
Going behind-the-scenes of Jane Austen's House was a real treat for the insights it gave to her home and life as she composed some of her most famous works.
In 2025 Jane Austen's House will be celebrating the 250th anniversary of the author's birth with special events. For further information visit: https://janeaustens.house/