In a letter to her sister Cassandra on 31st May 1811, Jane Austen wrote “Have you remembered to collect pieces for the patchwork? We are now at a stand-still.” This was a reference to the medallion quilt which Jane, her mother and her sister stitched in the early 19th century while they lived at Chawton Cottage.
The 17th century cottage, in the village of Chawton in Hampshire, was the home of Jane Austen from 1809 until her death in 1817. It was here that she revised “Sense and Sensibility” and “Pride and Prejudice” and wrote “Mansfield Park” and “Emma”. Her writing table sits under a window and it’s easy to imagine Jane working on her novels here.
The garden is overflowing with plants that grew in Regency England. Perhaps Jane sat in the shade of this ancient yew tree.
Today Chawton Cottage is a museum dedicated to Jane and her work, and it houses a collection of Austen family furniture and artefacts, including some of Jane’s letters, music books and her jewellery. The most precious piece in the collection is the patchwork quilt. It is displayed in a dust proof temperature controlled glass cabinet so that visitors can enjoy its delicate beauty without damaging the fibres or the colours of the fabrics. There are several thousand pieces of 64 different fabrics in the quilt.
It’s little wonder that Jane needed to remind her sister to collect more!
PS: When you’ve had your fill of Jane Austen, cross the road to Cassandra’s Cup, a delightful tea room opposite Chawton Cottage. There you can fill up again on light lunches, fresh baked desserts or an indulgent cream tea.