Jane Austen’s House Museum has launched its bicentenary commemorations by taking the first steps towards recreating the interior of the house as it was in Austen’s day.
The house, located in the village of Chawton, was Austen’s home for the last eight years of her life and the place where she wrote or revised all her novels.
Following the discovery of a number of fragments of two Regency wallpapers in out-of-the-way corners of the house – dating from the early 19th century and the period in which Austen would have been living there with her mother and sister – the museum commissioned Hamilton Weston Wallpapers to reconstruct the patterns from these fragments and to create replica wallpapers. Specialists in historic and reproduction wallpapers, Hamilton Weston have used the same hand block printing processes that would have been used during the 19th century to create the designs.
A centre element of the trellis design on the fragments found in the Austen’s Family Room (above) initially proved a mystery to Hamilton Weston’s architectural historian, Robert Weston. After thought and research, he realised that the pin print motif on the design was actually the stem of a rose bud but with the bud print omitted. In addition, the wallpaper had been hung upside down, potentially to disguise the missing bud. It was printed incorrectly, perhaps by an early 19th century apprentice to the trade, and, as the household were not rich, one theory is that they purchased the design cheaply as a ‘second’ from the printers, as wallpaper was very expensive and heavily taxed from 1714 to 1836.
Both replica wallpapers are now hanging in the rooms from which the corresponding fragments came – the “Chawton Vine” design in the Drawing Room and the “Apprentice Ribbon Trellis” in the upstairs Family Room – for visitors to view when the house reopens on 3rd March. Both designs, as well as a third, the “Chawton Rosebud Moiré” which features the rosebud believed to have been the intended outcome, are available for purchase via the museum shop.
Hanging the replica wallpapers is an important first step towards recreating the interior of the house as it was in Austen’s day. Further reinterpretation will be completed once vital building repairs to the Grade I listed house have taken place. Recent surveys have shown that fundamental repairs are required to ensure that the fabric of the house does not deteriorate further. To that end, and to mark 200 years since Austen’s death, the museum has launched Jane’s Fund, an appeal to restore and protect the house where she lived and wrote some of her most celebrated works. The aim is to raise £250,000 towards the first phase of exterior and interior building repairs, restoration and refurbishment of the house.
Pledging their support to Jane’s Fund during this significant year are the museum’s 2017 ambassadors; historian, author, presenter and Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, Lucy Worsley whose new book, Jane Austen at Home is published in May, number one bestselling author Joanna Trollope OBE who grew up with Austen’s works, and columnist, scriptwriter and bestselling author Kathy Lette who credits Austen with her wanting to become a writer.
For further information regarding Jane’s Fund, please visit https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/jahm/janesfund
With funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the museum has built a programme of events and activities around the house and its artefacts.
For full details of the bicentenary events and activities programme as well as details of the 2017 exhibition, 41 Objects, please visit www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk