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The History of Chawton House

Timeline created by sunflowers8402 in History
Event Date: Event Title: Event Description:
Edward the confessor 8th Jun, 1042 Reign of Edward the Confessor Chawton House History
During the reign of Edward the Confessor the property currently known as Chawton House belonged to a thane from Hampshire named Oda. The Domesday Book of 1086 notes that Oda owned a manor, woods, and farmland. History on the land dates all the way back to the Neolithic period.
William the conqueror 14th Oct, 1066 The Norman Conquest Chawton House History
After the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror forced Oda to surrender his property to Hugh de Port. The house was passed down to male heirs for the next 300 years. Afterward, it continued to stay in the de Port family through the female line for about another 200 years.
Img 5318 1st Apr, 1551 Chawton estate sold to John Knight Chawton House Tour Notes
The de Port family sold Chawton to John Knight in April of 1551. Knight purchased the land for only 180 pounds! The estate remains in the Knight family to this day. Today's family head is Richard Knight.
Img 5320 Construction of an Elizabethan Manor House Chawton House Tour NotesWhen John Knight purchased the land, there was a medieval manor house on site. His grandson (also named John Knight) tore down the medieval house and began constructing the Elizabethan manor house we still see today in 1583. Building continued into the 1660s. Elizabethan houses are usually in the shape of an "E," but Chawton House is only about half of an "E" possibly because of the layout of the original medieval foundation or due to insufficient building funds.
Steventon rectory Thomas Brodnax May Knight inherits Chawton Steventon Rectory ImageUpon the death of his cousin Elizabeth Knight, Thomas Brodnax May inherited Chawton in 1738. He had already inherited the estate of Godmersham Park in Kent so he combined the estates. In order to inherit Chawton he had to change his last name to Knight. He later married Jane Monk, a relative of the Austen family. He gave the living of the Steventon Rectory to her cousin George Austen (Jane Austen's father).
Thomas knight ii Thomas Knight II inherits Chawton House Portrait of Thomas Knight from the Chawton House Library collection
In 1781 Thomas Knight II inherited the estate. He and his wife Catherine were childless, so they adopted Jane Austen's brother Edward.
Edward austen Edward Austen inherits Godmersham & Chawton Chawton House Library Portrait of Edward Austen
Since the Knights were childless, they made Edward Austen their heir. He set up his residence at Godmersham Park and was responsible for managing both estates. In order to inherit, he had to change his surname to Knight.
Img 5245 Edward Austen Knight gives Chawton Cottage to his mother and sisters Chawton Cottage
Edward's mother and sisters (Jane & Cassandra) had been moving around from house to house for nearly 10 years after the death of his father. In 1809 he offered a cottage that was a part of the Chawton estate to his family for the rest of their lives. Jane Austen went on to write and publish most of her novels from Chawton Cottage.
Montagu knight Montagu Knight renovates Chawton House and St. Nicholas Church St. Nicholas Church History
Edward's grandson Montagu devoted a lot of time and money to renovating and modernizing the estate during the late 1800s until his death in 1914. The Victorian features of the house were added by Montagu. He also contributed to rebuilding the church after it caught on fire in 1871.
Img 5340 Richard Knight inherits Chawton House Chawton House continues to remain with Edward's descendents. Richard Knight, the current heir, inherited the house in 1987. The house was near dereliction at the time and badly in need of repair.
Img 5323 Sandy Lerner leases Chawton House Sandy Lerner, co-founder of CISCO Systems, took out a 125-year lease on the estate in 1993. She established a charitable trust called the Chawton House Library and began extensive repairs to the house in order to rescue it from dereliction. During her lease the house will be used to house a collection of books by female authors who wrote between 1600 and 1830.
Img 5337 Chawton House Library opens to the public Video about the vision for the house
After 10 years of renovation, Chawton House Library opened its doors to the public. Sandy Lerner donated her collection of books to the library. To access the collection you apply to be a reader and once you are approved it is free to access the collection. The library hours are from 9:30 - 4:45 during the week. Guided tours are also given on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.