Novelist Jane Austen (1775-1817), her sister Cassandra, their mother and close family friend Martha Lloyd came to live in the tiny village of Chawton, Hampshire in 1809. The cottage is now the Jane Austen’s House Museum. Jane’s brother, Edward, had inherited the Knights’ Chawton estate and was in a position to let his two sisters and widowed mother use the cottage for the rest of their lives. Martha had collected recipes for food and household remedies for a number years. When the ladies moved into this charming cottage, Martha became the housekeeper and cook.
One of Jane’s brothers, Francis (Sir Francis Austen) was widowed in 1823 when his wife Mary died after giving birth to their 11th child. In 1828 he remarried Martha, a blushing bride at the ripe old age of 62, she became Lady Austen. Martha died in 1843.
Jane died on 18th July 1817 and is buried in Winchester Cathedral. Cassandra and Mrs Austen remained at the cottage in Chawton until their deaths in 1845 and 1827 respectively. They are both buried in the churchyard at St. Nicholas Church which is situated in the grounds of Chawton House. Edward Austen-Knight’s son, Charles Bridges Knight, was Rector of St. Nicholas from 1837 until his death thirty years later.
For further information about Jane Austen and Chawton, the BBC have recently broadcast a superb new series on the Regency era, Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency – Episode 2 ‘Developing the Regency Brand’.