Jane Austen’s House aims to branch-out to mark 250th anniversary

A new literature-inspired orchard is set to spring up at Hampshire’s Jane Austen’s House in 2023, to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of the author’s sister Cassandra.

Marking her life and vital role in the creation of Jane’s novels, the planned new orchard in the courtyard of Jane Austen’s House, in the village of Chawton, will be a living celebration of Jane’s beloved older sister.

Recreating an original orchard, now lost from the grounds of the House – her final home and where she wrote and revised all her novels – the aim is to plant a tree for each of Jane’s books.

Using dwarf varieties suitable for growing in containers, the new commemorative orchard will offer a poignant tribute to Cassandra, as well as providing homes and food for the resident population of birds, insects and bats.

Cassandra lived at what is known today as Jane Austen’s House from 1809 to her death in 1845, and Jane’s letters to her are filled with references to plants, flowers and fruits from the orchard.

Reflecting those words, it will provide blossom in the spring, shade in the summer, and fruits in the autumn, while the trees will be surrounded with plants for pollinators, turning an empty space into a haven for people and wildlife alike.

Cassandra was born two years before her famed sister and in a family of six boys, the girls became close friends. She supported and encouraged Jane in her writing, and the two wrote letters to each other, with much of what scholars know about the novelist’s life gleaned from them.

She is also responsible for one of the very few surviving images of Jane, a small pencil and watercolour portrait drawn by her around 1810, which is now housed in London’s National Portrait Gallery.

Donations are being invited to support Cassandra’s Orchard, with the hope that it will open in time for Cassandra’s 250th birthday on 9 January 2023.

For Austen fans, Hampshire offers a chance to discover more about the life and times of one of the literary world’s most popular writers. Known for proudly reminding people that she was “a Hampshire born Austen”, the county has plenty more connections with the author.

Along with Jane Austen’s House and Chawton House visitors to Hampshire these days can also follow a trail that takes in her birthplace in Steventon and the locations in Southampton which inspired her during her brief time living in the thriving port. The trail ends in Winchester, where she lived shortly before her death, and where she was finally laid to rest in Winchester Cathedral, in 1817 – at the age of just 41 (https://bit.ly/38IRdeq).

For more about the new orchard, visit  https://bit.ly/3V5ZNvE

All tourist information for Hampshire can be found at www.visit-hampshire.co.uk

Photo: Jane Austen’s House.