Historic wallpaper unveiled

Jane Austen’s House Museum has completed the installation of the vibrant green, leaf-patterned replica Regency wallpaper in its Dining Parlour - where Austen’s writing table holds pride of place. Created by specialists in historic and reproduction wallpapers, Hamilton Weston Wallpapers, the design is based on a wallpaper fragment found inside the top cupboard in the corner of the Dining Room – capturing and reflecting the history of this beloved Austen site.

Museum visitors were able to observe the room’s transformation from a safe distance as the Chawton Leaf wallpaper and its Vine Leaf Flock border were being hung last week and can now visit the Museum to experience the fully finished result, thanks to generous support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund Collecting Cultures scheme and the Jane Austen Society of North America (Washington, DC, Metropolitan Region).

The wallpaper fragment, removed from the Museum by conservator Mark Sandiford, revealed a striking, bright green leaf pattern. Although much of it was dirty, a small area of the original paper (hidden beneath the flocked border) was still fresh and revealed itself to be a bright ‘arsenic’ green; a popular early 19th century colour, when it was fashionable to bring the outside into the interior.

A rare, partial tax stamp was also found on the reverse of the wallpaper fragment, which helped the Museum to date it with some degree of accuracy. Wallpaper was quite heavily taxed in England from c.1712 until in 1836 and this wallpaper would have been produced during that time, making it very likely that Jane Austen was living in the house when it was in situ – as she lived in Chawton from 1809 until 1817.

Dr Mary Guyatt, Director of Jane Austen’s House Museum, said: “Visitors love stepping into Jane Austen’s world when they come to the Museum and being able to provide them with the most authentic experience as possible is our joy, as well as our ongoing responsibility as an historic site. The ‘new’ wallpaper design has transformed the look and feel of the Dining Room and – we hope – will transport visitors back to Regency times, adding to the authenticity of their experience.”

This latest project follows on from the success of the Museum’s partnership with Hamilton Weston on the design and creation of two other replica wallpapers in 2017; the Chawton Vine design, now hanging in the Drawing Room, and the Apprentice Trellis in the upstairs Family Room.
To print the designs, Hamilton Weston used the hand block printing process that would have been applied to produce wallpaper during the early 19th century. All of the wallpapers were recreated from original scraps found still hanging in corners of the house.

Georgina Hamilton of Hamilton Weston, said: “We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to bring these charming wallpapers to life. Tackling challenges like creating ‘Arsenic’ green without using Arsenic has been part of the learning and excitement of the process. Discovering a tiny scrap of the flock vine leaf border attached to the wallpaper fragment has brought a wonderful touch of authenticity to the Dining Parlour. We are absolutely delighted to see these very special designs hanging once again in the rooms of Jane Austen’s House Museum.”