Drawing Room wainscot

Object name: Drawing Room wainscot

Object number: CHWJA:JAH426

Category: buildings

Description: A small piece of wainscot, encased in an acrylic block.

A label set into the acrylic reads: ‘A piece of the original wainscotting of the drawing-room at Chawton Cottage in Hampshire, where Jane Austen lived from 1809 to 1817. The plaster of this wall was found when the wallpaper was stripped away and the original panelling exposed during the restoration of the Cottage. Given by Miss Elizabeth Jenkins to Professor John Halperin in London in September 1981.’


Context: This small piece of wainscot was presented to the late Professor John Halperin (1941-2018), a biographer of Jane Austen, by Elizabeth Jenkins, a founding member of the Jane Austen Society, in 1981.

According to the professor’s own label it had come loose during the renovation works which took place early in the 1950s, early in the Museum’s history.

Now encapsulated in a beautifully shiny acrylic block, the late professor evidently treasured his bit of Jane Austen’s wall and was careful to label it and list it among his valuables prior to his death.

With the return of the fragment to Jane Austen’s House in 2019, we see how many facets there are to Austen’s material culture and legacy. This humble fragment of the house – complete with animal hair and apparently thick with grease – has gently assumed the status of a relic; a precious, portable antiquity from the ‘shrine’ that is the author’s home.

Credit: We are very grateful to the Trustees of the John Halperin Trust and the staff of Brierton, Jones & Jones LLP for all their help in returning the fragment to the Museum.

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