Cassandra’s Orchard2023 sees the 250th anniversary of the birth of Cassandra Austen, Jane’s beloved older sister. To mark this special anniversary we want to create a commemorative orchard in the courtyard of Jane Austen’s House to celebrate Cassandra’s life and her vital role in the creation of her sister’s novels.
We are absolutely delighted to be able to announce that we reached our fundraising target on Friday 16th December (Jane’s birthday!)
Cassandra’s orchard will be a living celebration of the woman behind the woman, and will enliven and enrich a special place, delighting our visitors as well as providing homes and food for our resident population of birds, insects and bats.
Cassandra lived at Jane Austen’s House from 1809 to her death in 1845. Jane’s letters to her are filled with references to plants, flowers and fruits from the orchard, now sadly lost from the grounds of the House.
We will recreate this lost orchard, using dwarf varieties suitable for growing in containers. There will be a tree for every novel, and donors’ names will be recorded on plaques for each tree. The orchard will provide blossom in the spring, delicious shade in the summer, and fruits in the autumn. We will underplant the trees with plants for pollinators, turning this empty space into a haven for people and wildlife alike.
***UPDATE*** Cassandra's Orchard is Open!
Monday 9th January dawned bright and dry after days of rain and high winds, with the sky becoming more and more blue as the day progressed. It was the perfect day to open Cassandra’s Orchard, and wonderful to have such a respite from the wild weather of January on Cassandra’s very birthday.
Cassandra taught the children of Chawton during her time living here at Jane Austen’s House, so it was entirely appropriate that we were joined by pupils from today’s Chawton Primary School to help us plant the last tree. This tree was Apple Annie Elizabeth, which has been grown since the 19th century. We are still awaiting the arrival of our donor plaques, so the children also helped us to tie the names of all of our donors onto the trees. It was a particular joy that some of our generous donors, as well as a representative from Cala Homes, were with us to be able to tie their own names to their favourite trees.
It was a chilly morning, despite the sun, so everyone had a glass of warm, mulled apple juice, and after we had all sung happy birthday to Cassandra, we toasted her with apple juice! In a nod to the ancient tradition of wassailing which takes place in these dark first days of the year, we tipped the last sips of our apple juice into the trees, to wish them luck and to hope for a good harvest.
It was a very lovely morning, and we can’t wait to see how the trees take, and will now be counting down the days until the first signs of spring come to our orchard.
We looked to raise £3000 by the end of December 2022 to enable us to open the orchard in time for Cassandra’s 250th birthday on 9th January 2023. Cala Homes very kindly donated £1000 to support this project, and we reached our fundraising target by 9.00pm on Jane Austen’s Birthday. A huge thank you to everyone who has donated. Now the planting can begin!
If you would like to support our ongoing conservation work at Jane Austen’s House, please do donate to our Jane’s Fund here.
We will keep everyone who has donated to the project updated on the progress of our trees over the next few years.