HOUSE AND ESTATE
In Jane Austen's time, the kitchen garden was located to the north of the Rectory (opposite the current entrance to Chawton House). Edward Austen Knight had the idea to build a new walled garden during his sister's lifetime: in 1813, Jane Austen wrote to her brother Frank:
'[h]e [Edward Austen Knight] talks of making a new Garden; the present is a bad one & ill situated, near Mr Papillon's; — he means to have the new, at the top of the Lawn behind his own house'.
However, her brother's plans did not come to fruition until after her death in 1817. The Walled Garden was built in 1818-1822 as a kitchen garden with fruit trees on all the inner walls and on the outer sides of the south and east walls and with hard and soft fruits within. The garden was fully enclosed by malmstone and brick walls with small doorways in each wall. At the end of the nineteenth century, Montagu Knight converted the kitchen garden to an ornamental flower garden, again influenced by Lutyens. Around 1905, he introduced the additional inner wall, with a pair of ornamental iron gates (these have recently been conserved and re-hung) and formed the larger opening in the outer west wall. Subsequently the herbaceous borders were grassed over and the garden turned into an orchard.
Today, with the exception of the large openings in the east and west walls, Edward Austen Knight's original walls are still intact. The restoration programme for this area is major, and requires both funding and the support of volunteers as it is proposed to rebuild the glasshouses and potting sheds. The central space is used for the production of vegetables, soft fruits, herbs and flowers. Chawton House is registered with the Soil Association and is now certified as an organic producer. Everything grown is for use by the Library with any surplus being sold locally in aid of the charity. The major clearance of vegetation, scrub, weeds, general debris and the remains of glasshouses and potting sheds was undertaken in accordance with Edward Austen Knight's original planting scheme. The walls still require much repair and re-pointing and work needs to be done to reinstate the glasshouses.