WORK AT Jane Austen’s House has begun as the 70-year-old clay tiles are being reclaimed and renewed during a roof restoration.
Restoring the roof requires over 300,000 new and reclaimed handmade clay roof tiles, which are being installed by specialist roofing contractor Clarke Roofing (Southern) Ltd.
Clarke Roofing is working with conservation architects, Pritchard Architecture on the restoration of the roof which was last constructed in 1948, before the house was opened to public view as a museum.
Jane Austen’s House Roof Restoration
The work involves stripping the roof, and checking and sorting the 300,000 clay roof tiles to reclaim them where possible. New battens and underlay will be installed and insulation will be upgraded where possible, within the building’s Grade I conservation status specification. The chimneys, dormer windows, guttering and downpipes will also be repaired and conserved as part of the project.
Jane Austen’s House, in the village of Chawton near Alton in Hampshire, is over 500 years old and was already 300 years old when the famous author lived there from 1809, with her mother, sister and family friend, for 8 years before her death in Winchester.
In the dining room of the house, Jane wrote some of her most famous novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park – and the unfinished Sanditon.
Historic Building Consultant, Sam Causer from Studio Sam Causer said: “As conservation architects we’re particularly interested in the material fabric and the social fabric and how they interact with each other over the centuries of a building’s existence. Sometimes you see changes in the social use that bring about changes to the building’s fabric.
“You can see at Jane Austen’s House how the windows shift around, for example. When the house was occupied by the Austen family, Jane’s brother Edward Austen Knight, paid for the window facing the road to be closed up making the house more private. A new, smaller window was constructed in the dining room where Austen wrote, overlooking the garden.”
Roof Restoration Grants
The roof restoration follows a grant of £85,597 for the work from Historic England and the Historic Houses Foundation from the second round of the Heritage Stimulus Fund, part of the Culture Recovery Fund.
The grant, coupled with £85,000 support from Hampshire County Council and donations from supporters worldwide, has enabled the re-roofing work to start.
Jane Austen’s House Director Lizzie Dunford said: “It is truly excellent news that Jane Austen’s House has been awarded this grant. Thanks to this support, alongside that of Hampshire County Council and the thousands of people across the globe who have donated to our fundraising campaign, we can now restore the roof which sheltered Austen as she created some of the greatest masterpieces of English Literature and protect her treasured belongings and inspirational home for future generations.”
Whilst work to the roof is taking place, the House will be closed to visitors during the week but will remain open on weekends and during the festive season, on 29-31 December.