Jane Austen's House Museum is launching its bicentenary commemorations with a reinterpretation of the house interior following discovery of wallpaper fragments.
Following the discovery of a number of fragments of Regency wallpapers in out-of-the-way corners of the house - dating from the early 19th century and the period in which Austen would have been living there with her mother and sister - the museum commissioned Hamilton Weston Wallpapers to reconstruct the patterns from these fragments and to create replica wallpapers. Specialists in historic and reproduction wallpapers, Hamilton Weston have used the same hand block printing processes that would have been used during the 19th century to create the designs.
A centre element of the trellis design on the fragments found in the Austen’s Family Room (right) initially proved a mystery to Hamilton Weston’s architectural historian, Robert Weston. After thought and research, he realised that the pin print motif on the design was actually the stem of a rose bud but with the bud print omitted. In addition, the wallpaper had been hung upside down, potentially to disguise the missing bud. It was printed incorrectly, perhaps by an early 19th century apprentice to the trade, and, as the household were not rich, one theory is that they purchased the design cheaply as a ‘second’ from the printers, as wallpaper was very expensive and heavily taxed from 1714 – 1836.
Both replica wallpapers are now hanging in the rooms from which the corresponding fragments came - the “Chawton Vine” design in the Drawing Room and the “Apprentice Trellis” in the upstairs Family Room – for visitors to view when the house reopens on 3rd March.
Both designs, as well as a third, the “Chawton Rosebud Moiré” which features the rosebud believed to have been the intended outcome, are available for purchase via the museum shop.