The Race To Save Jane Austen’s Leaking Roof

The Jane Austen Museum has warned that, without roof maintenance and repairs, artefacts in the former home of Jane Austen could be damaged because of rainwater leaking in through the roof. Surveys show that the roof is in need of repair and there are concerns about items being held in the museum being affected by damp.

Jane Austen completed all her celebrated works, including Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma, sitting at a small walnut writing table, which is now on display at the museum. An appeal has now been launched to help save the house in Chawton, Hampshire, where the famous author lived for eight years.

Lizzie Dunford, the museum’s director, said the Grade I listed building was last reroofed in the 1940s in an idiosyncratic way, and now the roof’s condition was not good.

“It’s slightly unstable so we’re seeing the impact of climate change with hotter summers and wetter winters, meaning the building is expanding and contracting, and as it does, the tiles start to slip,” she said.

The lockdown this year has meant essential roof maintenance could not be carried out and there have already been ingresses of rainwater.

“It’s one of the most important roofs in all of English literature. Under this roof Jane Austen lived when she wrote and revised the novels which are so beloved today,” Ms Dunford said. “We have an astonishing collection and she is so important to people emotionally – it’s vital to protect it.”

The museum is appealing to Austen fans around the world to help raise money for roof repairs, with £77,000 already raised through online donations.

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