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At home with Jane Austen - Surrey's Antiques Scene

PUBLISHED: 17:59 13 January 2014 | UPDATED: 17:59 13 January 2014

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

Various

Every month, our expert Ali Heath, brings us all the latest - from the best fairs to where to bag a bargain or hunt out vintage gems

If you’ve grown up with a love of Jane Austen then the current bi-centenary excitement surrounding this truly remarkable author will certainly be of interest. Amazingly, Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813, Mansfield Park in 1814 and Emma, which included a picnic set on Box Hill, in 1815 – and yet the content still seems very relevant and appealing in the 21st century.

The bi-centenary also forms the inspiration behind this January’s Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair, just over the Surrey border in Battersea, a definite must in the annual calendar for antique enthusiasts, with over 140 dealers from across the UK and Europe.

Back to Mansfield Park

To commemorate this landmark anniversary, a special exhibition is being held at the fair entitled Miss Austen at Home, providing a fascinating insight into how Regency England would have looked when Jane Austen’s now famous novels were being created. Curated by Helen Linfield of antiques specialists Wakelin & Linfield, one of the UK’s leading experts on 18th and 19th century furniture, it will take the form of a display in the main foyer, showcasing two Regency interior styles of differing social echelons.

The first room scheme is indicative of Mansfield Park and, whilst a fictional home, Jane Austen would have spent much time in homes of similar gravitas. Set up as a formal country house drawing room of circa 1800-1815, it will include grand items including a Georgian bookcase, writing desk, sofa and Gainsborough chairs mixed with William & Mary carved-back elbow chairs and a large Aubusson rug.

For the wallpaper, a bespoke screen-print has been created by interior specialists Hamilton Weston called Royal Crescent in shades of green, grey and white. A direct imitation of a Robert Adam design, the pattern was discovered in an 18th century parlour of a property in the Royal Crescent in Bath.

From manor to cottage

The second room scheme is much simpler in style and lends itself to the familiar and more sparsely furnished country cottage feel of Jane Austen’s own home, just over the Surrey border in Chawton, in Hampshire, featuring items such as an oak gate-leg table, with ladder-back and Windsor chairs, and a small pedestal occasional table, like the one Jane Austen would have written at. The walls will feature etchings, nautical sketches, samplers, silhouettes and watercolours that would have been painted by the ladies of the house. English ceramics, including creamware and traditional metalware will accessorise the room.

Hamilton Weston will also be producing a wallpaper design for the Chawton Cottage scheme dating back to circa 1780. Based on a discovery from a housekeeper’s room in central London, it was hung back to front and appeared to have been used as a lining paper behind later wallpaper layers. The design has been re-drawn by architectural historian Robert Weston from fragile salvaged fragments. Named ‘Dashwood’ (after the family in Sense & Sensibility), the design will be block-printed for the Decorative Fair foyer using a grey background with black and white pattern details. Wallpaper was very expensive at this time and grey was a very popular colour as it served to disguise discolouration from candle and wood-smoke.

All pieces shown in the two room schemes are to be drawn from exhibitors at the fair and will be available for sale. It promises to be a fabulous entrance to this compelling thrice-yearly fair and a fitting tribute to a well-loved English author.

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London Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair, Battersea Evolution, Battersea Park, London SW11 4NJ. Tuesday January 21 to Sunday January 26, 2014. Admission £10 (including catalogue). Tel: 0207 616 9327

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Ali Heath is the owner of Plum (see plumlifestyle.com / blog.plumlifestyle.com). To contact Ali about styling and writing commissions, e-mail ali@plumlifestyle.com

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