Did Jane Austen play sport? Chawton House’s latest exhibition, A Costume of Sport, explores the typical physical exercises enjoyed by women in the Regency period, and what they wore whilst doing it. From playing cricket in high collars and top hats to swimming in full-length, flannel dresses, costume was slow to adapt to the demands of physical exercise. This exhibition displays sporting outfits from the Regency until the early twentieth century, using costumes, paintings, equipment and fashion plates.

In addition to Chawton House collection items, objects on display include loans from the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), Jane Austen’s House and Hampshire Cultural Trust, plus a costume worn in the recent ITV and Britbox television adaptation of Sanditon.

Clio O’Sullivan, curator of A Costume of Sport says: “Sport in the Regency period was an important and enjoyable facet of life. Jane Austen makes several references to sport in her letters and novels, including an intriguing allusion to “base-ball”! I’m thrilled to bring together such an exciting array of illustrative objects for this exhibition. We’re lucky enough to have some exceptional loans on display including a beautiful hand-painted fan from the Hampshire Cultural Trust and a riding coat once belonging to Jane Austen’s brother from the Jane Austen’s House collection. What I’m particularly excited about are the portraits on show – never before displayed as part of an exhibition. These include the beautiful (and enormous) portrait of a Lady in a Riding Habit, attributed to master painter Jonathon Richards.”

From cricket and riding to sea bathing using horse-drawn machines, from the impressive pedigree of Jane Austen’s professional cricketing nephews to the typical sporting pursuits of the gentry, A Costume of Sport is a celebration of sporting heritage held in the grounds over the centuries.

Open to September 4, A Costume of Sport is included in general admission.