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 while doing them.

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, open from today (Thursday) until September 4, displays sporting outfits from the Regency until the early 20th 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, Jane Austen’s House and the Hampshire Cultural Trust, plus a costume worn in the ITV and Britbox adaptation of Sanditon.

Curator Clio O’Sullivan said: “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.

“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.”