In our last post in this series,we looked at the exterior and the churchyard of the Parish Church of Holy Trinity and St Andrew in the tiny village of Ashe in Hampshire. This was the place of worship for Jane Austen’s great friend, Anne Lefroy. Her husband was the Rector of Ashe and they lived in an elegant Rectory , a few minutes walk away from the church.
As we discovered last time, the church was rebuilt in the late 19th century due to its extremely bad state of repair, but a church appears to have been consecrated on this site since the mid 12th century. The interior does not therefore have the same appearance as it did during the time of the Lefroys, but I include a view of the Nave for you, all the same:
The Lefroy memorials, as I understand it, were originally installed in the Chancel. But since the restoration and re-build of the church, they have been moved, and are now on the North wall, near to the junction with the East wall. Indeed, you can see them immediately as you enter the church:
As ever, these memorials make for sad reading, particularly when you realise just how very quickly the members of this family, with whom Jane Austen was on very friendly terms, died in relation to each other.
This, below, is the memorial to William Thomas Lefroy, Anne Lefroy’s third born son, who was nearly four years old when he died:
Below is the memorial to another of their sons, Anthony who was only 14 years old when he died, together with another son, Christopher Edward who was 71 years old at his death:
This memorial has a representation of the Lefroy arms underneath it. Here is a close-up photograph of them:
The magnificent memorial which dominates this section of the wall is dedicated to Anne Lefory and to her husband:
The wording on the memorial is rather difficult to decipher, but I hope I have transcribed it correctly for you: it is important because it tells another sad story:
The Rev’d Issac peter George Lefroy
late Rector of this Parish and of Compton
in Surry (sic) and formerly Fellow of All Souls
College,Oxford, Son of Anthony Lefroy,
esq: by Elizabeth his wife, was born Nov 1745
and died at the Parsonage House of this Parish
of a paralytic stroke on Monday Janr 13th 1806
Anne, wife of Rev’d George Lefroy
and daughter of Edward Brydges Esq;
by Jemina his wife, was born March 1749
and died at the Parsonage House of this
Parish in consequence of a fall from her
horse the preceding day on Sunday December
Reader: The characters here recorded need no laboured panegyric; prompted by the elevate dictates
of Christianity, of whose glorious truths they are most firm believers, they were alike exemplary
in the performance of every duty, and amicable in every relationship of life; to their fervent piety
Their strict integrity, their active and comprehensive charity, and in short to the lovely and useful
tenor of their whole lives and conversations
Those amongst us who they lived, and especially the inhabitants of this parish, will bear ample and
Ready testimony, after a union of 26 years, having been separated by death scarcely more than 12
months, their earthy remains are together deposited in peace near this marble. Together to be raised.
We humbly trust in glory when the grave shall give up her dead, and death itself be swallowed up in Victory
Rev. 14 v. 13
Blessed are the dead, which die in the Lord, even so saith the spirit for they rest from their labours.
Poor Anne Lefory died as a result of a fall from a horse , on what was her friend, Jane Austen’s birthday, the 16th December 1804. An account of her death is given in the published Reminiscences of Caroline Austen, Jane Austen’s niece. Caroline was the daughter of James Austen, Jane’s eldest brother, who had succeeded his father as Rector of Steventon:
December 16th 1804: Died Mrs Lefroy of Ashe. On the 21st my father buried her. She was greatly lamented and her end was a sad one. She was riding a very quiet horse, attended by a servant, as usual. My father saw her in Overton, and she observed the animal she rode was so stupid and lazy she could scarcely make him canter. My father rode homeward, she staying to do some errands in Overton; next morning the news of her death reached Steventon. After getting to the top of Overton hill, the horse seemed to be running away-it was not known whether anything had frightened him-the servant, unwisely, rode up to catch the bridle rein-missed his hold and the animal darted off faster.He could not give any clear account, but it was supposed that Mrs Lefroy in her terror, threw herself off and fell heavily on the hard ground. She never spoke afterwards, and she died in a few hours.
Her husband died on January 13th in 1806, poor man. Another untimely Lefroy death. Indeed, this period 1804-1806 was a sad year for the Austens and the Lefroys together, for George Austen , Jane Austen’s father died on the 21st January 1805, and then on April 16th, in the same year, Mrs Lloyd the mother of Mary, James Austen’s wife, also died.
The final memorial I want to write about is dedicated to Benjamin Lefory and to his wife, Anna, who was Jane Austen’s niece and Caroline Austen’s half-sister:
As we learnt in our last post, Benjamin Lefroy succeeded his brother, John Henry George Lefroy, as Rector of Ashe in 1823. John Henry had been appointed Rector of Ashe after his father’s death in 1806. Sadly, John died aged only 41 in 1823. Benjamin was then appointed as Rector of Ashe and he and Anna came to live at the Rectory and remained there until Ben’s very untimely death in 1829.
Reading these memorials made me feel very sad: so many lives cut short. But they still do not give us much of a picture of what Mrs Lefroy was really like, apart from paying tribute to her piety .We still do not know much of her character or habits, one that was apparently so bewitching to Jane Austen and many others. For that we need to look at other sources: obituary notices, Jane Austen’s letters and, indeed,Mrs Lefroy’s own letters, which luckily for us have been preserved and published. More on this in my next post in this series.