This will be my last post this year, and I thought it rather appropriate to pay a quick visit St Nicholas’ Parish Church, Chawton.
Chawton village has many treasures…The Jane Austen House Museum, the Chawton House Library, once the home of her lucky brother, Edward Knight and to various other members of her family, and the parish church, which though terribly altered since Jane worshipped there, does retain the memorials to her mother and her sister who are buried in its graveyard.
This post is not meant to be an exhaustive history of the church and its memorials( l hope to come back to it next year, perhaps) but I thought you might like to see the final resting place of Mrs. Austen and Cassandra, Jane Austen’s most beloved elder sister.
The church is about half a mile from Jane Austen’s House, set along the drive to Chawton House itself, just off what once was the Gosport Road. Jane Austen would have passed it every time she went to visit her relatives there, and of course it was in this church that she worshipped while she was resident in Chawton.
it is believed that a church has stood on the site of the present parish church since at least 1270. However a disastrous fire in 1871 effectively destroyed the whole building except for the chancel so that the present nave, north aisle, vestry and tower date only from around the rebuilding that took place between 1872 to 1873.
Luckily, many of the early memorials were saved and are still displayed on the walls. The ones that concern us today are set on the west wall of the entrance to the Chancel, one to the right and one to the left.
Mrs Austen’s memorial is very factual, and there are some notable omissions. Here is the wording:
In Memory of
daughter of the late
Reverend Thomas Leigh
Rector of Harpsden Oxfordshire
and relict of the Late
Reverend George Austen
Rector of Steventon Hants
She died this 18th day of January 1827
aged 87 years
Leaving four sons
and one daughter surviving namely
of Chawton House in this Parish
Henry Thomas Austen
Francis William Austen
Charles John Austen and
Cassandra Elizabeth Austen
who have inscribed this tablet
to the Memory of
an Affectionate and Beloved Parent.
Jane Austen predeceased her mother by nearly 10 years, and this may explain why she was not included, but George Austen, who lived apart from his family due to his various disabilities, was still alive. He did not die until 1838, but was also omitted from this memorial.
The other memorial is to Cassandra Austen:
They are buried in the churchyard, near to the south wall of the nave,where it meets the chancel:
Here is Mrs. Austen’s grave:
And next to it is the same sort of simple gravestone to Cassandra Austen:
And so, they rest together in the village that bought them both security and peace.
That ends my postings for this year.Its been a busy one, and next year -the Year of Pride and Prejudice- promises to be very busy and , hopefully, interesting. I do hope you will join me on our journey around all the places mentioned in the novel and down along the by-ways of interesting social history points raised by the novel.
All it remains me to say, is to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year, and that hope you will allow me to
Sincerely hope your Christmas may abound in the gaieties which that
season generally brings