Today, taking off from where we left, in our last post in this series, we now enter the church, which was very important in Jane Austen’s early life until she left Steventon for Bath in 1801. This simple church was the site of her baptism, where she and her family worshipped,and where for many years, members of her family were rectors.
This is the view from the rear of the Nave toward the Chancel and the East window. We will talk about the Nave and its contents in our next post in this series, and so today we shall concentrate on the Chancel, which you can see, below:
The East Window is decorated with some Victorian Stained glass, which was designed by Meyer and Co of Munich and was installed in 1883.
Jane Austen would not have known this window. Nor would she have known the altar, below, which again is Victorian.
But in the Chancel are some very important Austen family memorials. The first, next to the organ on the south wall…
is dedicated to James Austen, Jane’s oldest brother . He was the Rector at Steventon from 1805 until his death in 1819, having taken over the family living on the death of his father in 1805. Please do note that you can enlarge all these photographs by clicking on them to see the details.
It is surmounted with the Austen family crest and motto, which you can see in the photograph below:
The inscription reads:
To the Memory of
The Revd. James Austen,
who succeeded his father, the Revd George Austen
as Rector of this Parish
and died Dec 13th 1819 aged 53 years,
this monument and the Stone which covers his grave in the churchyard
were erected by his widow and children
There midst the flock his fond attention fed
Teh village pastor rests his weary head
Till called to join, from sin and suffering freed
That Heavenly flock which Christ himself shall feed:
For long and well he bore the chastening rod
Long, marked for death the vale of life he trod;
For talents honoured, though to fees displayed,
And virtues brightening through dejections shade
Simple yet wise, most free from guile or pride,
He daily lived to God and daily died.
Best earliest friend for thee whose cares are o’re
Dear as thy presence was, we grieve no more;
Well taught by thee, our heart scan heavenward rise;
We dare not sorrow where a Christian lies
Also in the Chancel is this elegant monument dedicated to James first wife, Anne Mathew, who was the granddaughter of the 2nd Duke of Ancaster of Grimsthorpe.
The beautiful and elegant inscription reads:
Sacred to the Memory of
Wife of the Revd. James Austen Vicar of Sherbourne St John in this County
Daughter to Lt General Mathew Governor of Grenada
who exchanged this life for a far better on the 3rd May 1795
in the 37th year of her Age.
as the Innocency of her Heart,
Simplicity of her Manners
And amiable unspotted Tenour of her Life, in every Relation,
Will render her Memory ever dear to her surviving Friends;
So the humble and pious Resignation
Eminently manifested at that trying Period
When parting with what was most dear on Earth
Will always be considered by them
As an Example
which, though they can scarcely hope to Equal
They will yet endeavour
The memorial is decorated with her coat of arms. James’ second wife, Mary, who was the sister to Jane Austen’s great friend, Martha Lloyd, also has her memorial here.
Her inscription reads:
Wife of the Revd. Jame Austen
Late Rector of this Parish
and Daughter of
The Revd . Noyes Lloyd
Rector of Enbourne near Newbury
Died at Speen Berks
3rd August 1843
and was buried here in the adjoining churchyard
her son and Daughter with sorrow
inscribe this stone
To the honoured Memory of
Their Good and affectionate Mother
Whose loss they will Long lament
together with two verse from the Bible.
Also in the Chancel is the memorial to the Reverend William Knight, Edward Knight’s son who was also Rector at Steventon,
but who lived in the new Rectory now known as Steventon House, built for him by his father, and not the in one in which Jane Austen was born, which has now been demolished. There is also a very moving memorial, affixed to the wall underneath it, dedicated to his three daughters who died in June 1848 of scarlet fever, aged 3, 4 and 5 years respectively :
And on that rather somber note, we shall leave the Chancel to look, next time, at the Nave.