I have created this blog to share new research and supplemental information related to my book, Jane Austen, Edward Knight, & Chawton: Commerce & Community, published by Woodpigeon Publishing. All text is © Linda Slothouber, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Slothouber and chawtoncommerceandcommunity@blogspot.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Please feel free to contact me at lindaslothouber@gmail.com.

Monday, February 22, 2016

From Chawton to Virginia: Jane Austen's Niece Catherine-Anne Hubback

Edited 3/2/16 to incorporate new information.  If you know more, please contact me!

I've recently been seeing pictures of bright green grass and flowers in the gardens of southern England and I find myself longing to be there, rather than here at home, where brown grass and a lingering pile of snow say it’s definitely not springtime yet.  Today I paid a visit to the grave of a remarkable woman who probably felt the same longing for the early English spring, someone who forms a connection between my home county and Jane Austen’s:  Catherine-Anne Hubback, Jane Austen’s niece.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Haymarket, VA.  Originally a courthouse, the building became a church in 1830.  During the Civil War it was a Union hospital, and many soldiers from both sides were buried there.  It was substantially rebuilt in the late 1860s; brickwork of different colors is evidence of the windows having been altered.  Today, the churchyard is calm, with mature boxwoods and cedars among the headstones, but just beyond its borders are the neighborhoods and commercial strips of a modern suburb.
Thanks to Lisa Brown, a New York JASNA member who recently told me that this Austen relation was buried in the DC area, I realized that Hubback’s grave is only seven miles from the house where I grew up.  The area is full of Civil War history – as a teenager I went on regular weekend rambles in the Manassas battlefield, and my dad had a drawer full of found bullets and other artifacts – but I never dreamed there was an Austen connection so close by.

In the churchyard of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Haymarket, Virginia, a tall headstone reads:
Wife of John Hubback
Of the Inner Temple
London, England
Born July 7, 1818
Died Feb. 25, 1877

“Of the Inner Temple” identifies John Hubback as a barrister.  One could be forgiven for assuming, from the headstone alone, that Catherine was a Victorian matron who enjoyed the wealth and status that came with her husband’s profession.  Her life was very different, however. 

Catherine Hubback's headstone is the tall moss-stained one.

Catherine-Anne Hubback was born at Chawton Great House in 1818, the eighth child of Jane Austen’s brother Francis-William Austen (who later became Admiral of the Fleet).  Despite this auspicious start, she faced unusual challenges in life.  When Catherine married John Hubback in 1842, they honeymooned in Worthing before setting off on a Continental tour.  They quickly had three sons, but while the children were still small, John’s serious mental illness was recognized and he was put into care at Westbrook House Lunatic Asylum in Alton, Hampshire.  Catherine and her sons went to live with her father at Portsdown Lodge.  (Biographical details from Deirdre Le Faye’s Chronology of Jane Austen and Her Family.)

Catherine turned to writing fiction to support herself and her children, producing ten novels (well thought of at the time, now largely forgotten) in just thirteen years.  Sara Wheeler states that a Hubback relation took the two elder sons as apprentices in the grain trade.  The middle son, Edward, found a post in a grain brokerage in San Francisco, and the youngest, Charles-Austen Hubback, answered an advertisement and secured a job at a mill in Prince William County, Virginia. In 1870, at the age of 52, Catherine emigrated to the United States and traveled alone by rail to join Edward, to whom she gave what money she had to advance his business interests.  She enjoyed California, traveled to see the sights, and tried her hand at writing stories with an American flavor, but achieved publication with only one.  To assist her sons, she made money by making lace, tinting photographs, and teaching.  Letters she wrote during this period have been published;  details of this fascinating phase of her life with quotes from the letters appear in a Persuasions article by David Hopkinson.
Chapman's Mill at Thoroughfare Gap, Virginia, as it stands today.  While I can't say this is the mill where Charles Hubback worked, it is just a stone's throw from where he lived and where Catherine Hubback is buried.   (From chapmansmill.org)
After Edward married, Catherine crossed the continent again to take up residence with Charles in the area around Gainesville and Haymarket, VA.  The mill had closed and he had gone from job to job, working in a vineyard, plowing, and chopping wood; he farmed on a small scale, and a later census (1880) lists his trade as "carpenter"--all quite a come-down from his grandfather Sir Francis Austen's lofty status.  According to family history,  Charles was a “clever gardener,” but farming in that area must have been challenging in the aftermath of the Civil War.  The area where he had settled was on key transportation routes along which soldiers, sometimes as many as 25,000 at a time, had passed at various times throughout the war.  The town of Haymarket (founded in 1799) was almost entirely burned by Union soldiers in 1862.  There were lingering physical impacts on the land, along with economic instability during the reconstruction period.  Yet Charles and his mother were not the only English newcomers to try to make a living in the area:  in the same churchyard are the graves of several other English immigrants.

One of these other English families were the Lywoods, who emigrated from Newton Stacey in Hampshire and arrived around the same time as Charles Hubback.  The Lywoods, who evidently were better-off than the Hubbacks, settled at Bacon (or Beacon) Hall, a large farm between Haymarket and Gainesville, where they raised sheep imported from England.  Charles and Bernhardine Hubback's son Francis was born in 1874 at Bacon Hall, but was Charles a hired hand, or an esteemed neighbor?  The Lywoods had a vineyard, so I think it most likely that Charles was their employee for a time.  (I hope to read Catherine Hubback's letters from Virginia, which may answer the question definitively.)

The headstone of Harriet Lywood.  After years of extreme cruelty at the hands of her husband, Harriet was granted a divorce.  She is buried at St. Paul's next to her son Leonard Wyndham Lywood.

Charles and Bernhardine Hubback had at least five children in Virginia--county birth records record four, and a fifth, who apparently did not live long, appears in death records.  (Genealogist and Austen descendant Ronald Dunning lists six, only four of which overlap with the ones recorded in Virginia records.) One child was “Fanny Carsandra Hubban” who died at four months of age. Her middle name recalls two earlier Cassandras, her great-aunt and great-grandmother, and her first name probably honors Catherine's sister Fanny-Sophia.

As for Catherine Hubback, she had little chance to establish herself in Virginia and get to know her son's growing family.  On February 25, 1877, in the middle of a Virginia winter much harsher than those she had known in England or California, she died of pneumonia. Charles did not put down roots in Virginia either:  a few years later he and his family moved to California.

Catherine had never met Jane Austen, who had died almost exactly a year before she was born. Catherine certainly knew of her famous aunt, however, having heard stories from her aunt Cassandra.  She identified with Jane to the extent that she wrote a completion of Austen’s novel The Watsons, titling her own book The Younger Sister.  Family connections were important:  she began but never finished a memoir of her father, and she provided extensive information to her cousin James-Edward Austen-Leigh for use in his biography of Jane Austen.  In time, Catherine’s son John-Henry Hubback took up his pen to write Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers (1906), in collaboration with his daughter Edith.  Catherine carried certain mementos of her family to America with her; Deirdre Le Faye's Chronology records ‘a pair of small gold Bracelets with Topaze Clasps,” possibly originally Elizabeth Austen’s; the portrait miniature of Eliza de Feuillide that is now at Jane Austen’s House Museum; and a set of lace dress ornaments that had descended in the family to Catherine.

Catherine Hubback (Photo: Brodnax Moore, from findagrave.com)
Alice Villasenor has written about Catherine Hubback's completion of The Watsons; her dissertation can be found here:  http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15799coll127/id/281202.  An overview of Catherine Hubback's novels can be found at http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/hubback/intro.html and http://www.victorianweb.org/previctorian/austen/tsw8.html

Monday, July 27, 2015

An Inventory of Possessions from 1818

I spend a lot of time looking at records of other people’s family members, but today I have one from my own.  My great-great-great-great-grandfather, an immigrant from England who fought on the American side in the Revolutionary War, went to court in 1818 to swear an oath so that he could obtain a veteran’s pension.  He gave a record of his possessions:

A lot of land containing 144 poles (less than an acre, which was 160 poles)

One cow

Two kettles

Two ovens

Two chairs

Three cups and saucers

Half dozen knives and forks

One chest

One loom.

Clearly, Mr. Darcy of the American frontier he was not!

A silk weaver in Spitalfields, London (Wellcome Trust)
My great-x4-grandfather had been a silk weaver in London until 1765, and he still owned a loom on which he had practiced his trade in America, though here he may have woven wool or linen, not silk.  By 1818, he was too old and infirm to work.  At the time, his household consisted of himself, his recently widowed daughter, and his daughter’s two young children. 

The lack of a table and beds among his sparse possessions leads me to think that he probably lived in rented accommodations where such basic (and not easily portable) furniture was supplied.  His clothing, blankets, and some homemade articles such as wooden plates were probably too low in value to be enumerated in his list of goods.  The presence of kettles and cups and saucers is interesting, reflecting how much the consumption of tea had been democratized by the early 19th century.  (Assertions that tea was hugely expensive in Jane Austen’s England are inaccurate:  In 1784, Parliament cut the tax on tea from 119% to 12.5%, making it affordable by a much larger proportion of the population.)

Another thing that strikes me is my ancestor’s ownership of a bit of land where his cow could graze, an indication of one of the essential differences between England and the United States.  Land on the western frontier was offered to Revolutionary soldiers as an incentive to remain in service, but I’m not sure whether my ancestor acquired his little plot as war bounty land or not.  In any case, had he remained in England, it’s unlikely he would have ever owned land. 

After his appearance in court, my ancestor was awarded a pension of $8 a month.    

Monday, July 20, 2015

Another Letter by Cassandra Austen: A Little Nostalgic Humor from Jane Austen's Sister

A letter--THE letter, you might say--written by Cassandra Elizabeth Austen about her sister Jane is currently in the news, as Jane Austen's House Museum is trying to raise funds to purchase it by July 31.  Today, I'm looking at a much later letter, with a vastly different tone, written by Cassandra about another relative's passing.   

My dearest Cassandra,
The letter which I have this moment received from you has diverted me beyond moderation. I could die of laughter at it, as they used to say at school. You are indeed the finest comic writer of the present age.
So wrote Jane Austen in 1796, in reply to some joke, now lost to us, from her sister Cassandra.  Cassandra has often been considered dour--for example, “humorless” and “rigid” are among the adjectives that Claire Harman applies to her in Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World.  Jane may have been exaggerating in her praise of her sister's comic abilities, but, after reading a letter written by Cassandra to her niece Anna Lefroy in 1838, I have to give the elder Austen sister some credit for wit, as shown by an offhand bit of humor in an unexpected context. 

On February 26, 1838, Cassandra began a letter to Anna, describing the death and funeral of Mary Dorothea Knight, wife of Edward Knight II (Jane and Cassandra Austen’s nephew).[See Note 1, bottom]  Mary Dorothea had died in London on February 22, 1838, of what her doctor termed “a constitutional tendency to determination of blood to the head” and was interred days later in the Knight family vault in Chawton.  Cassandra, in reporting the news to Anna, said that she was less shocked than she might have been because she had been alerted to Mary Dorothea’s “severe” distress early on by Edward.  So little shocked was Cassandra, in fact, that she included a touch of levity in her description of the burial arrangements:  

The old vault has been opened and is now under repair – It contains at present four Coffins, I suppose those of Lady Knight, alias Betty Martin, her two Husbands and one Brother, or perhaps two Brothers and one Husband – but this is all guess on my part.
 Not exactly a knee-slapper, I know, but the odd phrase “Lady Knight, alias Betty Martin” deserves a closer look.

First, we need to know who this “Lady Knight, alias Betty Martin” was.  Elizabeth Knight (born Elizabeth Martin in 1670) owned Chawton House, the accompanying land, and substantial other property, having inherited the Knight estates after Sir Richard Knight, the last male in the original line of Knights, failed to produce an heir and left his estates to his aunt’s grandchildren.  The property went first to Elizabeth’s two brothers in turn, and then to Elizabeth.  All three of the Martins assumed the “Knight” surname.
Elizabeth Knight by Jeremiah Davison, ca. 1730 (CHL)

Elizabeth married twice, but she did not take the last name of either of her husbands – instead, they took hers.  Both men were Members of Parliament and landowners in their own right, but when it came to running the Knight estates, Elizabeth was in charge.  For 35 years, she kept an eye on the estate accounts, hired and fired employees, and made sure that the Knight property would go wholly to her designee, not to one of her husbands’ relations.  Montagu Knight and W.A. Leigh, authors of Chawton Manor and Its Owners, who had read some of Elizabeth Knight’s correspondence, described her as:  
...a woman of strong character, masterful but affectionate, and with a keen sense of the duties as well as of the dignity of her position. She was somewhat of a grande Dame...
Queen Anne by Edmund Lilly, 1703
A portrait of Elizabeth at Chawton House, painted by Jeremiah Davison around 1730, confirms this impression of strength.  Not one of nature’s most delicate specimens, she is richly clothed and has a rather commanding look in her eye.  She looks, in fact, strikingly like Queen Anne, as painted by Edmund Lilly in 1703. It’s tempting to imagine that either the painter or Elizabeth herself decided to underscore her “grande dame” qualities by visually associating her with royalty, though this may have been simply a conventional pose for portraiture.[Note 2]
Back to Cassandra, Anna, and Jane.  In her 1838 letter, Cassandra calls Elizabeth Knight “Lady Knight”.  Elizabeth Knight was in no way eligible to use the title “Lady” (and I’m not aware that she ever did so)--so Cassandra’s use of that title, underlined to draw attention to it in her letter, must have been intended humorously. 

One way to mock the grandeur of the great lady was to inflate her title from “Mrs.” to “Lady”; another way was to downgrade her to common “Betty Martin.”  Betty Martin was not just a diminutive form of Elizabeth Knight’s birth name, however:  It was also part of an idiomatic expression that took different forms over the years.  A few examples:

That’s my eye, Betty Martin (Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1788)

My eye and Betty Martin (from a song of the same name in Ashburner’s New Vocal Repository, 1807)

It’s all my eye and Betty Martin (Hampshire Chronicle, 1810)

Oh! My eye, Betty Martin! (Oxford University and City Herald and many other newspapers, 1814)

All Betty Martin (A Disagreeable Surprise (play), 1828)

Whatever its form, the expression was well-known, and its meaning was, essentially, “That’s bunk--I’m not buying your story.”  (Who Betty Martin was and how the expression originated are unknown.)  Cassandra Austen’s words “Lady Knight, alias Betty Martin,” suggest that Elizabeth Knight was a bit of a fraud, and beneath the satin gown and queenly stare was only plain old Betty Martin, raised to riches and prominence by her lucky inheritance of the Knight estates.  I don't think Cassandra necessarily believed this--Elizabeth inherited the Martin estate in Oxfordshire and would have been well-off anyway--but the name made the joke too good to resist. The fact that Cassandra and Jane’s brother Edward was similarly transformed into a Knight gives this modest piece of wit an extra dimension. 

Anna Lefroy in later life
I think Cassandra was nostalgically sharing with Anna an old joke that they (and presumably Jane) had shared years before, when Anna as a teenager came to stay at the cottage with her aunts and grandmother.[Note 3]  (It would be distinctly odd for Cassandra to write like this to Anna in 1838 out of the blue, without any prior context.)  Perhaps young Anna and her aunts had looked up at the portrait of Elizabeth Martin hanging in Chawton House and had poked fun at the “grande dame.”   No doubt they had seen the memorial plaques for Elizabeth and her two husbands and one brother in the Church of St. Nicholas many times, and they might even have heard stories from villagers about the formidable lady squire of the previous century.  If they joked about Edward’s rise to wealth and power, too, it would be a bit of private consolation for those who only shared his good fortune at second hand.  There could also be affection in such humor, a reminder that "Mr. Knight" (as both Jane and her mother sometimes referred to him in correspondence to third parties) was at heart their brother "Neddy," as he was known in boyhood.  I recall Jane Austen's 1813 comment that "Edward is very well & enjoys himself as thoroughly as any Hampshire born Austen can desire"--Jane still thought of her brother as an Austen, and was happy to see that he did not forget his roots, despite his change of name and situation.  

It may seem strange and inappropriate for Cassandra to have taken a humorous tone in a letter reporting on the death of her nephew’s wife – but then, Jane Austen made many tart witticisms about the recently deceased in letters that she assumed would always remain private.  Their cool attitude toward the deaths of those who were not particularly dear to them emphasizes, by contrast, the pathos that suffuses the letter Cassandra wrote after Jane’s death on July 17, 1817.

That unique and important letter, written by Cassandra to niece Fanny Knight from Winchester, is currently the subject of a fundraising campaign by Jane Austen’s House Museum, which hopes to secure it for permanent exhibition in the museum.  The campaign ends July 31, 2015 – please visit http://campaign.justgiving.com/charity/jamt/cassandrasletter and contribute if you can. 

[1]  This letter, 23M93/84/1/14, is held by the Hampshire Record Office but is miscatalogued; HRO describes it erroneously as a letter about the 1808 death of Elizabeth Austen, wife of Edward Knight, Sr.  The text of Chawton Manor and Its Owners suggests that Montagu Knight may have seen this letter in the early 20th century, but I have not seen it published or quoted anywhere.  (If I'm wrong, please let me know!)
[2] Years ago, when I was touring Chawton House, another woman on the tour pointed out this resemblance to Queen Anne.  I don’t know who that person is, but I think she’s on to something.
[3]  Jane Austen included an Elizabeth Martin--Robert Martin’s sister and Harriet Smith’s schoolfriend--in Emma.  Coincidence or an in-joke? 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Education in Chawton and Environs

A village day school, 1804.  The cartoon's caption makes fun of the schoolmistress's questionable abilities. (Lewis Walpole Library, Yale)
In my book, Jane Austen, Edward Knight, & Chawton: Commerce & Community, I’ve taken detailed, specific data and drawn out of it the larger story of financial matters and community life during the time of Edward Knight and Jane Austen.  In this post, I want to take a closer look at one of the sources I used in my research to learn more about education and the role of landowners, clergymen, and charitable individuals in providing schools for the poor.

In 1819, Parliament conducted an inquiry into the provisions for educating the poor of Great Britain.  A questionnaire was sent to each parish’s minister, directing him to report on the schools within his parish.  John Rawstorn Papillon, rector, completed the questionnaire for Chawton as follows:


Population:  347

Particulars Relating to Endowments for Education of Youth:  None.

Other Institutions for the Purpose of Education:  Two schools, containing 48 children; and two Sunday schools, consisting of 32 girls and boys.

Observations:  The poor are desirous for their children to be educated, and they have the privilege of sending some of their boys to a free school, about two miles off.

During Jane Austen’s lifetime and for some years thereafter, there was no state-provided funding for education.  What schools were available for the poor were funded by individual or organizational charity.  The Parliamentary questionnaire asked about "endowments":  an “endowment” was a continuing income bequeathed in a donor’s will and directed toward a specific purpose.  Chawton did not have any endowed schools, but some of its boys were sent to Eggar’s Grammar School, an endowed school in Alton.  Chawton did have day schools (also known as dame schools) for the poor; Edward Knight, and the Knights before him, paid a village woman an annual salary to serve as schoolteacher.  For those children who could not attend school daily, Sunday schools gave them a chance to pick up the rudiments of reading as well as religious instruction.  The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, an organization to which Jane Austen contributed money, was a force in setting up Sunday schools throughout the country.  (A list of SPCK contributors appeared in Hampshire newspapers in September 1813, showing that Jane and Cassandra each gave ten shillings and sixpence (£0.10.6), while Mrs. Austen and Martha Lloyd each gave a guinea (£1.1.0).) 
1810 map showing some of the places mentioned in this post.  Chawton and Alton are near the center, Shalden is at the top, Holybourne to the right, and Farringdon at bottom. 

How did Chawton compare to other places?  As might be expected, towns had greater educational resources.  J.G. Gibson, officiating minister, completed the questionnaire for Alton, the town nearest to Chawton, as follows:


Population:  2316

Particulars Relating to Endowments for Education of Youth:  A free grammar school, founded by John Eggar, of Montgomeryshire, containing from 9 to 20 boys.  The funds consist of 88.11.0 per ann. arising from freehold lands in Chawton, and money in the stocks...  The master’s salary and that of his usher are 45.0.0…

Other Institutions for the Purpose of Education:  A national school, consisting of 267 children, and about 100 attend the day schools.  Four respectable boarding schools of both sexes, comprising from 100 to 120 scholars.

Observations:  The poor have not sufficient means of educating their children, but are desirous they should possess them.  They send 12 boys to the parish of Holybourne, free of expense.

Eggar’s School was endowed through a bequest of land, which was rented out to farmers, with the rent money invested and used to sustain the school.    

During the first decades of the 19th century, “national schools” were actually run by the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Church of England, an outgrowth of the SPCK; later, they were taken over by the government.  “Boarding schools” were privately run schools charging fees, such as Mrs. Goddard’s school was in Emma.   

Endowed schools generally offered the best educational opportunities for poor children, but funds supposed to provide for the school were sometimes diverted.  One example is the school at Selborne, just a few miles from Chawton.  (Edward Knight did not own any property in Selborne and had no role in the education of its children.)  William Cobbold, the rector, gave vent to his frustrations:

Selbourne [this is the old spelling; it is now Selborne]

Population:  770

Particulars Relating to Endowments for Education of Youth:  A school, containing at present 10 children; the funds arise from 11 acres of land purchased with 100 left for that purpose by Gilbert White, late vicar of Selbourne in 1719; the mistress receives 4d. [4 pence] per week for each child while at school; but the minister observes, for a long time the charity has been abused, and that till the year 1813, the time when he came to the living, nobody had inquired into the misapplication; that then he called upon the trustee relative to the charity, but receiving only evasive and unsatisfactory answers, he presented in 1817, a petition to the master of the rolls, with whom it still rests, and to whom he refers for further particulars.  

Other Institutions for the Purpose of Education:  Five small day schools, containing 84 children.

Observations:  ---

The Selborne rector was not alone in reporting abuses.  In the parish of Hinton Ampner, the school endowment was “grossly abused” by one of its supervisors until a case in the Court of Chancery sorted it out.  

The village of Steventon, where Jane Austen was born and raised, was very small.  James Austen, Jane’s eldest brother, was still listed as rector in 1819 (he was to die that year), but the schools questionnaire was completed by officiating minister James Davies, who reported as follows:


Population:  167

Particulars Relating to Endowments for Education of Youth:  None.

Other Institutions for the Purpose of Education:  A school for all the children of the parish, containing about 10.

Observations:  The poor have sufficient means of education.

As with the school in Chawton, records show that Edward Knight paid the salary of the Steventon schoolteacher.  He didn’t extend this charity to every parish where he owned property, however.  Perhaps (I am speculating here), because the church had a role in education of the poor, Knight chose to support schools only in those parishes where he owned the living (that is, the right to choose the clergyman). 

Compare Chawton to  Shalden, a small parish just to the north, where Knight owned a significant amount of woodland.  C.H. White was the parson, reporting as follows:


Population:  157

Particulars Relating to Endowments for Education of Youth:  None.

Other Institutions for the Purpose of Education:  None.

Observations:  The poor are without the means of educating their children, and they have very little time to attend to education, except on Sundays, being employed from a very early age in agriculture:  and a Sunday school has been lately relinquished from the failure of means to support it, but the minister hopes soon to re-establish it.

Throughout the nation, children’s employment in factories and on farms meant that many could not take advantage of whatever educational resources existed.  While this was a widespread problem in Shalden, it was not unknown in Chawton:  John White, who grew up in Chawton in the 1820s and nearly a century later dictated his memoirs of his childhood years, had to forego school and earn an income to support his family because his father had been incapacitated in the Napoleonic Wars.

Edward Knight owned property in Farringdon, a village adjoining Chawton where J. Benn (brother of Jane Austen’s friend Miss Benn) was rector.  In 1819, Knight was not the only large landowner there, and he did not underwrite the schooling of Farringdon children.  Decades later, however, most of the parish land was owned by Knight, and in 1852 Edward Knight, Jr., paid £250 to rebuild the school in Farringdon.  


Population:  378

Particulars Relating to Endowments for Education of Youth:  None.

Other Institutions for the Purpose of Education:  A Sunday school, containing 18 children.

Observations:  The poor have not the means of education, but are desirous of possessing them.

The questionnaire for Holybourne, four miles east of Chawton, was completed by J.G. Gibson, master of the endowed school there.  This was the school to which 12 Alton boys were sent every year.  Gibson took the opportunity of the Parliamentary inquiry to plead for a higher salary.  His report provides valuable detail on the running and financing of such schools during the period.  


Population:  384

Particulars Relating to Endowments for Education of Youth:  A school founded by a Mr. Andrews in 1719, for the instruction of all the boys and girls of this parish, who amount to 43, and 12 boys from Alton, 5 from Binsted, and 3 from Froyle, are instructed; 12 of the Holybourne children are annually clothed, and 1 or 2 boys are annually put out apprentice at a premium of £10.  The master has a good house and £78 per annum, out of which he has to pay an under master £25 and a mistress £8 besides various other charges amounting to £62.11.0.  The [endowment] funds consist of £131.12.8 per annum, arising chiefly from fee farm rents.  The lease of a house will also soon fall in producing £30 per annum at least; and an action has been commenced to recover a fee farm rent of £8.4.0 which has been withheld for some years.  It was specified by the founder, that the master should be a clergyman of the Established Church, and should perform divine service and preach three times in a fortnight; so that, with the curate’s duty, there might be service both morning and evening every Sunday.  The above statement will show how exceedingly inadequate so small a stipend as £16.9.0 is for the support of a minister.  The curacy is only £20 a year, so that when both offices are united it is still very inconsiderable, and requires to be improved to render it respectable.

Other Institutions for the Purpose of Education:  A school containing 41 children, who are prepared by a woman for the free school at the expense of their parents.

Observations:  The parents of the children are all poor, and would be glad to be saved the expense of their education at the preceding preparatory school. 

J.A. Atkinson, Going to School, 1800-1810.
(Yale Center for British Art) 

Chawton and Steventon were fortunate that the major landowner was willing to pay a schoolmistress to provide basic education to the poor; for quite a number of parishes in the Parliamentary report, educational resources are reported as “none” across the board.  It was not until 1870, with the passage of the Elementary Education Act, that local authorities in Britain were required to provide education to children between the ages of 5 and 13 (and even then the schools were not free, and attendance was not mandatory in all areas).   

Before 1870, the availability of education was entirely dependent on the charity, goodwill, and service of those who funded the schools directly (such as Edward Knight), those who contributed to organizations that provided them (including Jane Austen and many of her relations), and those who personally taught children (such as Cassandra Austen).  

As a bit of a postscript, I’d like to point out two links between the early 19th century and our time.  John Rawstorn Papillon, the Chawton rector whom Jane Austen joked she would marry someday “whatever may be his reluctance or my own,” inherited an estate, at Lexden in Essex, and in his will bequeathed an endowment for the Sunday school there.  That endowment still operates, producing about £100 a year.  While the value of money has changed over time, the importance of literacy has not, and some of those working to support basic education operate on the global scale.  The Jane Austen Literacy Foundation, founded by Edward Knight's descendant Caroline Knight, works to effect positive and significant change to global literacy rates.  More about the foundation is here. 

The parish returns quoted above are pulled from the complete 1819 Parliamentary report, available online.