Kentish Places
Jane Austen's Regency World|88 – July/August 2017

The Jane Austen society of the UK by Vivian Branson

 

Vivian Branson

Kent is the only place for Happiness, Everybody is rich there,” wrote Jane Austen on December 19, 1798. Here in Kent, often known as “the garden of England”, we are immersed in the huge number of Austen associations in our lovely county. It is here that Austen’s roots are found: William Astyn lived in Yalding, died in 1522 and his descendants moved to Horsmonden where Austen memorials are found in the pretty church of St Margaret’s.

Tonbridge has a wealth of Austen associations. Elizabeth Weller, Jane’s great grandmother, was born and brought up here. Elizabeth married John Austen IV of Broadford, Horsmonden, to whom she bore seven children before he died leaving her in considerable debt. Elizabeth wrote: “I cou’d not do a better thing for my Children’s good, their education being my great care … I always tho’t if they had Learning, they might ye better shift in ye world.”

She procured employment at Sevenoaks School as housekeeper; in return for which the five sons living with her were educated. Three of her children returned to Tonbridge, including Jane’s grandfather, William, who became a surgeon. Jane was well aware of the status of surgeons in those times; in The Watsons one of the characters declares: “The Edwardses look much higher. Her father and mother would never consent to it. Sam is only a surgeon you know”.

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