Archive of the month - the baptism of one of England’s great novelists

‘Jane, Daughter of the Revd Mr George Austen Rector of this Parish, & Cassandra his wife was privately Baptiz’d Decr 17th 1775 Rec’d into the Church April 5th 1776’

Jun 16 2017

Archive of the month

This is Jane Austen’s baptism entry, found within the Steventon parish register, and written by Jane’s father, who was rector of the parish.  The document is held at Hampshire Record Office, alongside hundreds of other Hampshire parish registers which record baptisms, marriages and burials from as early as 1536.

Jane was born in Steventon in 1775 and she has a strong connection to Hampshire, having spent  most of her life living in the county.  She spent her early life in Steventon and is known to have attended balls and dances at various different country residences in the county, including Hackwood Park, Hurstbourne Park and The Vyne.  After a few years away in Bath and Southampton she returned to Hampshire to live in Chawton.  It was during her time in Chawton that Jane wrote Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion. The influence of Hampshire can be found in her writing, with local place names, and the names of acquaintances, albeit with subtle alterations.

A range of documents about Jane, her family and the period can be discovered at Hampshire Record Office.  These include letters, maps, drawings and diaries, alongside the baptism entry shown here.  A highlight within the collections is the diary of Mary Austen, sister-in-law to Jane. Mary was present when Jane died in Winchester and poignantly records the moment in her diary.

Hampshire Record Office is celebrating Jane’s bicentenary with a special evening event on 19 July from 6.30pm to 9.00pm where you will have the opportunity to see the baptism register, Mary Austen’s diary, letters by Jane and other unique documents. Professor Emma Clery, from the University of Southampton, will be giving a talk entitled ‘Jane Austen’s banker brother and financial scandal in Regency England’, based on her new revealing research. Live Regency music from The Madding Crowd will accompany the event alongside drinks and canapés. Cost: £12, book in advance by phoning 01962 846154 or book online.