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Anorak | Locals seek to save Jane Austen church from new arrivals

Locals seek to save Jane Austen church from new arrivals

by | 15th, February 2018

Local matters, now, in the Cotswolds, where some locals might be more local than others. It’s all about when it’s right and proper to lay down your marker.

The Leigh family took possession of Adlestrop Park, formerly monastic land, in 1553. The land was handed down the family line. Things were built on it. One Leigh, the Rev Thomas Leigh (d 1813), was uncle of the novelist Jane Austen, who visited the family pile and assorted buildings in 1794, and again in 1799 and 1806. Some suppose the place inspired Austen to create Sotherton Court, the estate in her book Mansfield Park.

An historian notes:

Jane Austen stayed with her Leigh cousins at Adlestrop several times and kept in constant touch with events there by letter. It was in Gloucestershire that she saw at first-hand how the eighteenth-century craze for improvements totally changed the village landscape. It is probable that Adlestrop Park and the Parsonage House inspired fictional places such as Thornton Lacey in Mansfield Park.

The Leighs don’t live in the village they changed in a flurry of faddish spending. Their former estate is owned by the Collins family. They dug deep into the pockets and helped fund the refurbishment of the local church’s five bells.

Now the rector and churchwardens have asked a consistory court to let Dominic Collins install a hatchment, a coat of arms display, in the church in memory of his late wife. But the idea was opposed by local historian and Austen expert Victoria Huxley, who said it was inappropriate to install a memorial to a family who were not the Leighs.

She writes:

“I was very surprised that someone with a relatively short link to the village (compared to the age of the church) should seek to place their coat of arms in the church, and I do not think that most people in the village have been alerted to this request… feel that only a family which has strong ties over several generations should have such a display.”

Are you local enough?

June Rogers, chancellor of the diocese of Gloucester, is unimpressed with that reasoning, arguing: “The Jane Austen connection does not preserve in aspic this church. As the Leighs succeeded Evesham Abbey, so the Collins family is now in residence. Another layer has been added to the life and continuity of this village.”

Hasn’t it always been about marking the wealthy’s territory, including being closer to God and other seats of power than thee? As one visitor to Adlestrop writes:

Inside the church are many marble memorials to the Leigh family both on the walls and on the floor of the nave… On the north wall of the nave are some Leigh family hatchments showing their dynastic marriages to the Twisleton and Brydges family..

The tower has a clock on its north and east side which was added to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, and the fine arch and lantern at the entrance to the churchyard were added on her Diamond Jubilee. The sundial in the churchyard marks Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee.

No word on the local peasants. And not much sign of them, neither.



Posted: 15th, February 2018 | In: News Comment | TrackBack | Permalink