Tag Archives: Jane Austen

Historic family connections in Kendal

During the Easter holidays we took a trip up to Scotland to visit some friends. Scotland was looking stunningly beautiful, as always, and the landscape reminded us fondly of the South Island of New Zealand, our home for 15 years.

In order to break the journey on the way back, we stopped for two nights in Kendal. I knew there were some historic family connections with Kendal and Westmorland, and I wanted to investigate further.

The Morland family originally came from a village called Morland in Westmorland. We visited there two years ago on our last trip up to Scotland.

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My ancestors also include the Matson family, who came from a place called Titup in Dalton-in-Furness. Ann Matson married Thomas Morland in the 1770s (she was the mother of the ‘Jane Austen generation’ of the Morland family. See this blog post for more information about that). This is Ann as a young lady:

Ann Morland as a young woman

Ann Morland as a young woman

And this is her sister, Margaret Matson:

Margaret Matson as a young lady

Margaret Matson as a young lady

We visited Kendal Parish Church, which is a very impressive building, illustrating the wealth of this area in the 18th Century. Inside we found some plaques to some of my Morland and Matson ancestors! This was very exciting, as we have portraits in the house of some of the people named on these plaques.

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The people named on this plaque are William Matson of Titup and his wife Ann, daughter of Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite. I’m pretty sure that this William and Ann Matson were the parents of Ann and Margaret in the portraits above. Not only that, but we have portraits in the house of William Matson, his wife Ann, and Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite.

William Matson of Titup

William Matson of Titup

Ann Morland, wife of William Matson

Ann Morland, wife of William Matson

Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite

Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite

This portrait of Jacob Morland is supposedly by George Romney, a famous portrait artist from Kendal. There was a plaque to him in Kendal Parish Church too, and many of his paintings were on display in the Kendal art gallery.

Plaque to George Romney

Plaque to George Romney

However, like many of the portraits in Court Lodge, our ‘Romney’ is actually a copy. At various points in the family history the portraits were copied and the originals sold. The original hangs in the Tate Britain, and looks like this:

Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite by George Romney

Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite by George Romney

Quite a difference! We visited the art gallery in Kendal and saw many more of the Romney portraits, which show that this portrait is very much of his style. See this one, for example:

Portrait of INSERT NAME by George Romney

Portrait by George Romney

There were other plaques in Kendal Parish Church of Morland and Matson ancestors. We found this one under a carpet in the Parr Chapel of the Church (named after the family of Katherine Parr, the wife of Henry VIII who survived him):

Plaque to Margaret Matson, Relict of William Matson of Titeup

Plaque to Margaret Matson, Relict of William Matson of Titeup

And this one names another daughter of Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite:

Plaque to Thomas Holme and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite

Plaque to Thomas Holme and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite

The place that is frequently mentioned in connection with the Matson family is Titup (sometimes spelt Titeup). I had googled Titup to see if it was a place that still existed, but had found nothing. However, Ian got on the case, and found that if you were a bit more relaxed about the spelling, something fascinating turned up. He found a house near Dalton-in-Furness for sale on an estate agent’s website called Tytup Hall. Here it is:

Tytup Hall, Dalton-in-Furness

Tytup Hall, Dalton-in-Furness

It was so exciting to see a picture of the house that Ann Matson must have lived in before moving to Court Lodge when she married Thomas Morland. The estate agent’s website also included an Ordnance Survey map showing Tytup Hall:

Ordnance Survey map showing Tytup Hall

Ordnance Survey map showing Tytup Hall

While we were in the Kendal museum, we bought a copy of the first edition Ordnance Survey map of the area, and sure enough, in the very same place, just North of Dalton-in-Furness is Titeup Hall (note the different spelling!):

Titeup Hall on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map from the 1860s

Titeup Hall on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map from the 1860s

I felt like this visit to Kendal put me in touch with my historical family connections in this part of the world. It was great to see the plaques in the church, and be able to connect them with the portraits that we have in the house. The collection of portraits that we have now makes more sense to me. Ann Matson must have brought with her portraits of her parents (Ann and William Matson) and her grandfather (Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite), as well as the portrait of herself and her sister Margaret. Just like we surround ourselves with photographs, carry them round with us on our phones, and share them on social media, our ancestors in the eighteenth century brought their portraits with them when they married into a new life.

It was also wonderful to see Titup Hall, albeit on an estate agent’s website, as I have seen it mentioned in the family pedigree, as well as on all the plaques. It makes my family history seem all the more real to me.

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Did Jane Austen ever visit Court Lodge?

Those of you who follow this blog, may remember a post of mine about a year ago about the connections between the Morland family of Court Lodge and Jane Austen’s family. (If you missed it, it’s here: https://courtlodgeestate.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/jane-austen-the-morlands-and-court-lodge/)

In the year since I wrote that last post, I have been finding out more about these connections, and in particular, about Francis Motley Austen.

To briefly recap, the generation of the Morland family that was contemporary with Jane Austen consisted of seven siblings. The youngest, Margaretta Morland, married Col. Thomas Austen, Jane Austen’s second cousin. Further research showed that, not just one, but five of these seven siblings married someone with some connection to the Austen family. The Morlands and the Austens were far more connected with each other than I had realised.

There was one thread of my investigation that I hadn’t been able to reach the end of, and I desperately wanted to find the missing information. It had become clear that Francis Motley Austen, father of Col. Thomas Austen, and son of Jane Austen’s wealthy great uncle Old Francis Austen, had lived here in Lamberhurst for about 15 years. What I hadn’t been able to find out was where in Lamberhurst he lived. No one seemed to know, not the Kent branch of the Jane Austen Society, nor various Jane Austen scholars that I made contact with.

The evidence that he had lived in Lamberhurst was that 5 of his children were born and christened in the church here between 1781 and 1787, and that another of Jane Austen’s cousins, Phylly Walter, is recorded as having visited him and his family at their house in Lamberhurst. And one tantalising piece of evidence was that in 1783 he ordered a had from a London hat maker from Court Lodge!

When I first read this last piece of evidence I assumed that he must have been visiting Court Lodge, being perhaps friends with the Morlands who lived here at the time. But then it was suggested to me that perhaps he actually lived here. My first reaction was that he couldn’t have lived here, because the Morlands have owned Court Lodge since 1733. But then I had an idea.

During the 1780s the head of the Morland family, Thomas Morland, father of the seven children who were contemporary with Jane Austen, died quite young. He was 50, and his eldest son, William Alexander Morland, was a minor at the time. I remember my great uncle William wondering whether Thomas’s widow, Ann, looked after the house until her son came of age, or whether she went back to Cumbria, where her family were, and left Court Lodge in the hands of a steward. The penny dropped!

My theory took shape. Francis Motley Austen did live here at Court Lodge: he acted as steward, looking after it until William Alexander Morland came of age and wanted to come and take over the reigns. In 1796, when Francis Motley Austen moved to Kippington, William Alexander Morland would have been 29, married, and ready to move back in as squire of Court Lodge, having practised law in London for some years.

To support my theory, you may recall another more recent blog post of mine about hair powder licenses. (https://courtlodgeestate.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/a-license-to-use-powder/) I wrote here about finding some old hair powder licenses, naming all of the women in the Morland family in the 1790s. They are stated as living in Highgate, Kendal.

So, to answer great uncle William’s question: Ann Morland did return to Cumbria with her daughters, and so must have left Court Lodge in the hands of a steward. Next, I needed some evidence that Francis Motley Austen definitely lived here. And it wasn’t hard to find.

I searched on the National Archives, and found an old legal document dating from 1794. One of the parties to this indenture is, and I quote, “Francis Motley Austen of Court Lodge, Lamberhurst in the county of Kent”!

The fourth line down says "Between Francis Motley Austen of Court Lodge in..." It continues on the next line, which is in the next picture.

The fourth line down says “Between Francis Motley Austen of Court Lodge in…” It continues on the next line, which is in the next picture.

The fifth line down continues from where the last line left off "... Lamberhurst in the county of Kent esquire"

The fifth line down continues from where the last line left off “… Lamberhurst in the county of Kent esquire”

So here is some concrete evidence that Francis Motley Austen lived at Court Lodge!

What makes this particularly interesting is that when Phylly Walter came to visit the Motley Austen cousins at Lamberhurst in 1787, she would have visited them here at Court Lodge.

She went to Tunbridge Wells, and records the daily round of shopping, dancing, theatre-going, horse racing, sightseeing and concerts at the assembly rooms, including a dinner visit to the Motley Austen cousins at Lamberhurst.

She was travelling with Eliza de Feuillide and Mrs Philadelphia Hancock.

If my theory is correct, she would have visited the Motley Austen cousins at Court Lodge.

Although there is no record of Jane Austen visiting Court Lodge, to my knowledge, she is known to have visited her other cousins in Kent. So it is entirely possible that she, like her cousin, Phylly Walter, did visit her Motley Austen cousins, and if so, she would have come here to Court Lodge.

This is so exciting for me, not only because it demonstrates that the link between Jane Austen and Court Lodge is closer than we ever thought before, but also because I seem to have happened upon some genuinely new information. No one knew where in Lamberhurst Francis Motley Austen lived… until now. He lived at Court Lodge.

Anna Eleanora Morland

While on a camping trip to Dorset over half term, my family and I paid a visit to the village of Sydling St. Nicholas. One of my female Morland ancestors married Sir John Smith, Baronet, of Sydling St. Nicholas, and lived at Sydling Court. I had learned that there was a plaque in the church to Anna Eleanora, and had been in touch with Angela Shaw, one of the Friends of the Church of Sydling St. Nicholas. I wanted to see the plaque, and also see what other information I could find out about her. This is a portrait of Anna Eleanora, which hangs in the dining room at Court Lodge:

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The plaque is located in quite a prominent position in the chancel of the church. This is a close up of it:

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It states that it was erected by her son in law, Sir John Wyldbore Smith, which was puzzling as she and her husband didn’t have any children. I’ve since done a little more digging around though, and found out that Anna Eleanora was Sir John Smith’s second wife. Sir John Wyldbore Smith was his son from his first marriage to Elizabeth Wyldbore (great name!). So he was in fact Anna Eleanora’s step-son. I think it’s not too far fetched to think that the term ‘son in law’ might refer to this sort of filial relationship. The next photo shows the position of the plaque in the chancel. It is the middle one on the right:

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The plaque also states that Anna Eleanora “lies here interred”. Angela told me that all of the Smith family named on the plaques in the church were interred in a vault beneath the chancel. Some years ago, when they were restoring the floor of the chancel, the then vicar attached a camera to a stick and photographed what lies beneath… and this is what the camera revealed:

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The coffins look very ornate, and in remarkably good shape!

Anna Eleanora and Sir John Smith lived at Sydling Court, and it turns out that, like Court Lodge, Sydling Court is right next door to the church. Also like Court Lodge, it is a Georgian building. I couldn’t get a very good view of it, but here is a glimpse:

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And this is a picture of the Church:

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There are links between the Smith family that Anna Eleanora married into and Jane Austen’s family, and another plaque revealed something of this link. Sir John Wyldbore Smith married Elizabeth Ann, daughter of the Rev. James Marriott of Horsmonden:

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Their children became Smith-Marriotts, and a couple of generations later a William Bosworth Smith-Marriott married Charlotte Marianne Austen, of the Kent branch of the Austen family.

I have also been looking more into the connections between the Morlands and the Austens, and there is more to update on that front too, but that will have to wait for another post.

I feel extremely privileged to be able to link the names in my family tree with portraits that hang on the walls of Court Lodge, and also with buildings and memorials that are still standing. I’m able to trace my ancestors geographically as well as chronologically, and I feel more a part of the family network as a result.

Jane Austen, the Morlands, and Court Lodge

One of the family anecdotes that I have always known is that one of my Morland ancestors married Jane Austen’s cousin. As a child and a teenager I was quite unimpressed by this, but now that I am beginning to piece together the family history for myself I have found this aspect of my research absolutely fascinating. There are more connections with Jane Austen’s family than I originally thought.

The heroine of Northanger Abbey is called Catherine Morland, so I wondered whether, if one of our female Morland ancestors was known to Jane Austen, she might have been the inspiration for this character?

The family connections with the Austens are all based around the generation of Morlands that are contemporary with Jane Austen (1775-1817). Margaretta Morland (1777-1825) married Jane Austen’s second cousin, Col. Thomas Austen (1775-1859). In order to find out how closely connected the Morland family was to Jane Austen and her family, there are two connections I had to investigate: first, how closely connected were Jane Austen’s branch of her family with Thomas Austen’s branch of the family? And second, how closely connected were the Morlands with Thomas Austen’s branch of the family? But the very first connection to understand is: how exactly was Thomas Austen related to Jane Austen?

Col. Thomas Austen and Jane Austen were second cousins; their grandfathers were brothers. Col. Thomas Austen’s grandfather was old Francis Austen, who was a wealthy man living in Sevenoaks. Jane Austen’s grandfather was William Austen, younger brother to old Francis Austen, who died young, at the age of just 36. My next question was: how close were these two branches of the Austen family? Second cousins may have a lot to do with each other, or not very much. What sort of second cousins were these?

When William Austen died, his son George, Jane Austen’s father, was just six years old. It seems that the wealthy older brother, Francis, stepped in and took on the financial responsibilities for his young nephew, George. He paid to put him through Tonbridge School, and when he graduated from Oxford, Francis found two livings for him. You could say that he acted in loco parentis to George Austen. This makes the two branches of the Austen family really quite close to each other.

Jane Austen and her elder sister Cassandra stayed with old Francis Austen in Sevenoaks when aged 12 and 15 respectively. He was their wealthy great uncle, and it was during this stay that old Francis Austen supposedly commissioned a portrait of Jane Austen.

The portrait, known as the Rice portrait, is supposedly of Jane Austen aged about 12. There is some dispute over whether it really is of Jane Austen, although from my brief  foray into the debate, I would say that consensus if beginning to form on the side that it is of Jane Austen. There is a recent article in the Times Literary Supplement endorsing its authenticity. (Claudia L. Johnson, ‘Jane Austen to the Life?’, Times Literary Supplement, 28 August 2013)

If the story of its provenance is genuine, then it was first owned by old Francis Austen, who commissioned it. It then passed to his son, Francis Motley Austen, and then to his son, Col. Thomas Austen, husband of Margaretta Morland. So the two branches of the Austen family were close enough that Thomas’s family had a portrait of Jane in their house for several generations.

The sixth owner of the portrait was the Revd. John Morland Rice, the fourth son of Elizabeth Austen and Edward Royd Rice. He was given the name ‘Morland’ after his mother’s “dear friend from girlhood,” Margaretta Morland. He received the portrait in 1883. Since his ownership, it has passed down through the Rice family, hence its current name. So here is a link between the Morland family and one of the very few (if authentic) likenesses of Jane Austen in existence.

The next question to ask was: how close were the Morlands to the Austens? Did they know each other at all, or was Margaretta the only connection between the Morlands and the Austens? One question that niggles away at the back of my mind is ‘Could Jane ever have visited Court Lodge?’.

To recap, old Francis Austen was the wealthy great uncle of Jane Austen, who sponsored her father’s education and found him two livings, so was very supportive of Jane’s family. His eldest son was Francis Motley Austen, and his son was Col. Thomas Austen, and it was he who married Margaretta Morland. What I now want to establish is how well the Morlands knew this branch of the Austen family. And my research has thrown up some interesting connections.

Old Francis Austen had three sons. Francis Motley Austen (FMA) was the eldest. I came across a book entitled A Chronology of Jane Austen and her Family, by Deirdre Le Faye. This book appears to recount every event for which there is some documentary evidence, that concerns any of the Austen family. Searching this book, I came across the following entry:

1783, May 28, Wednesday. Court Lodge, Lamberhurst, Kent: Francis Motley Austen orders a Thanet-style hat from Messrs. Lock of No. 6 St James’s Street, London.

(Deirdre Le Faye, A Chronology of Jane Austen and her Family, 1600-2000. Revised Edition. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,  2013) p. 92.)

I was intrigued. I delved further, and here are just some of the things I discovered:

  • Throughout the 1780s and 1790s a succession of children of Francis Motley Austen and his wife Elizabeth were born and christened in Lamberhurst.
  • In 1796 Francis Motley Austen moved from Lamberhurst to Kippington in Sevenoaks.
  • On February 5th 1812 at Kippington, Francis Motley Austen made his will.

Francis Motley Austen, and his growing family, clearly lived in Lamberhurst until 1796, when they moved to Kippington. Where in Lamberhurst they lived, I’ve yet to discover. However, the entry about FMA making his will is most revealing. The date on which he makes his will at Kippington is 16 years after he has moved away from Lamberhurst. In it he leaves legacies to his younger children which are to be held in trust for them. One of the trustees is William Alexander Morland. He also leaves a token legacy of 100 guineas to his “good friend” William Alexander Morland. William Alexander Morland, remember, is the elder brother of Margaretta Morland, who married FMA’s son.

So it seems that Francis Motley Austen lived in Lamberhurst and was good friends with the then head of the Morland family, William Alexander Morland, since at least 1783 when he ordered a hat while at Court Lodge. They also remained good friends until well after he had moved to Kippington.

In 1806, FMA’s eldest son made his will, and William Alexander Morland was one of the witnesses to this will.

There are, intriguingly, many other connections between the Morlands of this generation and the Austens, but I will save those stories for another time.

I think there are good grounds for seeing this as a very close family connection. The well-to-do families of this generation kept very close to one another. Marriages were, if not arranged, then at least orchestrated by the older generations. Marriage was most often not exclusively for love, but also for expedience, as Jane Austen’s novels show us.

I think there are good reasons for thinking that William Alexander, as head of the Morland family, and good friends with Francis Motley Austen, might have encouraged the marriage between his younger sister and Francis Motley Austen’s son.

There remains much more research for me to carry out on the connections between the Austens and the Morlands. I would like to find out where in Lamberhurst Francis Motley Austen and his family lived. It may be that the house he lived in no longer exists, or it may be one of the substantial houses in the village. He was a wealthy man, so it would have been a substantial house.

I don’t suppose I’ll ever find out for certain whether Jane Austen ever visited Court Lodge. Although the Chequers Inn in Lamberhurst boasts on its website that Jane Austen is known to have visited there. If that’s right then I think it would be extremely likely that she did visit Court Lodge.

I think it is at least plausible to think that Jane Austen did visit Court Lodge. But whether she did or not, this has all been a very exciting discovery for Court Lodge.

The Rice Portrait:  Jane Austen as a young girl?

The Rice Portrait: Jane Austen as a young girl?

Silhouette of Margaretta Morland

Silhouette of Margaretta Morland

The label on the back reads 'Mrs Austen, née Margaretta Morland, Kippington'

The label on the back reads ‘Mrs Austen, née Margaretta Morland, Kippington’

Postscript note:

After seeing the comment below about the plaque to Anna Eleanora Smith (née Morland) in the church at Sydling St. Nicholas I thought I’d post this photo of Anna Eleanora that hangs in Court Lodge:

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