St. Nicholas Church, Steventon, where Jane Austen was baptized and which she attended every Sunday for the first twenty-five years of her life, was in the charge of her family for over a century.
Inside the church are many interesting objects associated with the Austen family. In an alcove near the pulpit are relics found on the site of the rectory where Jane Austen lived. A brass plaque to Jane was put up in 1936 by her great-
grand- niece Emma Austen- Leigh and on the same wall is a card displaying a prayer written by Jane Austen. There are monuments in the chancel to James, Jane’s eldest brother, who succeeded his father as rector at Steventon, and to his two wives, Anne who died in 1795 and Mary who survived him and is buried with him in the churchyard. Further memorials remember various Knight family members who were related to the Austens.
The Steventon rectory no longer stands (it was demolished by Jane’s brother Edward who built a new house for his son, William Knight, who later took over the parish). The site of the old rectory can be seen on the corner of the lane leading from the church where it meets the road going to the village. On foot, it is possible to see some fencing around an old pump which would have been in the rectory backyard. The house had fields at the back where the Austens farmed and grew potatoes -
still a novelty at that time. There were also formal gardens and there was a barn.
It was in the rectory that Jane Austen wrote the first drafts of novels which were to become Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey.
When the Rev Austen decided to retire, he chose to move to Bath, taking his wife and two daughters. All the family’s furniture and effects -
even the cows and Jane’s piano - were auctioned off on the premises in May, 1801. Jane’s eldest brother James moved into the rectory with his family, taking over the parish, so Jane was still able to visit Steventon and keep up old friendships.
After James’ death, brother Henry was briefly rector of Steventon, succeeded by his nephew William.