Capel Manor, it was eventually demolished in 1966 horsmonden
Elizabeth Weller, a woman happily cast in a different mould from her husband, was an ancestress of Jane Austen who deserves commemoration. Thrifty, energetic, a careful mother, and a prudent housewife, she managed, though receiving only grudging assistance from the Austen family, to pay off her husband's debts, and to give to all her younger children a decent education at a school at Sevenoaks; the eldest boy (the future squire) being taken off her hands by his grandfather. Elizabeth left behind her not only elaborately kept accounts but also a minute description of her actions through many years and of the motives which governed them.
Her son Francis became a solicitor. Setting up at Sevenoaks 'with eight hundred pounds and a bundle of pens,' he contrived to amass a very large fortune, living most hospitably, and yet buying up all the valuable land round the town which he could secure, and enlarging his means by marrying two wealthy wives. But his first marriage did not take place till he was nearer fifty than forty; and he had as a bachelor been a most generous benefactor to the sons of his two next brothers, Thomas and William.
William, the surgeon, Jane Austen's grandfather married Rebecca, daughter of Sir George Hampson, a physician of Gloucester, and widow of another medical man, James Walter. By her first husband she had a son, William Hampson Walter, born in 1721; by her second she had three daughters, and one son, George, born in 1731. Philadelphia--the only daughter who grew up and married. Rebecca Austen died in 1733
Portrait: Francis Austen (1697-1791) portrait by Ozias Humphrey. Philadelphia
However, all that we know of William' s childhood is that his uncle Francis befriended him, and sent him to Tonbridge School, and that from Tonbridge he obtained a Scholarship (and subsequently a Fellowship) at St. John's College, Oxford--the College at which, later on, through George's own marriage, his descendants were to be 'founder's kin.' He returned to teach at his old school, occupying the post of second master there in 1758, and in the next year he was again in residence at Oxford, where his good looks gained for him the name of 'the handsome proctor.' In 1760 he took Orders, and in 1761 was presented by Mr. Knight of Godmersham--who had married a descendant of his great-aunt, Jane Stringer--to the living of Steventon, near Overton in Hampshire. It was a time of laxity in the Church, and George Austen (though he afterwards became an excellent parish-priest) does not seem to have resided or done duty at Steventon before the year 1764, when his marriage to Cassandra Leigh must have made the rectory appear a desirable home to which to bring his bride.
The wife that George Austen chose belonged to the somewhat large clan of the Leighs of Adlestrop in Gloucestershire, of which family the Leighs of Stoneleigh were a younger branch. Her father was the Rev. Thomas Leigh, elected Fellow of All Souls at so early an age that he was ever after called 'Chick Leigh,' and afterwards Rector of Harpsden, near Henley.
Cassandra Leigh's youth was spent in the quiet rectory of Harpsden, for her father was one of the more conscientious of the gently born clergy of that day, living entirely on his benefice, and greatly beloved in his neighbourhood as an exemplary parish-priest. 'He was one of the most contented, quiet, sweet-tempered, generous, cheerful men I ever knew,' so says the chronicler of the Leigh family, 'and his wife was his counterpart. Towards the end of his life he removed to Bath, being severely afflicted with the gout, and here he died in 1763.
George Austen perhaps met his future wife at the house of her uncle, the Master of Balliol, but no particulars of the courtship have survived. The marriage took place at Walcot Church, Bath, on April 26, 1764, the bride's father having died at Bath only a short time before. Two circumstances connected with their brief honeymoon--which consisted only of a journey from Bath to Steventon, broken by one day's halt at Andover--may be mentioned. The bride's 'going-away' dress seems to have been a scarlet riding-habit. reveriesunderthesignofausten
The village Horsmonden was home to Jane Austen's grandfather and several other of her relatives, many of whom lived at Capel Manor House. Many of the family's graves can be seen in the churchyard of St. Margaret's Church. Horsmonden
Henry Austen was a grandson of Elizabeth Weller and a cousin of Jane's father George. Born in 1726, he was educated at Tonbridge School, being Head Boy when his cousin George was lower in the school, so they must have known each other. Like George he became a clergyman, serving in several parishes, the last of which was West Wickham, where his clerical career ended in some controversy when he adopted Unitarian views. Among his various homes was one in Tonbridge High Street called Fosse Bank (No. 182, now replaced with an office block.) His wife was the daughter of John Hooker, Lord of the Manor of Tonbridge.
If Jane Austen ever paid a visit to Tonbridge it is likely to have been to Henry's house when Jane was young. There are memorials to Henry, his wife and two sons in the parish church.
Philadelphia Hancock was a popular aunt of Jane Austen, one of her father’s sisters. She was born in Tonbridge in 1730 but lived with relations after her parents died. A spirited girl, she travelled to India at the age of 20 to find a husband. The man she married was Tysoe Hancock, a surgeon in the East India Company. She and their only child, Eliza, returned to England where the two of them saw much of Jane and her family. Mother and daughter were helped financially by the famous Warren Hastings, a friend of Mr Hancock. Philadelphia died in London at the age of sixty.