Thanks to the eagle eyes of Laurence Carter of Wykeham Road, Farnham, looking at the recent update on the Sampsons Almshouses story, he has written to tell us about a little-known connection between Farnham and Jane Austen’s family.

The almshouses article included research about the Sampson family from Pat Seale, who also included an excerpt from a baptism register – and it was on that that Laurence spotted the connection.

“In the article there is the reproduction of part of a register of baptisms dating to 1824. The ceremony was performed by HT Austen.

“This is Henry Austen, Jane Austen’s favourite brother. We are particularly indebted to him because he was the man who first got her books published, in the years after she settled in Chawton.

“He was a lively, cheerful man, and had a colourful life. At the height of his career he was living in London and running a bank, with his own carriage and pair.

“He married Eliza, his cousin, the daughter of his aunt Philadelphia Austen who had gone out to India in search of a husband and married a Mr Hancock.

“However, their daughter Eliza is thought to be the daughter of Warren Hastings, of ‘Trial’ fame. Eliza first married a French aristocrat who was guillotined during the revolution and only much later married Henry. Both of them enjoyed the high life.

“Henry’s banking career came to an abrupt end when he was bankrupted. Jane lost some of her money as a consequence but did not seem to hold it against him.

“Nothing daunted, he quickly took to the church and was ordained by the Bishop of Winchester. He tells us: “The Bishop laid his hand on a Greek Testament and said ‘I dare say it is some years since either you or I looked into it’.”

“Henry ended his days as a curate living in Farnham, dying in 1850.”

Thanks for that revelation, Laurence. I wonder how many Farnhamians already were aware of the town’s close family connection with Chawton’s famous literary daughter?