Sunday 12 March 2017

(253) Austen of Heronden, Hall Place and Boxley Abbey, baronets

Austen of Hall Place, baronets
William Austen (1556-96), who was bailiff of Tenterden in 1585-86, had a large family. His eldest son, Edward Austen (1582-1610) was granted a coat of arms in 1603, but it was his younger brothers John Austen (1586-1655) and Sir Robert Austen (1587-1666), 1st bt., who made the greatest mark and raised the family into the landed gentry. John Austen, who was probably a lawyer, was Mayor of Tenterden in 1631 and 1634 and soon afterwards purchased the Heronden estate on the edge of the town. As he was unmarried and had no children, he left this property to his nephew, Col. Robert Austen (1642-96), the second son of Sir Robert Austen. Sir Robert himself had a career as a merchant and clothworker in London. He purchased the Hall Place estate at Bexley in about 1640, and although his plans for remodelling it were no doubt interrupted by the Civil War, he commenced work as soon as hostilities began to die down in 1647 and had largely completed a doubling of the size of the house by 1653.

At the age of fifty, Sir Robert married for a second time and produced four sons who survived to maturity. The eldest, Sir John Austen (1641-98), 2nd bt., inherited Hall Place. The second, as we have seen, inherited Heronden Hall. Edward Austen (c.1649-1712), the third son, was established in a substantial property known as High Street House at Bexley, which was rebuilt in the 18th century by the antiquary John Thorpe, but which was never more than a handsome and comfortable village house. The youngest son, Samuel Austen (c.1650-81), joined the East India Company and lived in the English settlement at Surat as a merchant from 1674-81, where he died at an early age.

Sir John Austen (1641-98) was educated as a gentleman, including a Grand Tour during which he enrolled at the University of Padua. On his return to England he was a JP by 1665 and he was elected MP for Rye in 1667, soon after inheriting the Hall Place estate and his father's other property, which lay close to Rye. He was succeeded, both at Hall Place and in his Parliamentary seat, by his eldest son, Sir Robert Austen (1664-1706), 3rd bt., but Robert lacked the abilities and perhaps the political instincts of his father. He introduced a Bill in Parliament to address the silting up of Rye Harbour, and when this failed to progress he seems to have fallen out with the corporation and was not re-elected. When he died at the age of just 42 in 1706 he left a widow with a large young family and some significant debts. She married again, her second husband being William Winde, the son of the famous architect of the same name. The heir to Hall Place was Sir Robert Austen (1697-1743), 4th bt, who came of age in 1718. It is not clear whether his father's debts had been cleared during his long minority, but if they had, he soon ran up new ones. When he died in 1743 the cash legacies in his will and the debts owing exceeded the value of the estate, which was placed under the direction of the court of Chancery. His younger brother and heir, Sir Sheffield Austen (1698-1756), 5th bt., therefore never really gained possession of Hall Place, and lived in Ireland. When he died, the estate passed under the will of the 4th baronet to Sir Francis Dashwood (later 15th Baron Le Despencer), and Hall Place was thereafter generally let.

When Sir Sheffield Austen died in 1756, the baronetcy passed to his kinsman, Sir Edward Austen (1705-60), 6th bt., who was the eldest grandson of Col. Robert Austen, the son of the first baronet who had inherited the Heronden estate in 1655. Col. Austen, who died in 1696, left debts of £3,000, and his son, Robert (d. 1728) also seems to have been perennially short of funds. Robert produced three surviving sons and a daughter. The eldest son, William Austen (c.1704-42) inherited Heronden but died young and unmarried, and left Heronden to a distant cousin: his will was contested by his brother Edward, but upheld by the courts. Edward seems to have fallen out with both his parents and possibly with his siblings as well, and was cut out of his father's will entirely. In 1746, however, his mother inherited the Barrington Court estate in Somerset on the death of her brother, and since this was entailed she could not prevent it passing to Edward as her eldest surviving son when she died in 1751. He sold it in 1756, by which time he had bought Boxley Abbey House from Francis Austen of Tonbridge, whose relationship to this family I have not established. He left Boxley to his widow, who died in 1772, and then to her relatives, not his own: clearly the rifts within the family in the 1720s had not healed! When Sir Edward died in 1760, the baronetcy passed to his younger brother, Sir Robert Austen (1708-72), 7th bt., who was married to the 'accomplished and fascinating' Ann Richardson, but had no issue. He lived in London, and the baronetcy died with him.

Heronden Hall, Tenterden, Kent

The large Heronden estate at Tenterden was owned by the eponymous Heronden family as early as 1215, and remained in their possession until the 17th century, when it was broken up by sales, which led to no less than four substantial houses having 'Heronden' in their names. Confusingly, there is also another Heronden in Kent, at Eastry near Sandwich, where the estate has even earlier recorded origins (it is mentioned in a charter dated 958), and where there is a fine Georgian house, written up by Country Life in 1960. And as if all that wasn't enough, the Tenterden Heronden is often 'Herndon' in earlier documents!

The original principal house at the Tenterden Heronden is said to have been built in 1585 and was no doubt a timber-framed hall house like many others in the weald of Kent. After the estate was divided it was sometimes called Heronden Hall. This property passed to the Austens in about the 1630s and although we have no evidence that it was altered by them, it may well have been. The Elizabethan house was pulled down by Jeremiah Curteis of Rye after he bought the estate in 1782, and I have not been able to find any record of its appearance. For a while there was no principal seat here. In 1818 a large Georgian house was, however, built on one of the other parts of the estate, and this has always just been called Heronden. It is built of white brick, always an unprepossessing material, and has a five bay two storey front with a diminutive pediment set against the parapet. A large service wing to one side may be a little later than the main block.

Heronden Hall: entrance front
A new Heronden Hall was built in 1853 to the designs of W.J. Donthorn for William Curteis Whelan (1817-69), who seems to have bought the estate in the 1840s. It is a grey stone building in a then rather old-fashioned symmetrical Tudor Gothic style with tall chimneystacks. The entrance front is framed by gables above battlemented two-storey bay windows, with three double-height windows with Perpendicular-style tracery between them; the central window has an armorial gable. A large porch stands rather incongruously in front of the middle window, but was apparently part of the original design. The garden front at the back has a quite different and more Victorian feel, largely because an off-centre tower with a bellcote introduces an element of asymmetry. According to former owners, a part of the house beyond the kitchen and containing among other things a billiard room, was in ruins by 1936 and was demolished shortly afterwards; it was probably from here that a wooden overmantel, now in the study of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Point Shores, Michigan (USA) was taken. Inside, the inevitable great hall has a hammerbeam roof, and there is much dark wood panelling, including a library where the glazed bookcases reach to the ceiling and a dining room with a black marble chimneypiece. An arched gate lodge at the entrance to the estate, also presumably by Donthorn, was damaged by a fallen tree in the Great Storm of 1987 but has recently been restored as a separate dwelling after many years of disrepair.

Descent: [Forename unknown] Heronden sold c.1630s to John Austen (1586-1655); to nephew, Robert Austen (c.1641-96); to son, Robert Austen (1670?-1728); to son, William Austen (c.1704-42); to cousin, Richard Righton (d. 1772); to son, Benjamin Righton, who sold 1782 to Jeremiah Curteis (d. 1828); to son, Edward Jeremiah Curteis (1762-1835)... William Curteis Whelan (1817-69); to daughter, Elizabeth Curteis Whelan (b. 1852), later wife of James Dampier Palmer (1851-99); to son, Capt. Vivian Trestrail Dampier Palmer (1876-1946)...sold 1936 to William de Krafft (d. 1963); to widow, Jean de Krafft (1910-2012), who sold 1990 to Kevin Godley (b. 1945), musician...; sold to Timothy Gledhill (b. 1967; fl. 2016).

Hall Place, Bexley, Kent

This is an ancient freehold estate within the Archbishops of Canterbury's manor of Bexley, and belonged to the At-Hall family until 1368, when it passed to the Shelleys. They had permission from the Archbishop to rebuild the house in 1469, but little or nothing of that time survives in the present house, which is very largely of two periods: a Tudor building of chalk and flint that was probably erected soon after Sir John Champneys, a London merchant and former Lord Mayor, bought the estate in 1537; and a large extension to the south, built around three sides of a courtyard for Sir Robert Austen between about 1647 and 1653.

Hall Place, Bexley: the north-facing Tudor facade. Image: Caroline Derry.

The Tudor house is built to a half-H plan and incorporates a lot of reused medieval masonry, which suggests it may have been constructed using rubble from one of the dissolved local monasteries, such as Lesnes Abbey. The house consisted at this time of a hall range, entered from the south through a porch which has long gone, with irregular one- and two-storey cross-wings stretching out behind to the north. The east wing contained the kitchen and service rooms, the west wing the family accommodation, which seems to have consisted of a parlour and chapel, with a great chamber above. On the north front, a large bay window lit the dais end of the hall.

Hall Place, Bexley: interior of the Great Hall, with a ceiling that may date from the mid 16th century. Image: Bexley Heritage Trust.

After Sir John Champneys died in 1556, his son, Sir Justinian Champneys altered the house. To make the north front symmetrical, he replicated the hall bay window on the other side of the central doorway. He also enlarged the east wing and made the whole length of the west wing two-storeyed, and he probably added bay windows to the parlour and to the great chamber above it, and built the staircase tower on the west front which connects them. Inside, the ceiling of the Great Hall may be of Sir Justinian's time.

Hall Place: the south and west fronts added by Sir Robert Austen c.1647-53. Image: Bexley Heritage Trust

After Sir Robert Austen bought the estate he more than doubled the size of the house by building three new ranges to the south side of the old house enclosing a courtyard; the external faces of the new ranges are eleven bays by eleven. His additions have hipped roofs and are of red brick, with stone quoins at the angles and vertical stone laces which break up the horizontality of the facades and give the side elevations a 2-7-2 rhythm. In the courtyard a new square brick staircase tower was built adjoining the hall, containing a robust open-well staircase with simple chunky balusters and ball finials on the newels. The stair tower is topped by a turret, which can be seen rising above the Tudor hall from the north, but is otherwise only visible from the courtyard itself. The courtyard was originally arcaded, with brick piers and arches that had stone keystones and a stone string course. In the courtyard, some of the (much restored) wooden cross windows are still in place, but on the more visible external faces of the house they have been replaced by 18th century sashes. 

Hall Place, Bexley: the mid 17th century staircase. Image: Bexley Heritage Trust.

Rather unexpectedly, the new ranges consisted very largely of additional service accommodation rather than grand new rooms, but Austen did redecorate the great chamber of the Tudor house, giving it a superb coved plaster ceiling in which rather naive classical wreaths in the central panels are mixed with more traditional foliage patterns and half-figures on the coving: it is a fascinating illustration of the transition from the vernacular to the classical tradition.

Hall Place, Bexley: the ceiling of the Great Chamber before restoration, with the dust of ages helpfully picking out the design. 
Image: Historic England.
Later owners of Hall Place made relatively few changes to the house. Sir Robert Austen, 4th bt. (d. 1743) was probably responsible for adding the fine wrought-iron gates to the north forecourt. After the house passed to the Dashwoods, the house was let and became a school for young gentlemen for some seventy years from 1800 onwards. The estate was put up for sale in 1912 but withdrawn when it failed to reach its reserve, and in 1917 it was leased to May, Countess of Limerick (1862-1943), who was separated from her husband, the owner of Dromore Castle in Co. Limerick. She entertained lavishly and filled the house with antique furniture, and also made some alterations to the house, stripping off plasterwork to expose stonework and beams in what would now be seen as a very reprehensible fashion. In 1926, Lady Limerick's son-in-law, James Cox Brady, who was a rich American, bought the freehold from the Dashwoods, but he died soon afterwards and his trustees sold the estate to Bexley Borough Council, subject to Lady Limerick having a life tenancy. After she died during the Second World War, the house was used briefly by the American army, and then became part of Bexley High School for Girls, with the grounds open as a public park from 1952. 

Hall Place, Bexley: the west side of the house during local authority ownership, 1989. Image: Historic England

In 1968 the house was repaired and became the borough Local Studies Library and Archives. It was a use that was equally inappropriate for the building and for the collections stored within it, but that did not stop it being a fashionable approach to finding new homes for burgeoning local authority collections, and one which is still sometimes proposed today, until wiser counsels can prevail. In Bexley, the lack of maintenance that has bedevilled local authority owned historic buildings took its toll on Hall Place, and by the late 1990s the house needed major restoration investment. It was decided to transfer the house, along with nearby Danson House, to the newly set up Bexley Heritage Trust, which successfully raised £2m for the restoration of the building, which is now open to the public. The Trust continued to receive a subsidy from Bexley Council, and when it was announced in 2016 that this would be phased out, the Trust gave notice of its intention to return Hall Place to the Council. The Council has confirmed its intention of maintaining the house as a visitor attraction and wedding venue, but in the current state of local authority finances it must be feared that maintenance will once again suffer.

Descent: William Shelley sold 1537 to Sir John Champneys (d. 1556); to son, Sir Justinian Champneys (d. 1596); to son, Richard Champneys (d. 1653), who sold c.1640 to Sir Robert Austen (d. 1666), 1st bt.; to son, Sir John Austen (d. 1698), 2nd bt.; to brother, Sir Robert Austen (d. 1704), 3rd bt.; to son, Sir Robert Austen (d. 1743), 4th bt.; to brother, Sir Sheffield Austen (d. 1758), 5th bt.; to kinsman, Sir Francis Dashwood (1708-81), 15th Baron Le Despencer... Maitland Dashwood (fl. 1870)... let from 1917-43 to May (1862-1943), Countess of Limerick; sold c.1929 to Bexley Borough Council; transferred 1965 to London Borough of Bexley; given c.1999 to Bexley Heritage Trust.

Boxley Abbey, Kent

Boxley Abbey from the north-west in 1801, from a sketch on an estate map. Image: Archaeologia Cantiana.

A Cistercian abbey was founded at Boxley in 1146 by William of Ypres and survived until it was suppressed in 1538. Although most of the abbey buildings have long since been demolished or reconstructed, the layout of the site has continued to shape the arrangement of later structures. The abbey came into the hands of the Wyatt family in 1541, and they created a substantial mansion that incorporated the west range of the claustral buildings. There was a substantial rebuilding in red brick in about 1740, and most of the surviving part of the medieval building was demolished at some point after 1801. 

Boxley Abbey: view of the house from the south terrace, showing the ancient windows and chimneys that survived on the east side of the west claustral range until it was demolished.

The cloister garth formed the centre of the garden attached to the house, and the terrace which overlooks it from the south overlies the site of the abbey church. The retaining wall onto the cloister represents the south wall of the church, and on the north side of the terrace is a stone parapet with a 16th century moulded coping that suggests the terrace was constructed as a viewing platform facing the North Downs and providing views of hunting in the park. It seems likely that the bank is constructed largely of rubble stone from the demolished monastic buildings on the site. The other main survival from the abbey is a very large barn, 186 feet long, with a fine timber roof of tie-beams and scissor-trusses, which appears to have been built in about 1385.

The surviving fragment of the house of the Wyatts and their successors preserves one 16th century ragstone chimney-breast carrying three lozenge-shaped stacks. The brick north wall, of four bays and three storeys, is all of of c.1740 and preserves contemporary sash windows with thick glazing bars, and a long arched window in the easternmost bay that lights the staircase. A sketch of the house in 1801 shows that this Georgian block originally extended a further three bays to the west, but was truncated when the remodelled medieval range running south from it was taken down. The roof, with its series of narrow gables, has an Arts & Crafts feel, and was perhaps altered in about 1900.

Descent: Crown granted 1541 to Sir Thomas Wyatt; to son, Sir Thomas Wyatt (executed 1553); forfeit to Crown but granted 1571 to son, George Wyatt (d. 1624); to son, Sir Francis Wyatt (d. 1644); to son, Henry Wyatt; to daughter Frances, wife of Sir Thomas Selyard, whose title to the estate apart from the house was however disputed by Henry's brother, Edwin Wyatt (c.1629-1714), who recovered possession; the house descended to Sir Thomas Selyard; to his two daughters who sold to Francis Austen of Sevenoaks; sold to kinsman, Sir Edward Austen (d. 1766), 6th bt.; to widow, Susannah, Lady Austen (d. 1772); and then to his kinsman, John Amherst (fl. 1797)...

Austen family of Heronden and later of Boxley Abbey

Austen, William (1556-96). Son of John Austen and his wife, baptised at Tenterden, 7 February 1556/7. Bailiff of Tenterden, 1585-86. He married, 20 January 1577/8 at Tenterden, Elizabeth (d. 1625?), daughter of Edward Hales esq. of Tenterden, and had issue:
(1) Margaret Austen (b. 1578), baptised at Tenterden, 16 November 1578; married, 1602 or 1603 at Tenterden, Peter Holnest or Joshua Harman; living in 1625 but died before 1654;
(2) Mary Austen (1579-1630), baptised at Tenterden, 20 December 1579; married, 9 July 1604 at Tenterden, Anthony Whetenhall esq. of East Peckham, and had issue; buried at Tenterden, 12 June 1630;
(3) Elizabeth Austen (1581-1667), baptised at Tenterden, 17 March 1580/1; married Samuel Short (fl. 1654) of Tenterden, solicitor and counsel-general for the Cinque Ports, and had issue six sons and four daughters; buried at Tenterden, 3 October 1667;
(4) Edward Austen (1582-1615), baptised at Tenterden, 3 June 1582; granted a coat of arms in 1603; married Rebecca (d. 1637), daughter of Sir Edward Easton, kt. of Mersham, and had issue one son (also Edward (1609-39)); buried at Tenterden, 30 April 1615;
(5) Rebecca Austen (b. 1583), baptised at Tenterden, 22 December 1583; married, 21 September 1612 at Ashford (Kent), Arthur Smarsett, and had issue two daughters who were mentioned in will of her brother, Sir Robert; living in 1625;
(6) Sarah Austen (1585-86), baptised at Tenterden, 11 July 1585; died in infancy and was buried at Tenterden, 6 July 1586;
(7) John Austen (1586-1655) (q.v.);
(8) Sir Robert Austen (1587-1666), 1st bt. [for whom see below, Austen of Hall Place and Boxley Abbey];
(9) Abigail Austen (b. 1589), baptised at Tenterden, 16 February 1588/9; married, 17 February 1614/5 at Tenterden, Edward Jervis of Tenterden, yeoman, and had issue;
(10) Samuel Austen (b. 1591), baptised at Tenterden, 20 February 1590/1; died before 1596;
(11) Martha Austen (1594-1612), baptised at Tenterden, 24 August 1594; died unmarried and was buried at Tenterden, 13 May 1612;
(12) Susanna Austen (1595-1614), baptised at Tenterden, 19 October 1595; died unmarried and was buried at Tenterden, 6 May 1614.
He lived at Tenterden.
He was buried at Tenterden, 4 November 1596. His widow was buried at Tenterden, 6 December 1625, and her will was proved 13 February 1625/6.

Austen, John (1586-1655). Second son of William Austen (1556-96) of Tenterden and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Edward Hales of Tenterden, baptised at Tenterden, 21 August 1586. Mayor of Tenterden, 1631 and 1634. He was unmarried and without issue.
He purchased the Heronden estate in Tenterden. At his death the estate was left to his nephew, Col. Robert Austen (1642-96).
He died 11 December and was buried at Tenterden, 13 December 1655; his will was proved 14 May 1656.

Austen, Col. Robert (1642-96). Second son of Sir Robert Austen (c.1587-1666), 1st bt., and his second wife, Anne, daughter of Thomas Mun of London and Bearsted (Kent), baptised at St Bartholomew Exchange, London, 3 August 1642. Educated at Grays Inn (admitted 1657). Colonel of the Cinque Ports Militia. Deputy Mayor of Winchelsea, 1668; MP for Winchelsea, 1666-79, 1689-96; a Lord of the Admiralty, 1691-96; a Commissioner for the Public Accounts, 1691-92; and a Commissioner for Greenwich Hospital, 1695. He married, 16 October 1669 at Hannington (Wilts), Judith (c.1652-1716), daughter and co-heir of Ralph Freke esq. of Hannington, and had issue:
(1) Robert Austen (1670?-1728) (q.v.);
(2) Cecilia Austen (b. & d. 1672), baptised at Hannington, 14 February 1672; died in infancy and was buried there, 18 February 1672;
(3) Anne Austen (b. 1674), baptised at Tenterden, 14 April 1674; died, probably unmarried, before 1716;
(4) Judith Austen (d. 1743?); married, 26 December 1716 at Willesborough (Kent), Rev. Isaac Sature (d. 1721), rector of Hinxhill (Kent); probably the 'Judith Satyr' who was buried at St Giles-in-the-Fields, Westminster (Middx), 19 June 1743;
(5) John Austen (1676-91), baptised at Tenterden, 21 July 1676; died young and was buried at Tenterden, 1 September 1691;
(6) Edward Austen (1678-1755?), baptised at Tenterden, 20 October 1678; possibly the man of this name who married, 3 April 1711, Elizabeth Vane, and had issue four sons and two daughters; buried at Tenterden, 27 December 1755?;
(7) George Austen (b. & d. 1680?), baptised at Bethersden (Kent), 21 March 1679/80; perhaps died in infancy and was buried at Tenterden, 23 December 1680;
(8) Thomas Austen (b. 1682), baptised at Tenterden, 27 August 1682; living in 1716, when his mother cut him out of her will with £5 'haveing approved himself the whole course of his life, the worst, the most undutifull and unnatural in all his words and actions to me';
(9) Elizabeth Austen (fl. 1716); unmarried in 1716;
He inherited Heronden in Tenterden from his uncle John Austen in 1655 and came of age in 1663.
He was buried at Bexley, 23 August 1696; his will has not been traced, but he is said to have made no provision for his younger children and to have left debts of £3,000. His widow died 19 May, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, 24 May 1716; her will was proved 26 November 1717 and left a number of token legacies to relatives who had shown kindness 'to my unfortunate family'.

Austen, Robert (1670?-1728). Eldest son of Col. Robert Austen of Heronden and his wife Judith, daughter and co-heir of Ralph Freke of Hannington (Wilts), perhaps the person of this name baptised at Hollingbourne (Kent), 19 December 1670. An officer in Cinque Ports Militia under his father and then in the Marines, 1691-98 (2nd Lt, 1691; Lt., 1692) and Grenadier Guards (2nd Lt., 1702). Freeman of Winchelsea, 1696. JP for Kent. MP for Hastings, 1695-98 and for Winchelsea, 1701-02. For ten years after 1711 he was in dispute with the corporation of Tenterden over his liability to pay town scot, and in 1721 forcibly detained the chamberlain and serjeants when they were sent to collect it. He married, 1703 (licence 30 March; settlement 8 September), probably at St Giles in the Fields, London, Jane (d. 1751), daughter of William Strode esq. of Barrington (Somerset) and had issue:
(1) William Austen (c.1704-42) (q.v.);
(2) Sir Edward Austen (1705-60), 6th bt. (q.v.);
(3) Ralph Austen (1706-07), baptised at Tenterden, 25 November 1706; died in infancy and was buried at Tenterden, 15 March 1706/7;
(4) Robert Austen (1708-72), 7th bt. (q.v.);
(5) Jane Grace Austen (1709-33) (q.v.).
He inherited Heronden in Tenterden from his father. His widow inherited Barrington Court (Somerset) from her brother in 1746; at her death it passed to her eldest surviving son, Edward.
He was buried at Tenterden, 16 August 1728; his will (which curiously makes no provision for his second son Edward and indeed does not mention him at all) was proved 5 September 1728. His widow lived latterly at Twickenham (Middx); her will was proved 15 November 1751.

Austen, William (c.1704-42). Eldest son of Robert Austen (1670?-1728) and his wife Jane, daughter of William Strode esq. of Barrington (Somerset), born about 1704. His portrait was painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller according to his mother's will, and passed to his youngest brother. He was unmarried and without issue.
He inherited Heronden in Tenterden from his father in 1728. At his death he left it to a cousin, Richard Righton, a coast waiter in the Custom House at London.
He was buried at Tenterden, 2 December 1742; his will was challenged by his brother, Edward Austen but accepted by the courts and proved 17 May 1743.

Austen, Sir Edward (1705-60), 6th bt. Second son of Robert Austen (1672-1728) and his wife Jane, daughter of William Strode esq. of Barrington (Somerset), baptised at Tenterden, 21 July 1705. Educated at Middle Temple (admitted 1722). He evidently fell out with his family as he was entirely excluded from his father's will and was subsequently involved in a Chancery dispute with his mother and siblings in 1732; his mother could not prevent him succeeding her in the Barrington estate. He succeeded his kinsman, Sir Sheffield Austen, as 6th baronet in January 1756. He married, 28 August 1740 at Old Charlton (Kent), Susanna (c.1717-72), daughter of Edward Walsingham, but had no issue.
He purchased Boxley Abbey House from his kinsman, Francis Austen; at his death it was left to his widow for life and then to his cousin, John Amherst. He also inherited and purchased extensive property in the Appledore area which was left to his widow and then to various members of the Amherst family. In 1751 he inherited Barrington Court (Somerset) from his mother, but he sold it in 1756. 
He died 16 December, and was buried at Allington (Kent), 28 December 1760; his will was proved 3 February 1761. His widow died 20 September 1772 and was also buried at Allington; her will was proved 23 January 1773 and a codicil was proved 6 May 1774.

Austen, Sir Robert (1708-72), 7th bt. Third son of Robert Austen (1672-1728) and his wife Jane, daughter of William Strode esq. of Barrington (Somerset), baptised at Tenterden, 11 April 1708. Educated at Merton College, Oxford (matriculated 1725). He succeeded his brother as 7th baronet, 28 December 1760. He married, 23 June 1755 at St Margaret, Westminster, the 'accomplished and fascinating' Ann (1736-1802), daughter of John Richardson, but had no issue.
He lived in London.
He died 13 February 1772, when the baronetcy expired, and and was buried at Haslemere (Surrey), 18 February 1772; his will was proved 28 February 1772. His widow, who was a friend of the poet, William Cowper, married 2nd, 1796 (settlement 16 July), Count Claude Tardiff du Granger, also a poet, and died in Paris, 12 August 1802; her will was proved 23 September 1802.

Austen, Jane Grace (1709-33). Only daughter of Robert Austen (1672-1728) and his wife Jane, daughter of William Strode esq. of Barrington (Somerset), baptised at Tenterden, 12 June 1709. She married, 23 November 1731 at St Andrew, Holborn (Middx), Richard Windsor (1706-85) of Tottenham (Middx), mercer, son of Shadrack Windsor, mercer, and had issue:
(1) Sarah Windsor (1733-72) (q.v.);
She was buried 30 December 1733 in the chapel of the Mercers' Hall, London. Her husband married 2nd, 1736 (licence 23 November), Mary Tillotson, and had further issue five sons and three daughters, and was buried in the chapel of Mercer's Hall, London, 4 March 1785; his will was proved 23 March 1785.

Windsor, Sarah (1733-72). Only daughter of Richard Windsor esq. of Tottenham (Middx) and his wife Jane Grace, only daughter of Robert Austen of Heronden, Tenterden (Kent), baptised at St Peter le Poer, London, 9 December 1733. She married 1st, 14 January 1755 at St Peter le Poer, Edward Constable (d. 1757), citizen and clothworker of London, and 2nd, 17 August 1765 at Hackney (Middx), as his second wife, James Bristowe (d. 1768) of Westminster, gent., and had issue:
(1.1) Mary Constable (1755-1837), baptised at St Helen Bishopsgate, London, 22 December 1755; married, 23 December 1776 at Tottenham, Rev. Thomas Roberts (1751-1824), vicar of Tottenham, 1798-1824 and rector of St Peter Cornhill, London, 1797-1824, and had surviving issue one son and four daughters; died 19 July 1837 and was buried at Tenterden, where she and her children are commemorated by a ledger stone;
(1.2) Anne Constable (1757-1833), baptised 24 February 1757; married, 9 November 1776 at Tottenham, Sir William Curtis (1752-1829), 1st bt., Lord Mayor of London and MP for London, 1790-1818, 1820-26 and for Bletchingley, 1819-20, and had issue four sons and two daughters; died 7 August 1833.
She died in 1772; her will was proved, 19 March 1772. Her first husband was buried at St Andrew Holborn, London, 7 April 1757. Her second husband died in debt in 1768; administration of his goods was granted to one of his creditors, 9 December 1768.

Austen family of Hall Place

Austen, Sir Robert (1587-1666), 1st bt. Youngest son of William Austen of Tenterden and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Edward Hales of Tenterden, baptised at Tenterden, 15 October 1587. Clothworker and merchant in London. Alderman of the City of London, 1656; High Sheriff of Kent, 1660-61. He took no discernible part in the Civil War, but was created a baronet by King Charles II, 10 July 1660. He married 1st, Margaret (d. 1627?), daughter of William Williamson of London, citizen and vintner of London, and 2nd, 1 September 1638 at Bearsted (Kent), Anne (c.1613-87), daughter of Thomas Mun of London and Bearsted, and had issue (with others who did not survive):
(1.1) John Austen; died in infancy;
(1.2) Elizabeth Austen (b. 1623?), perhaps the child of this name baptised at Tenterden, 13 August 1623; married 1st, before 1644, Sir Thomas Dacres, kt., of Cheshunt (Herts) and 2nd, [forename unknown] Chalcock?; living in 1680;
(2.1) Anne Austen (1640-c.1673), baptised at St Bartholomew Exchange, London, 5 June 1640; married, c.1655 (settlement dated 1655), Sir Oliver Boteler (c.1637-89), 2nd bt. of Barham Court, Teston (Kent), but had no issue; died after 1680;
(2.2) Sir John Austen (1641-98), 2nd bt. (q.v.);
(2.3) Robert Austen (1642-96) of Heronden [for whom see above, under Austen of Heronden];
(2.4) Ursula Austen (b. c.1643), baptised at St Bartholomew Exchange, London, 16 January 1643/4; married 1st, 1662 (licence 29 March), George Stawell (d. 1669) of Cothelstone (Somerset), son of Sir John Stawell KB and had issue; married 2nd, between 1671 and 1674, Henry Seymour (1612-86) of Langley Park (Bucks) and had further issue;
(2.5) William Austen (b. 1645), baptised at St Bartholomew Exchange, London, 12 August 1645; probably died young;
(2.6) Edward Austen (c.1649-1712), of High St. House, Bexley; married 1st, Mary, daughter of Edward Napier of Dorset, but had no issue; and 2nd, 17 June 1686 at Bexley, Elizabeth (d. 1704), daughter of Edward Manning of Kivington in St Mary Cray (Kent), and had issue one son and one daughter; died aged 63, August 1712, and was buried at Bexley, where he is commemorated by a monument;
(2.7) Samuel Austen (c.1650-81), born about 1650; an East India Company employee and merchant living at Surat (India) from 1674-81; died without issue in Surat, probably soon after writing his will on 1 February 1680/1; will proved 9 March 1682/3.
He purchased Hall Place, Bexley, in about 1640.
He died 30 October 1666 and was buried 5 November 1666 at Bexley, where he is commemorated by a monument; his will was proved 1 December 1666. His first wife may be the Margaret Austen buried at St George, Southwark (Surrey), 8 October 1627. His widow lived latterly at High St. House, Bexley, which she refronted and left to her third son, Edward Austen; she was buried at Bexley, 3 November 1687.

Austen, Sir John (1641-98), 2nd bt. Elder son of Sir Robert Austen (d. 1666), 1st bt., and his second wife, Anne, daughter of Thomas Mun of London and Bearsted (Kent), baptised at St Bartholomew Exchange, London, 1 April 1641. Educated at Grays Inn (admitted 1657) and Padua University (Italy) (admitted 1660), no doubt as part of a Grand Tour. He succeeded his father as 2nd baronet, 30 October 1666. JP for Kent, 1665-88, 1688-99; DL for Kent, 1668-85?, 1689-93?; MP for Rye, 1667-79, 1689-90, 1695-98; a Customs Commissioner, 1697-98. He married, 6 December 1661 at St Bartholomew the Great, London, Rose (c.1645-95), daughter and heir of Sir John Hale, kt., of Stagenhoe (Herts), and had issue:
(1) Sir Robert Austen (1664-1706), 3rd bt. (q.v.);
(2) John Austen (b. 1665), baptised at St Paul's Walden (Herts), 13 January 1665; probably died young;
(3) Anne Austen (fl. 1712); married, August 1704 at St Clement Danes, Westminster, Robert Rodes, and had issue one son (who died in infancy); living in 1712;
(4) Elizabeth Austen (1669-1702), baptised at Bexley, 6 March 1668/9; died unmarried and was buried at Bexley, 3 May 1702;
(5) William Austen (b. 1670), baptised at Bexley, 21 September 1670; probably died young;
(6) Lt-Col. Edward Austen (1672-1707), baptised at Bexley, 4 August 1672; an officer in the 1st Foot Guards (Lt-Col.); married Susan [surname unknown] but died without issue when he was killed at the battle of Almanza, 25 April 1707; commemorated on the Guards Officers' Memorial in the chapel at Wellington Barracks, 1882; will proved 30 October 1707, in which he left his estates 'in and about Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and the City of London' to his widow and her son (presumably from a previous marriage), Samuel Strickson;
(7) Rose Austen (b. 1673), baptised at St Paul's Walden, 2 November 1673; married Capt. Comberford Brooke (c.1675-1711) of Madeley Court (Shrops.) and Comberford (Staffs), and had issue one son and two daughters;
(8) Thomas Austen (b. 1676), baptised at St Paul's Walden, 5 September 1676; probably died young.
He inherited Hall Place, Bexley, from his father in 1666.
He died in Red Lion Square, London, 5 January 1698/9; his will was proved 27 September 1699. His wife died in May 1695 and was buried at St Paul's Walden (Herts) [date illegible in register].

Austen, Sir Robert (1664-1706), 3rd bt. Elder son of Sir John Austen (1641-98), 2nd bt. and his wife Rose, daughter and heir of Sir John Hale, kt., of Stagenhoe (Herts), baptised 19 March 1663/4. Educated at St. Albans and Peterhouse, Cambridge (admitted 1680). He succeeded his father as 3rd baronet, about January 1699. MP for Rye, 1699-1701; he introduced a bill for the renovation of the town's badly silted up harbour but it failed to progress, and on this account he appears to have fallen out with the town corporation; he made no attempt to stand again for Rye but was nearly elected for Kent in 1705. He married, c.1687, his first cousin, Elizabeth (1668-1725), daughter and co-heir of George Stawell esq. of Cothelstone (Somerset) and had issue:
(1) John Austen (b. & d. 1688), born 14 and baptised at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster (Middx), 16 July 1688; died in infancy and was buried at Bexley, 23 July 1688;
(2) John Austen (b. & d. 1690), baptised at St Martin-in-the-Fields, 24 February 1689/90; died in infancy and was buried at Bexley, 16 March 1689/90;
(3) Rose Austen (1691-1734), baptised at St Martin-in-the-Fields, 11 October 1691; married, 1730 (settlement 27 July), Sherrington Grosvenor (d. 1744) of Holt (Warks) and Langley Place (Bucks), but had no issue; buried at Langley Marish (Bucks), 9 October 1734; will proved 4 November 1734;
(4) Elizabeth Austen (1692-93), baptised at Bexley, 15 October 1692; died in infancy and was buried at Bexley, 20 January 1692/3;
(5) Anne Austen (1693-1758), baptised at Bexley, 17 January 1693/4; died unmarried and was buried at Bexley, 17 August 1758; will proved 15 August 1758;
(6) Mary Austen (b. 1695), baptised at Bexley, 16 February 1694/5; living and unmarried in 1734;
(7) Elizabeth Austen (1696-1728), baptised 27 June 1696; died unmarried and was buried at Bexley, 1 July 1728; will proved 3 July 1728;
(8) Sir Robert Austen (1697-1743), 4th bt. (q.v.);
(9) Sir Sheffield Austen (1698-1758), 5th bt. (q.v.);
(10) Stawell Austen (f.) (1700-48), baptised at Bexley, 23 March 1699/1700; died unmarried and was buried at Bexley, 28 September 1748; will proved 10 October 1748;
(11) John Austen (1701-50), baptised at Bexley, 3 July 1703; probably unmarried and without issue; buried at Bexley, 19 October 1750.
He inherited Hall Place, Bexley from his father in 1698.
He was buried at Bexley, 5 July 1706; his will was proved 15 August 1706. His widow married 2nd, 28 April 1716 at Westminster, William Wynde (d. 1742) of Bexley and South Wootton (Norfolk), chamberlain to the Princess Sophia until her death in 1714 and Commissioner of Salt Duties, 1727-42, son of William Winde, the architect, and died in 1725; her will was proved 2 December 1725.

Austen, Sir Robert (1697-1743), 4th bt. Eldest son of Sir Robert Austen (d. 1706), 3rd bt., and his wife Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of George Stawell of Cotherstone (Somerset), born 6 October and baptised at Bexley, 17 October 1697. Educated at Oriel College, Oxford (matriculated 1715). He succeeded his father as 4th baronet, June/July 1706. High Sheriff of Kent, 1724; MP for New Romney, 1728-34, 1736-41. He married, 4 November 1738, Rachel (c.1706-88), daughter of Sir Francis Dashwood of West Wycombe (Bucks), but had no issue.
He inherited Hall Place, Bexley from his father in 1706. At his death it passed to his next brother, Sir Sheffield Austen.
He died 'at Cheltenham Wells in Gloucestershire (whither he went to drink the waters)', so much in debt that the total of his debts and legacies exceeded the value of his estate, which was therefore administered in Chancery; he was apparently buried at Churchdown (Glos), 27 September 1743, although some sources give his date of death as 7 October and the newspaper report of his death 'a few days since' was published on 20 October; his will was proved 9 November 1743. His widow, on the death of her brother without legitimate issue, assumed the title of Baroness Le Despencer, under the erroneous impression that the termination of the abeyance of that ancient barony in favour of her brother in 1763 was tantamount to its having been restored in favour of their mother, who had been one of the coheirs; she died 16 May 1788; her will, in which she styles herself Baroness Le Despencer, was proved 21 May 1788.

Austen, Sir Sheffield (1698-1756), 5th bt. Second son of Sir Robert Austen (d. 1706), 3rd bt., and his wife Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of George Stawell of Cotherstone (Somerset), baptised at Bexley, 25 October 1698. Educated at Charterhouse School, 1710-16. He succeeded his elder brother as 5th baronet, 7 October 1743. He married, 1738 in Ireland, Susan Smith (d. c.1780), but had no issue.
He inherited Hall Place, Bexley from his elder brother in 1743, but was living in Ireland at the time of his death. At his death the property passed under his brother's will to Sir Francis Dashwood, 15th Baron Le Despencer, of West Wycombe.
He died in Britain St., Dublin in January 1756; administration of his goods with will annexed was granted, 17 November 1758. His widow's date of death is unknown; her will was proved in Dublin in 1780.


Burke's Extinct & Dormant Baronetcies, 2nd edn., 1841, p. 29; P.J. Tester, 'Excavations at Boxley Abbey', Archaeologia Cantiana, vol. 88, 1973; B. Cherry & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: London 2 - South, 1983, pp. 135-36; C. Knight, London's country houses, 2009, pp. 67-70; J. Newman, The buildings of England: Kent - West and the Weald, 4th edn., 2012, p. 591;

Location of archives

Austen family of Hall Place, Bexley, baronets: deeds and papers, 1685-18th cent. [Bexley Local Studies & Archives, L1-361]; estate map, 1768 [Bexley Local Studies & Archives, BU/COB]

Coat of arms

Or, a chevron gules, between three lions' paws erect and erased sable.

Can you help?

Here are a few notes about information and images which would help to improve the account above. If you can help with any of these or with other additions or corrections, please use the contact form in the sidebar to get in touch.

  • Can anyone supply an illustration of the Elizabethan Heronden Hall?
  • Does anyone know how Francis Austen, who sold Boxley Abbey to Sir Edward Austen, was related to the family, or exactly when this transaction occurred?
  • Can anyone supply information about the ownership history of Boxley Abbey House after 1800?
  • There are many missing genealogical details for this family. If anyone can supply additional information, I should be pleased to receive it.
  • Can anyone supply portraits of any members of this family?

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 12 March 2017 and was updated 24 July and 26 December 2018, 1 and 12 January 2019, 5-7 August and 29 September 2021. I am grateful to Patricia de Krafft Lewis and Denise McIntosh for corrections and additions.


  1. Hello,

    Great research! Is there any chance the writer Jane Austen could be distantly related to this family? Her father George was a descendant of a Stephen Austen, who died in Yalding, Kent, in 1557. Other patrilineal ancestors of George also lived in Kent.

    1. No - Jane was related to a different Kentish family: see my post

  2. Hi,
    Found this link which appears to show the marriage of Sir Sheffield Austen to Susan Smith

    1. Thanks for this, which I have incorporated above.


Please leave a comment if you have any additional information or corrections to offer, or if you are able to help with additional images of the people or buildings in this post.