The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Spencer Austen-Leigh

Spencer Austen-Leigh

A carte-de-visite portrait of Spencer Austen-Leigh (1834-1913).

Born Spencer Austen at Speen in Berkshire on 17 February 1834, he was the great-nephew of the author Jane Austen. His parents were the Reverend James Edward Austen and Emma (née Smith). When he was three years old, his father changed the family name from Austen to Austen-Leigh.

Spencer was educated at Harrow. Between 1859 and 1866 he played a total of ten first-class cricket matches. His brothers - Arthur, Cholmeley and Charles - also played first-class cricket. Another brother, Augustus, was a Provost of King's College, Cambridge.

Spencer Austen-Leigh never married. The 1861 census shows him living at Frog Firle Manor near Alfriston in Sussex with his aunt Caroline and his brothers Charles, Arthur and Edward. Spencer described himself as a ‘Farmer of 521 acres employing 13 men and 8 boys’. Charles and Spencer were still living in the same house in 1911. Spencer died there on 9 December 1913 and his will was proved at Lewes a month later. He left effects valued at £13,372.

A short obituary appeared in the Times on 26 December 1913: ‘Spencer Austen Leigh, whose death occurred recently, though not a landowner, was a typical English country gentleman. Indeed, his 53 years’ residence at the only farm he ever occupied gave him almost the position of an owner. He had a strong sense of duty to Church and State, an intense love of outdoor pursuits and of animals, and an instinctive power of excellence in any sport or game to which he set his hand. He added to these characteristics unfailing good humour, a sociable disposition, and a happy knack of showing his contentment with his company for the time being. […] In 1847 he followed his next elder brother to Harrow […] After a few years preparation he settled down as a farmer at Frogfirle, Sussex, which was his home for the rest of his life.'

Photographer unidentified. Dated 13 July 1863 on the album page.

From an album compiled by Elizabeth Van Der Weyer, the American-born wife of the Belgian ambassador to the Court of St James.


Code: 125976
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