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Sunday, 15 March 2015

Going To Church

St Nicholas's Church, Chawton.

Sunday was the quietest day of the week in Jane Austen’s England. Church-going played a far more central role in daily life than today's more secular times. Card-playing was frowned upon, and the theatres were closed in towns. 

Most respectable folk attended church, unless they were unwell or the weather was especially inclement. Important local families had their own pew, like the Tilneys in Northanger Abbey, and their family crest would adorn the door or gate at the end of the pew. 

Regency-era pews, St Oswald's church, Malpas, Cheshire.

As Jane's father George was a clergyman, she was brought up in the Anglican church, and she seems to have been happy and secure in her religion - she even composed her own prayers.   
Another Regency-era pew at Malpas, Cheshire.

The more active clergymen gave twice-daily Sunday services, like the ones held at St Nicholas’s church in Chawton, which Jane Austen attended. (Her mother and sister Cassandra are buried there, and there are several Austen and Knight family monuments inside the church). But many small churches held just a morning or evening service.

Cassandra Austen's monument, Chawton.

Young ladies who found a clergyman’s sermons particularly inspiring wrote them down in a pocket-book or stitched some choice phrases into a sampler. In Emma, Miss Nash, a fan of Mr Elton, ‘put down all the texts he has ever preached from since he came to Highbury’.

1 comment:

  1. I can't find this information anywhere, so hopefully you can answer this. Apparently the village on each estate had its own little church. Would the family who owned the estate attend the same church as their tenants? For instance, would the Bennets have attended church in Longbourne Village or would the Bennets, and their wealthier neighbors like the Lucases all have met at a church in Meryton? Where would the weddings have taken place?