Caroline Wiggett Remembers Austen/Vyne Neighbors

December 30, 2011 at 10:23 am (a day in the life, chutes of the vyne, diaries, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

From the mouth of babes — or at least those (in 1869) who were once babes, and reminiscing about their lives c1803!

Caroline Wiggett was “adopted” by Eliza and William Chute. Cousin to William Chute of The Vyne, and the youngest of seven motherless children, Caroline went to live at The Vyne when she was 3-and-half years old. Caroline always called them Aunt and Uncle Chute.

This silhouette of Caroline as a young woman (left) graced the cover of the Jane Austen Journal (published by the British Library a couple years ago; still available on Amazon).

When in England four-and-a-half years ago, one manuscript I transcribed was Caroline Wiggett Workman’s Reminiscences, which she wrote for her nephew Chaloner Chute, among others. Re-reading it tonight, in light of Ellie Bennett’s thoughts, the list of neighbors she recalled as being important to the Chutes pops, like reading an Austen biography.

Caroline is remembering what life was like when she was first adopted, and the neighbors whom came and went and provided friends for the Chutes, as well as playmates for the lonely little girl.

We start with the Brocas family of Beaurepaire, which remained largely untenanted, but was sometimes inhabited by “old Mrs Brocas, step grand mother to the late Mr. Brocas.”

In the village of St John (called West Sherborne), there lived the rector “old Dr. Hall,” his wife and sister. “These we visited now & then”.

Mrs C. Blackstone and her daughter Margaret — a particular friend to Caroline, as they were of a same age — lived at Worting; “at the Upper house an old Mrs. Blackstone & her nephew (who was then the rector) & her daughter Harriett lived, relations to Mrs. C. Blackstone.” At the Great House was Mr. and Mrs Clarke – a sister to Lady Mildmay; they had several children. “We were often in that house as my Aunt was very partial to the family.”

Her next estate is Manydown, where lived “Mr. Wither & three daughters” – Mrs. Heathcote (a widow, whose son William was friend to young James Edward Austen), Miss Alethea Bigg & Miss Kitty. “These frequently rode to the Vyne, as my Uncle was very partial to old Mr Wither, so we were on most intimate terms with the family. I was very fond of visiting them”.

She next mentions the James Austens (Mary Lloyd, his second wife; Anna, Edward, and Caroline his three children); distance — to Steventon — seems a bit of an impediment, but James was of course the Rector of Sherborne and therefore their clergyman.

Colonel & Mrs Cunnyinghame with 7 children lived at Malshanger, she was a great friend of my Aunt’s”. Mrs Sclater and two maiden sisters lived at Tangier. Mrs & Mrs Bramton (Mrs B the sister of William Chute) lived at Oakley Hall. Lady Hicks was another married Chute sister. “Miss Elizabeth Chute took a small house at Oakley to be near her sister Mrs. Bramston”.

“The Crooks lived at Kempshot. On the Aldermaston side, we visited the Mounts, father of the Late W. Mount; there were 4 or 5 daughters…., the eldest afterwards married Mr. Michael Beach. We were very intimate in that house, also at Sulhamstead” — home of the Thoyts.

“There were many other neighours whom I have not mentioned, who used to dine at the Vyne, but those mentioned were those whom we saw most of, & with whom we were most intimate.”

* * *

Rupert Willoughby (an Austenian-sounding name!) has written several books that will be of interest to those looking for information on locale, or neighbors, or the Chutes. Willoughby’s website has a detailed listing of his books:

      • Basingstoke and Its Contribution to World Culture
      • Reading and its Contributions to World Culture
      • Chawton: Jane Austen’s Village
      • Shelborne: Gilbert White’s Village, with a guide to his house; with illustrations by Julie Anne Hudson
      • Sherborne St John & The Vyne in the Time of Jane Austen
      • A Key to Odiham Castle
      • Life in Medieval England
      • The Incredible Journey of Victor Hugo’s Dog (forthcoming)


  1. Ellie Bennett said,

    Thank you for this! I’ve just been reading Eliza Chute’s later journals and I am trying to work out who the various characters are. If only I’d read this before I went to Hampshire Record Office yesterday, I wouldn’t have been scratching my head and saying: ‘who is Harriett? Who is Mrs Blackstone? Incidentally I was surprised by how frequently the Austens are mentioned in Eliza’s journals, they were evidently closer friends than I had realised. I quite like this entry: ‘Edward Austin came to join the Xmas party. Much merriment amongst the young ones.’ (December 1815). And this one: ‘Mr Chute returned to dinner. Buonoparte abdicates.’ (June 1815). I’m going to print this post and take it with me next time!

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Deirdre Le Faye’s wonderful Chronology (big! so a bit pricey) has many of the Eliza Chute diary mentions of the Austens; obviously, she really worked to include those for Jane, Cassandra, Mr & Mrs Austen, some of the brothers — but James Edward Austen gets in there too.

      Always happy to help ID some people.


      • Janeite Kelly said,

        Some further thoughts, Ellie — if you don’t have a copy already, or if you rarely think to look there: check out the biographical index in Le Faye’s JANE AUSTEN’S LETTERS. A LOT of Eliza Chute’s neighbors, friends, etc. are listed. You’ll find Eliza and William Chute, as well as “Uncle Tom” (Thomas Vere Chute) back there, along with my Smiths.


      • Ellie Bennett said,

        Thank you. I bought my daughter Le Faye’s Letters for Christmas so I will look there, I don’t have a copy of the Chronology, although I will keep an eye out for it.

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