A Connection between East Harptree and the Novelist Jane Austen
by Jo Brown
July 10, 1791
MY DEAR MRS. FIELDING,
After having wrote to you so lately you will be no doubt surprized at hearing again so soon, and not less so to find that the Cause is to inform you that we have received proposals of Marriage from Mr. William Deedes for your God-daughter, our dear Sophia. He is a young Man of a very Amiable Disposition and universally beloved, and his Father has been so kind to approve his Choice. I hope it will meet with your approbation, and think she bids as fair to be happy with her Connection as her sisters with theirs. It is certainly a very singular instance of good fortune in One Family, that 3 Girls, almost unknown, should have attach’d to themselves three Young Men of such unexceptionable Characters, and I pray to God that their future conduct will ever do Credit to their Choice….
Ever affectionately yours, Ly F. B.
This was written by Lady Fanny Bridges, mother-in-law of Edward Austen, brother of Jane Austen. It is the third of three letters written to her kinswoman informing her of the engagement of one of her daughters. Fanny, Sophia and Elizabeth were all married the following December with Elizabeth and Edward Austen sharing a double wedding with Sophia and William Deedes.
Jane Austen was fifteen at the time and ‘Pride and Prejudice’ some years off, but it might not be too fanciful to suppose the excitement in the Bridges household was conveyed to that of the Austens and perhaps later preserved in the character of Mrs Bennett. There is also in the novel an implied double wedding for the Bingleys and the Darcys.
Sophia and William went on to have nineteen children: Jane Austen wrote after the birth of their eighteenth, ‘Good Mrs Deedes! – I hope she will get the better of this Marianne, & then I would recommend to her & Mr D the simple regimen of separate rooms .’
The third of Sophia and William Deede’s children, Fanny, married Charles Andrew and lived at Hunstrete House, now ‘The Pig’. Their daughter Isabella married the local Curate, Charles Henry Nutt who became Vicar of East Harptree in 1865. In the 1880s Reverend Nutt replaced the glass in the Chancel windows dedicating them to members of his family, one of them being his mother-in-law Fanny Andrew, nee Deedes:
Fanny Andrew, nee Deedes, most beloved Mother-in-law
Died 17th January 1869
Rest in Peace