Ten Pound Note from Henry Austen's Alton Bank

Museum Number: CHWJA:JAH368.1
 
 
Text by:
Ashleigh Stimpson
Retail Manager, Jane Austen's House Museum

 

 

At the foot of this unissued note of the Alton Bank, the partners’ names are listed, ‘Austen, Gray and Vincent’. ‘Austen’ was Henry - Jane’s brother, with whom she had a special connection that lasted her whole life.


Henry was charismatic, popular and ever the optimist; he took a keen interest in his sister’s writing and after their father’s retirement, was her
leading promoter.

 

Henry originally intended to join the Church. However, by 1796 he had changed his mind and joined the Oxfordshire militia. In 1801 he embarked on a career as a banker, partnering with militia friends, Henry Maunde and James Tilson, setting up offices in London. His brother, Francis, also invested and his name appears on the banknotes they issued, including the one here.


From London Henry helped to get his sister published and in 1803 he, with Jane, secured the sale of Susan for £10 with the publisher Crosby. Unfortunately, nothing came of this but Henry continued supporting his sister wherever he could and she often stayed with him to complete her manuscripts in later years.


In 1806 Henry opened a branch at 10 High Street in Alton, from where this note was issued. By now the main premise in London had moved to Henrietta Street and the bank seal features prominently on the notes issued from their branches.


In 1815, the Napoleonic War was over and a financial slump led to the collapse of the Alton branch. The others followed, notes from the banks became worthless and in March 1816 Henry was bankrupt.


The family was also hard hit - Jane lost £13 of her profit from Mansfield Park, Edward £20,000 and an uncle £10,000.


Jane’s affection for Henry never faltered and she left him £50 when she died. He published Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in 1817/18, finally revealing the author’s identity to the world.

 

 

Jane Austen's House Museum
An independent museum established in 1947
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