Since the 16th century the Leigh family, Austen’s relatives, had owned Adlestrop Park, the great house which is thought to have inspired Sotherton Court, the estate in her novel Mansfield Park.
But the house has been restored and is now owned by the Collins family who are also generous donors to projects including the refurbishment of the church’s five bells.
Now the rector and churchwardens have asked a consistory court to let Dominic Collins install a hatchment, a coat of arms display, in the church in memory of his late wife.
But the idea was opposed by local historian and Austen expert Victoria Huxley, who said it was inappropriate to install a memorial to a family who were not the Leighs.
She wrote: “I was very surprised that someone with a relatively short link to the village (compared to the age of the church) should seek to place their coat of arms in the church, and I do not think that most people in the village have been alerted to this request,” adding: “I feel that only a family which has strong ties over several generations should have such a display.”
Moron. Such hatchments act – to use a modern terminology – as a blockchain recording who were the major landowners in the area. Absolutely every one of them was new at some time, marking the social climbing of some arriviste. Still become that historical record though.