Alton Bank £10 noteText by Ashleigh Stimpson, Retail Manager at Jane Austen's House
At the foot of this unissued note of the Alton Bank, the partners’ names are listed, ‘Austen, Gray and Vincent’. ‘Austen’ was Henry Thomas Austen- 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 sisters writing and after their fathers’ retirement; stayed as her leading promoter and agent throughout her life.
Henry originally intended to join the Church; however by 1796 he had changed his mind and joined the Oxfordshire militia; eventually becoming Paymaster and Adjutant- positions that would earn him a good income. In 1801 he left the militia to embark on a career as a banker, partnering with militia friends; Henry Maunde and James Tilson; setting up offices in Cleveland Court, London. Utilising his characteristic charm and connections, Henry revelled in the opportunity and lifestyle that banking provided. His brother Francis also invested and is the second Austen name to appear on the banknotes they issued, including the one here.
In London Henry was able to focus his efforts to get his sister published and in 1803 he, with Jane, secured the sale of Susan for £10 with the publisher Crosbie. Unfortunately the publisher did nothing with it but Henry continued supporting her 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 which bank this note was issued. 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 lead to the collapse of the Alton branch, the others followed, notes from the banks became worthless and in March 1816 Henry was bankrupt, but he was not the only victim.
Jane lost £13 of her profit from Mansfield Park, Edward £20’000 and an uncle £10’000. The family were hit hard but Henry’s character remained faultless to his close family.
Shortly after, Jane’s health began to fail; yet her affection for Henry never faltered and she left him £50 when she died. His sister’s affection was also not lost on him; he published Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in 1817, finally revealing the author to the world.