Dedication Plaque

Text by Martyn Dell, Trustee

Jane Austen’s Home

Given by

Thomas Edward Carpenter J.P. of Mill Hill

In Memory of his son

Lieut. Philip John Carpenter

East Surrey Regt.

Killed in Action, Lake Trasimene, 1944

Opened 1949 by the Duke of Wellington, K.G.

President of the Jane Austen Society,

Founded 1940 by Dorothy Darnell of Alton.

 

These few words engraved on stone in many ways encapsulate the birth of the Museum in the 1940s.  The wonderfully evocative plaque, which is proudly affixed to the front wall of Jane Austen’s House, is one of the first things visitors see as they approach the house.

The house had been put up for sale by its owners, the Knight family, following the end of the Second World War.  The Jane Austen Society had earlier been formed with the objective of purchasing it but, despite launching a public appeal, were unable to raise the necessary funds.

Mr Thomas Edward (T E) Carpenter, a solicitor in Mill Hill, London, became aware of the appeal and personally purchased the house for the sum of £3,000 which he then endowed to the nation as a permanent memorial to his late son, Philip.

Erected in its current position in 1956, our visitors find the plaque profoundly moving. It acts as a fitting testimony to a much-loved son who died on 30 June 1944 in action in Italy aged just 22.  As the parent of one of Philip’s closest friends, whose son also died, wrote to T E Carpenter in 1949, “It has been a big price which we parents have had to pay, as well as the youngsters”.

In 2019, we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the formal opening of the Museum which took place on 23 July 1949 by the then Duke of Wellington. During the year, we were delighted to display, for the first time in many years, Lieutenant Carpenter’s medals, photograph and a beautifully scribed dedication in his memory.

It also provided another opportunity to honour the Carpenter family who, across several generations, have contributed so much to the Museum’s establishment and growth.