Lock of Rev. George Austen’s hair

Object name: Lock of Rev. George Austen’s hair

Object number: CHWJA:JAH134

Category: Object

Description: Framed lock of hair of Rev. George Austen with paper wrapping inscribed ‘My Father’s hair’ in Jane Austen’s hand.

Made: 1805

Context: In the early 19th century, it was a common practice for families to cut locks of hair from their deceased loved ones to keep as a tangible reminder of them. The hair was often incorporated into mourning jewellery such as a ring, brooch or locket.

This lock of Rev. Austen’s pure white hair was encased in a paper wrapper carrying the inscription ‘My Father’s hair’ in Jane Austen’s hand before being framed by the Jane Austen Society in the 1950’s.

Rev. Austen’s granddaughter Anna recalled his beautiful hair:

‘My grandfather as a young man was considered extremely handsome – so I have been told and he was still handsome when advanced in age.   At the time when I have the most perfect recollection of him he must have been hard, as people say, for seventy.  His hair in its whiteness might have belonged to a much older man; it was very beautiful and glossy with short curls above the ears…..I can well remember at Bath, where my grandfather latterly resided, what notice he attracted when on any public occasion he appeared with his head uncovered.’

The lock of hair was sold at Sotheby’s in 1948 as part of the sale of the Frederick Lovering collection.  Lovering was an early collector of Jane Austen artefacts who bought many items from Jane and Emma Florence Austen, granddaughters of Jane’s brother Charles.  The hair was bought by an American collector, Mrs Alberta Burke, who subsequently donated it to the museum at the opening ceremony in 1949.

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