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World News

Jane Austen statue risks turning Winchester Cathedral into Disneyland say critics

by Donna Birrell

A decision to site a statue of the author Jane Austen at Winchester Cathedral has caused controversy among some locals.

The 18th century writer is buried in the north nave aisle of the cathedral and the statue has been commissioned to celebrate the 250th anniversary of her birth.

However its proposed location isn’t being welcomed by everyone. Former chair of the Jane Austen Society, Elizabeth Proudman told the Hampshire Chronicle that it would risk ”Disney-fying” the cathedral's inner close.

She also said Austen was a private person who despised publicity:

“I don’t think any statue is appropriate for this part of Winchester Cathedral,” Proudman said.

“The Inner Close is where the monks had a private area, it’s a special place. I don’t think we want to turn it into Disneyland-on-Itchen. I don’t think the Inner Close is the place to attract a lot of lovely American tourists to come and have a selfie with Jane Austen.”

However, the cathedral's dean, Very Rev Catherine Ogle told The Church Times that “a well-considered statue in an outdoor or public space has the capacity to surprise and delight, to bring additional meaning to a place which might not otherwise be apparent to a casual passer-by.”

She added that Austen, who was born in Hampshire would have known and recognised the cathedral close as it remains today.

Work on the £100,000 life-size sculpture is due to begin next month and will depict Austen as risen from her writing table and looking outwards.

 Professor Paula Byrne, author of The Real Jane Austen told The Church Times:

“It captures Austen’s sparkling intelligence, her slender, upright figure, her lightness of touch, as we see in her novels, and her playfulness….she is resplendent in her vigour and energy.”

The statue is being created by the sculptor Martin Jennings who created the official coin effigy of King Charles III as well as a statue of the poet Sir John Betjeman at St Pancras Station. The money has been raised through private donations and grants. 

Jane Austen completed just six official novels during her lifetime, but is revered around the world. Many of her works, including Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma have been turned into films and TV series.




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