A Jane Austen Statue to Turn Winchester Church Into ‘Disneyland’?

A Jane Austen Statue Could Turn Winchester Cathedral Into "Disneyland-on-Itchen", Many Locals and Experts Said.

Mar 12, 2024By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
A Jane Austen Statue
The Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Swithun, commonly known as Winchester Cathedral. Via Wikipedia.


A Jane Austen statue is planned for unveiling at Winchester Cathedral. In 2023, Winchester Cathedral declared the intention to invest $128,000 in a life-sized statue of the Hampshire-born novelist. But, many locals and experts started criticizing these plans. They also said how this statue can turn the cathedral into “Disneyland-on-Itchen”. The team at the 931-year-old cathedral constantly works on defending its plan.


A Jane Austen Statue to Celebrate Her 250th Birthday

Credit: Steve Russell Studios.


The monument will unfold in 2025, if everything goes according to plan. The goal is to commemorate the author’s 250th birthday. Jane Austen was born in the Hampshire town of Steventon in 1775. Also, many neglected her as an author up until her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh wrote a biography in 1870. New editions of her writings also came out in the early twentieth century, propelling her to prominence. The author passed away in Winchester in 1817 and was buried in the mediaeval cathedral’s north naïve column.


The statue will be around 5 feet tall and placed near Austen’s tribute tombstone. The contracted artist, Martin Jennings, resides in Gloucestershire. He also just drew a portrait of King Charles III for the Royal Mint to put on coins. The artist is famous for his portrayal of authors. He also created sculptures of Charles Dickens, John Betjeman, Philip Larkin, and George Orwell. The artwork depicts Austen standing upright, touching her writing desk, which holds her paper, quill, and ink pot.


Photo: Steve Russell Studios.


The sculpture’s place will be in the Inner Close, which also sparked controversy. Former chairman of the Jane Austen Society, Elizabeth Proudman, explained that the Inner Close was “where the monks had a private area, it’s a special place”. She added: “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 the author”.

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The Dean of Winchester Cathedral Supports the Statue

The Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Swithun, commonly known as Winchester Cathedral. Via Wikipedia.


Phil Howe, founder of Hidden Britain Tours, noted a few things about the author in a letter to the Hampshire Chronicle. “At the time of her burial at the cathedral, she was not recognised as a writer. She was buried as the daughter of her rector father, and only later was a memorial placed on an adjacent wall acknowledging her as an author, and that the addition of this third memorial to the writer would be disproportionate”.


A bronze plaque erected in 1872—55 years after Austen’s death—to commemorate her literary contributions. This happened at the request of her nephew Austen-Leigh. Howe added: “Winchester need not follow Bath’s hijacking of the Jane Austen brand with a cynical cultural misappropriation commemorating the work of one of the world’s most famous female novelists”.


Author’s home at Chawton, Hampshire, via Historic England


The Very Reverend Catherine Ogle, the dean of Winchester Cathedral, maintains that Jennings’s “splendid and sensitive design” will be a “very fitting tribute”. “The proposed location of the statue in the Inner Close is close to the route she would have taken when visiting her nephews at the nearby Winchester College and her friends at No 12 The Close”, Ogle said. The funds for the project are coming from private donations, with plans due to start next month for its creation.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.