Proposals for a £250,000 memorial to add to Jane Austen’s gravestone and the nearby museum prompt fierce local opposition.
They had commissioned Martin Jennings, a local sculpture to create a statue for the inner close to the tune of £250,000. The statue was to “seal her place in the rich and complex identity of Winchester and create a lasting memorial to her literary genius.”
Jane Austen fans around the world were gladdened by the news, and set about their funding campaigns with great gusto. Winchester City Council and the Hampshire County Council both offered £25,000 to get the funding underway, so all seemed well in the world of Janeites.
The Hampshire Chronicle ran an article and image of the proposals to share the great news, unaware they were about to open the floodgates to Winchester residents who baulked at the idea of another Jane Austen Memorial. It was simply too much.
A Barrage of Criticism
According to the Daily Echo, residents submitted “a barrage of criticism” in response to the plans. “There is a strong body of opinion that rejects the idea of another Jane Austen statue anywhere, or any statue at all in the cathedral close,” wrote one resident.
Another letter suggested that “the cathedral already has Jane Austen’s gravestone and Winchester has the house she died in. The two seem adequate and certainly reflect her relationship with Winchester.”
The Cathedral said in a statement, “We have listened carefully and, alongside support and enthusiasm for the project, we have also been fully aware of serious concerns expressed regarding the type of sculpture, the location and the timing of this significant commission.
“As a result of this listening, Chapter has decided, with regret, not to go ahead with this concept. There are other priorities within the cathedral and city that need to be the focus of attention.
“We are honoured that an artist of the stature of Martin Jennings has worked with us on this project thus far and we thank him for his support and understanding in this decision.”