Austen Powers – Hampshire
As the world remembers Jane Austen on the 200th anniversary of her death, we decided to explore the county that shaped her – historic Hampshire
Entering Winchester along the poker-straight Roman road that leads to a bronze statue of Alfred the Great speaks volumes about the part Hampshire has played in Britain’s early history. From Danbury hillfort, considered to be one of the best-preserved Iron Age settlements in Europe, to the historic dockyards in Portsmouth, Hampshire, on England’s southern coast, has featured consistently as an important centre in the tapestry of Britain’s past from its most primitive colonies to the Second World War.
Hampshire was also the beloved home of Jane Austen for much of her life and 2017 marks the 200th anniversary of her death. Celebrations and special events will take place across the county from Steventon, where she was born, to Winchester, where she died.
In and around Basingstoke, benches sculpted in the form of an open book will be positioned in places that influenced Jane’s work.
In Winchester, Rain Jane pavement art, which only appears when wet, will remind walkers on rainy days that one of Britain’s finest authors strolled there too.
Her wonderful books were greatly influenced by this beautiful county with its perfect hamlets and provincial life that shaped many of the characters in her novels.
Tucked into the peaceful countryside on the fringes of the North Wessex Downs, the population of this sleepy village hasn’t changed much since Jane Austen was born here in 1775. The rectory, where she spent the first 25 years of her life and wrote Pride and Prejudice, Northcazger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility (though they weren’t published until later), no longer stands. But the church, where her father, George, was the rector and Jane was baptised is still used for services. In June 2017 Steventon will host a music recital entitled Jane Austen Suite and conducted by local composer, Philip Andrews.
In 1809, Jane and her mother and sister, Cassandra, moved from Southampton to Chaw ton, where they were given a cottage by Jane’s brother, Edward. A return to the tranquillity of rural life allowed Jane’s love of writing to find its freedom once again, and it was here that she re-wrote and published some of her most acclaimed works from Sense and Sensibility to Pride and Prejudice. The house is now a public museum and beautifully preserves the traditions of early 19th-century middle-class life. Taking a stroll around the village itself you half-expect to bump into Mr Elton emerging from a church service.