SHE may have died nearly 200 years ago but novelist Jane Austen continues to breathe life into attempts to promote tourism in Hampshire.
Winchester City Council is launching a campaign next year to promote attractions with links to Austen, coinciding with the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice.
The novelist lived at Steventon north of Winchester, later moving to Chawton near Alton, and then, close to death, to College Street in Winchester where she is buried in the cathedral.
Two hundred years after its publication Pride and Prejudice regularly tops the charts as Britain’s favourite novel.
The Jane Austen Museum, at her house in Chawton, along with Chawton House Library, once the property of Austen’s younger brother Edward, Winchester Cathedral and Hinton Ampner are all looking to commemorate the anniversary with tours, talks and exhibitions.
In addition to seminars, evenings and tours focussing on the life and literature of Austen herself, there will also be more general period themed events such as a ball staged by Hampshire Regency Dancers and an exhibition featuring the costumes from the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, starring Colin Firth who grew up in the Winchester area.
Madelaine Smith, from Jane Austen’s House Museum said: “When the 1995 TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was aired, we experienced a 175 per cent increase in the number of visitors to the museum – peaking at 55,000 per year.
“The appeal of the museum has endured, year on year, partially due to the screen adaptations of the books but also because we’ve developed the offering to visitors with a new education centre and by including richer period detail in the rooms.
“We recognise the importance of this date as a seminal point in Jane Austen’s career as a writer and are planning lots of exciting events at her home in Chawton. Between January and May the original Thomson illustrations will be exhibited alongside the famous letter to Cassandra from January 1813, creating a new trail through the house. And the original costume from the BBC adaptation will be on display between October and December.”
Rob Humby, deputy leader of Winchester City Council said: “Winchester is a key landmark in any homage to Jane Austen – the cathedral is her final resting place and her last home was in College Street. We’ve long recognised the potential to the tourism economy in promoting our Austen connections, and the Visit Winchester and heart of Hampshire Destination Management Partnership has been quick off the mark, working together with the private sector to ensure we make the most of this anniversary.
“This successful public/private business model is ensuring the continued development of tourism locally and we are grateful to the ongoing support from the tourism businesses in both Winchester and East Hampshire districts.”