A HAMPSHIRE woman’s family connections to a world-famous writer were celebrated with staff and residents at her care home.

Helen Lefroy, 95, who lives at Colten Care’s Abbotts Barton care home in Winchester, has close ancestral ties to Pride and Prejudice author Jane Austen.

Helen is a descendant of Jane’s friend Anne Lefroy, whose nephew Tom was reputedly a romantic suitor of the novelist.

Anne’s son Benjamin also married Jane’s niece Anna and the families remained in close contact when Jane’s brother Edward was bequeathed Chawton House in Chawton, near Alton, in east Hampshire by distant relatives, referred to as the ‘Great House’ in Jane Austen’s letters.

Helen recalls visiting Chawton House as a girl from her own family home at nearby Farnham in the 1920s and 30s.

Now living in Winchester, she has participated in events marking the 200th anniversary of the great novelist’s death.

Staff took Helen on minibus trips to the recent ‘Sitting With Jane’ public art trail featuring 24 ‘book benches’.

The trail has now finished, but the benches are to be sold at an auction on Friday September 15 to raise funds for the The Ark Cancer Centre Charity, to be sited near Basingstoke.

Along with fellow residents, she has also visited the Jane Austen exhibition at the Discovery Centre in Jewry Street, Winchester, and a special service in memory of the novelist at Winchester Cathedral.

Jane was staying at a house in College Street, near Winchester Cathedral, when she died in the summer of 1817. She had moved to Winchester to be closer to her doctor but only lived for few weeks.

The care home’s ‘Austen season’ culminated in a Regency afternoon where staff and residents, including Helen, all dressing up in period costumes.

Helen said: “We know that Anne Lefroy was a very able lady, interesting and confident, and she and Jane had a friendship with long literary discussions even though there was quite an age gap between them.

“In my own lifetime, I particularly remember the design of the house at Chawton. Rather than go through a number of rooms to get from one side to the other, there was a corridor that ran right across which I thought was strange.

“I also remember playing tennis in the gardens but they became unkempt and made it difficult to play.”

Abbotts Barton Home manager Dee Lovewell said: “It has helped Helen rekindle all those amazing family connections and provided a great deal of interest for other residents too.

“The commemorations have even prompted one or two of our overseas staff to start reading Austen novels as they had not heard of her before.”