"I don't think we want to turn it into 'Disney Land on Itchen' was one response to plans for a Jane Austen statue in Winchester Cathedral Close.

Austen expert Elizabeth Proudman's view was one of many shared on the design of a statue of the novelist at Winchester Cathedral.

A meeting was held on Monday, February 26, where sculptor Martin Jennings was quizzed by members of the public. 

It is hoped the statue will be erected in 2025 in the Inner Close to mark the 250th anniversary of her birth in 1775. 

It is not the first time that plans for a Jane Austen memorial have been proposed. A previous statue plan was scrapped in 2019 after public feedback. 

Mr Jennings said: “This is a work of the imagination as, I must emphasise, every work of art is. We don't know very much at all about what she looked like. 

Hampshire Chronicle: Jane Austen statue meeting

READ MORE: Winchester Cathedral's Jane Austen statue to mark 250th anniversary

“This is a representation of a figure indoors, outdoors. This isn't the newest maquette I have made. The newest one has the table a bit higher. Little things are changing all the time. It's a living process. 

“There are various things I know I want to change. Some people have said she looks a little careworn. I don't want her to look like she's exhausted. I want the sculpture to express her spirit.”

Elizabeth Proudman, Friend of Winchester Cathedral for 60 years and former chairman of the Jane Austen Society, said: “She was not a Winchester woman, she was a Hampshire woman. She wrote in Chawton and came to Winchester when she was ill and died here. She has a wonderful memorial in Winchester Cathedral. We go to her grave and we worship her. We don't know what she looked like, but we do know that she was a very private person. She despised publicity. This statue speaks for feminism, but that is not what Jane Austen was all about.

“I don't think any statue is appropriate for this part of Winchester Cathedral. The Inner Close is where the monks had a private area, it's a special place. I don't think we want to turn it into 'Disney Land 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 Jane Austen.”

Lizzie Dunford, director of Jane Austen's House, said: “This is a 21st century sculpture and should reflect when it's made. Think any statue should encompass her sense of strength and self-belief, even if that doesn't necessarily look modest. Also, why didn't you choose to have her writing?”

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Mr Jennings said: “In life, she may have been aghast at being represented in this way. But after death, she belongs to all of us. I don't think we have, in any way, invaded her private personality. She was sure of her worth as a writer. 

“If she was writing, her head would be bent over and looking down. The figure is more dynamic. I hope people will be drawn by the introduction of a sculpture.”

Hampshire Chronicle: Jane Austen statue meeting

Canon Roland Riem, vice-dean at Winchester Cathedral, said: “This isn't designed by committee. We have to trust the creative process and trust Martin with his creative gifts and experience for the people of Hampshire to be proud of for generations to come.”

The 5'7" statue will represent her rising from her table at her home in Chawton as someone arrives at the door, moving in front of her work as if to disguise it, as she kept her writing private. 

Jane Austen died in 1817 in Winchester, after writing titles such as Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1815), Persuasion (1817) and Northanger Abbey (1817).

For more details, visit winchester-cathedral.org.uk/news/hampshire-celebrates-250-years-of-jane-austen/.