WINCHESTER Cathedral has rejected criticism that its planned Jane Austen statue is “cynical cultural misappropriation”.

As previously reported, the cathedral wants to erect a statue of the famous author in the Inner Close in 2025, to mark the 250th anniversary of her birth in 1775.

However, the plans have faced backlash from the public, with Phil Howe, of Hidden Britain Tours, saying that Basingstoke has better links to the literary figure.

READ MORE: 'Disneyland on Itchen' - Contrasting views shared on Jane Austen statue design

In a letter to the Hampshire Chronicle, Mr Howe called the statue, estimated to cost £100,000, “unnecessarily extravagant”, saying: “Jane Austen spent her final weeks in Winchester, writing a poem deploring their citizens' gambling habits and has two memorials to her memory in the cathedral.

Hampshire Chronicle: Phil Howe with the Jane Austen statue outside the Willis MuseumPhil Howe with the Jane Austen statue outside the Willis Museum (Image: Phil Howe)

“At the time of her death, she was not recognised as a writer, buried as the daughter of her rector father and only later was a memorial placed on an adjacent wall acknowledging her as an author. Three memorials seem disproportionate.

“Winchester need not follow Bath’s hijacking of the Jane Austen brand with a cynical cultural misappropriation commemorating the work of one of the world’s most famous female novelists.”

The Very Rev Catherine Ogle, Dean of Winchester, has responded to some of Mr Howe’s comments, saying Austen had strong links to the city.

She said: “It is well-known that Austen was a Hampshire-born woman, and she would have known Winchester and recognised the Cathedral Close as it remains today.

Hampshire Chronicle: The proposed statue of Jane AustenThe proposed statue of Jane Austen (Image: Winchester Cathedral)

“The proposed location of the statue in the Inner Close is close to the route she would have taken when visiting her nephews at the nearby Winchester College, and her friends at No.12 The Close. This route also became her final journey from her College Street lodgings adjacent to Winchester College, the funeral procession to her place of rest in the Cathedral.

“The Cathedral has hoped to give Jane Austen a fitting tribute as a sculpture for some years.  The opportunity has now arisen with a significant number of private donors and small grant providers keen to see in place the splendid and sensitive design by the acclaimed sculptor Martin Jennings. These funds are restricted by the donors to this project only.”

SEE ALSO: See Mr Howe's letter in full

Mr Howe is not the only person to criticise plans for the statue. At a meeting on February 26, Austen expert Elizabeth Proudman 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.

“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 ‘Disneyland on Itchen’.”

This 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.