Given all the hoo-ha about the proposed statue of Jane Austen in the Cathedral grounds (with even Jeremy Clarkson chipping in over the weekend in The Sunday Times) maybe the Cathedral authorities should review to whom they have a debt and merits memorialisation in its precincts.

Foremost on that list, I would suggest should be those people who were excluded from ever having a speaking part in a Jane Austen novel – the agricultural labourers of southern England who generated in large part the tithes and wealth upon which the church and the gentry thrived.

As we approach the bicentenary of the Captain Swing Riots in Hampshire -  which culminated in a series of executions of working men in the yard of what is now the Wetherspoons Gaol House in Jewry Street - the Cathedral might like to reflect on its role in the story.

Implored to intervene on behalf of those to be punished the Cathedral turned its back and washed its hands of any appeal. The youngest of those hanged was Henry Cook aged 19 from Micheldever.

The church refused to allow his burial in consecrated ground. A representative statue in his name and the many hundreds of other exploited and disregarded Hampshire agricultural labourers and their families might now be appropriate.


Edward Fennell

Co-ordinator, Captain Swing Riots Bicentenary Commemoration

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