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Cathedral defends planned Jane Austen statue after critics say it will turn site into ‘Disneyland’

Cathedral defends planned Jane Austen statue after critics say it will turn site into ‘Disneyland’

Winchester Cathedral has defended its plan to put up a £100k sculpture of author Jane Austen after critics complained that the project would turn the area into a kind of “Disneyland”.

The historic Hampshire cathedral announced late last year proposals to install a life-sized statue of one of the great British authors along the path of her funeral cortege. Austen died in Winchester in 1817 aged 41 and was buried in the cathedral.

But critics have voiced their concern about the sculpture, with one claiming that it would become a tourist hot spot packed with people keen to get a selfie, resulting in the “Disneyfication” of the area.

Elizabeth Proudman, an Austen expert and prominent figure in the Jane Austen Society, also claimed the Pride and Prejudice author would not have approved of the sculpture herself, saying she was a “very private person” who “despised publicity”.

English novelist Jane Austen from an original family portrait (Getty)
English novelist Jane Austen from an original family portrait (Getty)

The Very Reverend Catherine Ogle, dean of Winchester Cathedral, has hit back at the criticism, saying the sculpture would be a “very fitting tribute” to the “Hampshire-born woman” who would have “known Winchester and recognised the Cathedral Close as it remains today”.

“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,” she wrote in a letter to the Hampshire Chronicle.

“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 dean added: “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.”

The 5ft 7in statue would stand just a few yards away from the site of Austen’s memorial gravestone at the cathedral, built between 1079 and 1420.

It will be designed by Mr Jennings, who is known for his portrait of King Charles III for the Royal Mint and the plan is for it to be unveiled next year ahead of the 250th anniversary of Austen’s birth.