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I thought you all might appreciate knowing that today there is a rare opportunity to hear a service broadcast live from Winchester Cathedral.

The Choir, Winchester Cathedral ©Austenonly

The Choir, Winchester Cathedral ©Austenonly

BBC Radio 3 regularly broadcasts choral evensong services on Wednesday afternoons, and today the programme is being broadcast from Jane Austen’s final resting place, Winchester Cathedral.

Jane Austen's Grave in Winchester Cathedral

Jane Austen’s Grave in Winchester Cathedral ©Austenonly

The programme is repeated on Sunday 20th January at 16.00 and lasts for an hour.

Here are details of the psalms, lessons and music that will be heard in today’s programme, which also can be accessed via the BBC’s iPlayer, after its first broadcast this afternoon:

Introit: Benedicamus Domino (Warlock)
Responses: Philip Moore
Psalms: 82, 83, 84, 85 (Crotch, Clark, Bairstow, Lloyd)
First Lesson: Genesis 2 vv4-end
Canticles: Collegium Regale (Wood)
Second Lesson: Matthew 21 vv33-end
Anthem: When Jesus our Lord (Mendelssohn)
Hymn: Songs of thankfulness and praise (St Edmund)
Organ Voluntary: Flourish for an Occasion (Harris)

Choral evensong is one of my favourite services to attend, and I have been lucky enough to experience it at this marvellously atmospheric cathedral quite a few times. I do hope you will be able to listen to this programme.

A post I wrote about the Jane Austen Exhibition in Winchester Cathedral recently has been very popular, and I thought you all might like to know a little more about the artist who created the watercolours for it. So I asked Laura Haines, if she would mind giving us an interview about them and her attitude/thought processes regarding the work. Laura very kindly agreed to be inexpertly interviewed by me, and so here it is. (Her responses are italicised).

******************************************************************************

When I spotted the light boxes containing your wonderful illustrations in Winchester Cathedral recently I was very impressed. Can you let us know some more about the process of creating them?  Can you let us know what was the brief from the Cathedral?

The overall brief was to create four illustrations highlighting different points in Jane Austen’s life – starting with the Steventon church of St Nicholas, moving on to Bath, Chawton and later College Street, Winchester.  I completed preparatory sketches to give myself an idea of the composition of the images.  The text and pictures would then be laid out by a designer and placed inside the light boxes, and set out as 3D displays, hopefully having more of an impact than flat display boards.

2) Do you know why you were chosen?

I had done previous heritage themed illustration work for the Cathedral in a display about pests in the Cathedral library (hungry things like clothes moths, carpet beetle and silverfish!).  Part of the display involved an interactive element where visitors could design their own bugs, and there was a competition for the children to do this – which was very hard to judge as they were all good!  I have a real love for old buildings (especially from the 18th and 19th century) and local history and have previously done paintings for Kingston Museum in London, recording old buildings of historical note before they were demolished or renovated.  I also have a love of writing and reading and I was really keen to get to know Jane Austen’s work better and to do some research about her life and the places where she lived.

3) Can you describe the process you underwent when creating these pictures?

I generally create preparatory sketches where I can work out the composition before completing the final image.  I created the separate parts of the image on watercolour paper (painted using acrylics, pencil, conté crayon and watercolours) which were then scanned in and placed together on Photoshop – this meant that changes could be made easily and components taken away or added.  This is also better as it means I am quicker with my work, and I find that painting quickly makes the images more successful than when I take too long on them.

4) The illustrations are 3-D. How did this make the creative process different from creating two-dimensional pictures?

The images were designed almost a little like a pop-up theatre as it makes them stand out more to the viewer (literally!).  The various paintings were created separately and then parts were cut out on Photoshop (for example the people), rather than creating images that were all on one page and then put onto a flat display.  It is harder to create a 3D display as it is tricky to picture it until it has all been completed.  I didn’t use miniature pop up models in this case, but they can be useful sometimes to work out the composition.

5) How did you research the four places- Steventon, Bath, Chawton, Winchester- used in the exhibition?

I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Steventon, Chawton and Winchester with Elizabeth Proudman, (a Winchester City Guide specialising in Jane Austen tours-jfw), who gave me some fascinating background information and Charlotte Barnaville of Winchester Cathedral  who drove us to the various sites. Elizabeth wrote the text for my illustrations.  I used to live near Bath and so I had been to the city many times and had some old photos I could use as inspiration.  I took new photographs from different angles of the various buildings (all except Bath) such as Steventon Church and then used my imagination to create the rest and to compose the scenes of different elements.  It was great to be able to see the site where Jane Austen first lived at Steventon and quite poignant that the house was no longer there.

6) What research into Jane Austen’s life did you undertake before and during the commission? Did you read (or re-read) any of her works? If so, which ones?

 

I became very interested in Jane Austen’s work and read ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and ‘Northanger Abbey’, which I both thoroughly enjoyed.  I haven’t read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ but am very familiar with the story from television adaptations and films, though of course these sometimes stray from the original story!  I hope to read more Jane Austen in the future!

7) Were you a fan of Jane Austen before the commission? If not, are you now?

I was a fan of Jane Austen beforehand, but I was not very familiar with her work.  My sister studied her at school for her English GCSE, but we mostly looked at Shakespeare!  I am definitely now a fan having read some of her work.  I found it very witty and uplifting and I looked forward to reading it in the evenings.

****************************************************************************

Thank you so much, Laura for taking such trouble with your replies. I found reading them fascinating for the detailed  insights into your working process. Laura’s work is very fine,and I confess to be hankering after her painting of Silbury Hill. Do go and look at her paintings on her website as I’m sure you will enjoy them. And it is lovely to know she is a convert to Jane too ;)

Last week I paid another pilgrimage to Jane Austen’s grave in Winchester Cathedral.  As you no doubt know, she is buried in the North Aisle of the Cathedral, shown below,

…under a ledgerstone etched with the now familiar words written by her brother, Henry Austen.

The stone is by the brass plaque which was installed  in 1870, and was paid for from the proceeds of her nephew, Edward Austen Leigh’s Memoir of his aunt, and also by the memorial window, above the plaque, paid for by public subscription in 1900.

Winchester Cathedral has recently added some explanatory displays on Jane Austen’s life and her connections with the Cathedral, in the form of rather beautiful, ethereal 3-D effect light boxes, and I really want to share them with you here.  The boxes are simple but very lovely, set in blue ‘cupboards” complete with words written by Elizabeth Proudman, a Winchester Guide who has a special interest in the life of Jane Austen, and with watercolour  illustrations by the artist, Laura Haines.

There are four of them and they stand very unobtrusively near to Jane Austen’s Grave. The first illustrates Jane Austen’s early life in Steventon:

You can enlarge all the photographs in this post by clicking on them and I do recommend you do it to get the full effect of these lovely illustrations. The text gives a simple but accurate outline of Jane Austen’s early life:

Jane Austen was born on the 16th December 1775 in the parsonage house in Steventon near Basingstoke in Hampshire, where her father was Rector. The house no longer stands but you can still visit the little church where the family prayed each week and see the scattered rural community where she grew up…..

The Second Box deals with Jane’s time in Bath, showing her sitting on the banks of the Avon near to the Pulteney Bridge:

In 1801 Jane’s father,  Rev. George Austen, decided to retire and move the family to Bath where he had met and married Jane’s mother, Cassandra Leigh. Everything was sold ,even Jane’s books and her piano, and they left her beloved countryside to live in town…

The third box’s subject is Chawton:

This shows Jane Austen in the famed Donkey Cart, which she disliked using, and Chawton Cottage, now the Jane Austen’s House Museum:

…it is this house which we know as Jane Austen’s house today, where she lived for the last eight years of her life, and where she became a great writer. Upstairs she shared a bedroom with her beloved Cassandra and in the dining room she could write,  covering her work with a piece of blotting paper to avoid inquisitive eyes. ..

The fourth and last light box shows the house in College Street, just outside the Cathedral Close,  where Jane Austen died in 1817:

On 24th May 1817, Jane Austen said goodbye to her mother in Chawton, and she and Cassandra drove the 16 miles in pouring rain to Winchester. There were good doctors in Winchester and they hoped her illness could be cured. They took comfortable lodgings near the Cathedral in Mrs. David’s house at 8 College Street where Cassandra nursed her….

There can now be no confusion as to “who that lady is?” This was of course the famous question asked by a Verger of the cathedral to a visitor who wanted to visit Jane Austen’s tomb in  1850. I think it is a rather beautiful, unobtrusive  and very clever way of giving an accurate, interesting and visually pleasing display about Jane Austen’s life. Bravo Winchester Cathedral for having the imagination to make this small exhibit such a beautiful and fitting one.

featured last night on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow programme.

This was the second programme filmed in Winchester Cathedral, and of course, it is in Winchester Cathedral that Jane Austen is buried.

Last night the programme’s presenter, Fiona Bruce, made mention of the pilgrimages that centre on Winchester. People still flock to the cathedral to see the shrines of ancient kings and saints,

but also to pay special literary pilgrimages to Jane Austen’s memorial plaque and window, above, and her tomb, below.

She gave a brief overview of Jane Austen’s life and works and then led us to the house in College Street, just outside the cathedral close…

where Jane Austen died in 1817.

Unexpectedly, we were then taken inside the house, to the room on the first floor where Jane Austen died.

This is the first time I have seen inside this house and it quite took me aback, I freely confess.

It is of course a private house at the moment and is not open to the public, so this was an extraordinary thing to have seen.

During the programme, Louise West, Curator of the Jane Austen’s House Museum bought Martha Lloyd’s cookery book to the Roadshow for an expert, in this case, Justin Croft, to appreciate and to value. Martha Lloyd was, of course, a lifelong friend of the Austen ladies and was sister to James Austen’s second wife, Mary. She eventually married Jane Austen’s brother, Frank Austen, in 1828.

We were shown some glimpses of some of the pages in the book..The Table of Contents with recipes for Pound Cake and White Custard,

and A Good Salve for Sore Lips

Louise pointed out that while it was not written by Jane Austen, its association could not have been closer , for these were the recipes she ate nearly every day at Chawton Cottage, during the last eight years of he life, and while Martha was in the kitchen making ink from this recipe in her book, below,

Jane was using it, writing and revising her books in the dining room of the same house, on the writing table we can still see there today.

The book was eventually valued at between £15-20,000 but as Louise rightly pointed out, it was priceless to the Museum and would never be sold. Oh, for a facsimile edition!

The programme is available to view for the next six days on the BBC I Player, or  if you go here. I do hope you enjoy this fascinating part of the programme.

On Friday the 18th inst. died,

in this city,

Miss Jane Austen,

youngest(sic) daughter of the late Rev. George Austen, Rector of Steventon, in this county,

and the Authoress of Emma, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.

Her manners were most gentle, her affections ardent,

her candour was not to be surpassed,

and she lived and died as became a humble Christian.

Notice of Jane Austen’s death that appeared in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal on the 28th July, 1817

written by Henry Austen her brother.

July 15th is St Swithin’s Day and legend has it that if it rains today it will rain every day for 40 continuous days…as it is raining as I write it is goodbye to summer,then.

St Swithin’s day if thou dost rain

For forty days it will remain

St Swithun’s day if thou be fair

For forty days ’twill rain na mair

St Swithun was a 9th century Bishop of Winchester (his name is more often spelt “Swithin” today,as Jane Austen did).  He died on 2 July 862 and tradition has it that he asked to be buried in a humble manner , outside the cathedral in the surrounding precincts. His original grave was situated just outside the west door of the Old Saxon minster, a place where people would inevitably walk over it on their way into the cathedral.

However, on 15 July 971,  Swithin’s remains were dug up and moved to a shrine in the cathedral on the orders of  Bishop Ethelwold.  This became the saint’s day because  miracles were attributed to the saint on this day. However, the removal of Swithun’s remains into the cathedral was also accompanied by ferocious and violent rain storms that lasted 40 days and 40 nights . People (rightly or wrongly) attributed this to the fact that the saint was obviously angry at being moved. This is probably the origin of the legend that if it rains on Saint Swithin’s feast day, the rain will continue for 40 more days.

Which brings us to Jane Austen’s poem about this day. She wrote it on the morning of Tuesday 15th July 1817, two days before she died on 18th July.  Here it is:

When Winchester races

When Winchester races first took their beginning

It is said the good people forgot their old Saint

Not applying at all for the leave of Saint Swithin

And that William of Wykeham’s approval was faint.


The races however were fixed and determined

The company came and the Weather was charming

The Lords and the Ladies were satine’d and ermined

And nobody saw any future alarming.–


But when the old Saint was informed of these doings

He made but one Spring from his Shrine to the Roof

Of the Palace which now lies so sadly in ruins

And then he addressed them all standing aloof.


‘Oh! subjects rebellious! Oh Venta depraved

When once we are buried you think we are gone

But behold me immortal! By vice you’re enslaved

You have sinned and must suffer, ten farther he said


These races and revels and dissolute measures

With which you’re debasing a neighboring Plain

Let them stand–You shall meet with your curse in your pleasures

Set off for your course, I’ll pursue with my rain.

Ye cannot but know my command o’er July

Henceforward I’ll triumph in shewing my powers

Shift your race as you will it shall never be dry

The curse upon Venta is July in showers–‘.


Winchester( the Roman name for the city was “Venta“, note)  had its racecourse on Worthy Down, four miles from the town. There was an oval course with a stand at the western end and booths to the south. As we learnt from our Stamford Assembly Rooms post, the provincial Races Weeks of the 18th and early 19th centuries were considerable events. Much socialising- concerts assemblies and of course the races,when the genteel and aristocratic-who usually were great patrons of the sport- dressed in their  finery came together in great numbers to see the races, spend  and gamble money  etc. So  in her poem Jane Austen was playfully admonishing the many who flocked to the Winchester Races -held on St Swithin’s Day-and imagines the saint cursing them, promising that henceforth, all their race meetings will be accompanied by rain. As someone who has experienced downpours at Ascot, Newmarket and Warwick race courses,I can say that it did mar the  fun considerably;-)

This poem was of curse quietly glossed over by Jane Austen’s early biographers, most notably James Edward Austen Leigh’s “Memoir” : probably because they thought the subject matter  was too disreputable  -horse racing with all its connotations-especially bearing in mind  the image of  the pious, devoted, domestically minded spinster aunt, that they were studiously creating and promoting. At a time when she was near to death it is obvious that they were disquieted that  she should write an amusing poem and probably thought she ought to have been contemplating more serious subjects. Henry Austen, Jane’s brother, in his Biographical Notice published with the first editions of   Persuasion and Northanger Abbey referred to her composing

Stanzas replete with fancy and vigour

the day before her death, but failed to mention the subject matter.

It was first published in the first edition of  Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers by J H and E C Hubback in 1906.

I don’t find it irreligious at all:she is after all portraying St Swithin as being outraged that the races take place on his saint’s day, and punishes the racegoers accordingly….

What is disturbing is that it occurs to me  that  as Jane Austen was dying at the time of the Winchester races, this  surely means that she was dying in a very busy noisy town: not much peace to be had even in the small house, 8 College Street where she died . That’s not a pleasant  thought to contemplate.

However, I find it remarkable that her sense of humour and mischievousness were still with her almost to the end, and thought you might like to read the poem on this St Swithin’s Day.

I thought you might like to see this picture of the bible once owned by the Reverend George Austen which is to be used at the Evensong  Service at Winchester Cathedral tomorrow, which is to  commemorate the life and works of Jane Austen.

Here we can see Winchester Cathedral’s Canon Precentor Michael St John-Channell holding the bible near Jane Austen’s ledgerstone in the Cathedral. The Reverend  George Austen’s bible is normally kept at St Nicholas Church, Steventon, the church where he was rector. Jane Austen was born in the nearby Rectory at Steventon-now sadly demolished- in 1775.

Winchester Cathedral have just sent  me details of the special Evensong Celebration of Jane Austen’s life  which is to take place next weekend.

Here they are for you to  share:

A special service to mark Jane Austen’s burial at Winchester Cathedral will feature her father’s 200-year-old bible.

The bible dates from 1793 and was used by the Rev George Austen while he served in his Hampshire parish. Readings will be taken from the bible during the service.

It is intended the May 1 event, which is to celebrate the opening of the Cathedral’s Jane Austen exhibition, will also redress the fact that only four people were at her funeral and none were women.

The celebration will see some of her descendents attending and taking part in the Evensong service. Jane remained very close to Hampshire throughout her life and the celebration at the Cathedral reflects her life story. Family from her close friend Mrs Lefroy will also be at the Cathedral for the service.

“This Evensong is the perfect celebration of the opening of our exhibition and Jane’s life,” comments Charlotte Barnaville of Winchester Cathedral. “By bringing her family descendents and supporters to her graveside, and reading from her father’s bible, we are making a wonderful connection with the past and recognising just how influential Jane’s contribution to our literary history continues to be.”

The family will be invited to process to Jane Austen’s grave in the Cathedral at the end of the service and be given the opportunity to pay their respects to one of Hampshire’s and the UK’s most famous daughters.

I have been invited to attend but sadly a long standing  prior appointment forced me to decline the very kind invitation. I would have loved to have been able to share the details of the service with you.

From the description above, it certainly does  look like it is going to be a very moving event and I wish all participants the happpiest of times commemorating Jane.

Just breaking into my Easter Break from AustenOnly  once more to share with you the information that  you should be able to listen again to a BBC Radio 4 edition of Woman’s Hour presented by the lovely Jane Garvey, which today featured a piece on Jane Austen.

This is the BBC ‘s blurb about it:

As Jane Austen’s bicentenary decade begins, a new permanent exhibition celebrating her life opened on Saturday at Winchester Cathedral. Next year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Sense and Sensibility – the first of an incredible collection of novels that have secured Jane Austen’s place as one of the most prominent writers in the history of English literature. She died at the tragically young age of 41 in Winchester in 1817 and is buried in the cathedral there. Now, a permanent exhibition next to her grave will tell her life story and display Austen memorabilia that has rarely been seen until now. Charlotte Barnaville [Winchester Cathedral’s Marketing Officer] , Elizabeth Proudman [Vice Chair of the Jane Austen Society], and Rebecca Vaughan (whose one-woman show Austen’s Women opens at the Leicester Square Theatre London on 20th April) join Jane Garvey to discuss the life of one of Britain’s best loved authors.

Charlotte Barnaville of Winchester Cathedral , whom we know from her posting here , details some of the treats to be had  visiting the cathedral’s new permanent exhibition on Jane Austen: the burial register, which records the wrong date for her death; Henry Austen’s draft of the text of her memorial stone, presumably made for  the stone mason; a poem by James Austen on Jane Austen’s death; Jane’s poem about Mrs Lefroy etc etc. I simply can’t wait to visit this exhibit.

You may wish to know that Charlotte has just told me that the book accompanying the exhibition will be available soon, and she will let us know as soon as it is available to purchase on line.

Elizabeth Proudman of  The Jane Austen Society also has some very interesting points to make about Jane Austen and her life.

The Programme is available on the BBC’s Listen Again facility, if you go here you can access it for the next few days: the piece on Jane Austen appeared approximately 30 minutes into the programme.

And if you go here you can subscribe to the podcast which should  contain parts of today’s programme including the piece on Jane Austen.

I will be  back next Monday  after my Easter Break with details of two exhibits I’ve recently seen and which I think will of some interest to you ;-)

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