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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.

Today is the anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. She died on the 18th July 1817 in a rented house, Number 8 College Street, Winchester, where she had gone from Chawton in order to seek better medical attention.

The house in which Jane Austen died on the 18th July, 1817

Mr Curtis, the apothecary in Alton, the small town near to Chawton, who had treated Jane Austen, had admitted he no longer knew how to deal with her illness. She therefore moved to Winchester on 24th May, and there she was attended by Mr Giles King Lyford. He was the Surgeon-in-Ordinary at the Country Hospital in the city. At first his ministrations seemed to be effecting a little improvement in her condition. She wrote to her nephew, James Edward Austen on the  27th May,1817:

Mr Lydford says he will cure me & if he fails I shall draw up a Memorial & lay it before the Dean and Chapter & have no doubt of redress from that Pious, Learned & Disinterested Body.

Sadly, Mr Lydford did not cure her, and this plaque marks the spot where she died:

The Plaque which denotes the house in which Jane Austen died in College Street, Winchester

She was -as she almost foresaw in her ironic remark to James Edward- buried in Winchester Cathedral: College Street was(and still is) just outside the  walls of the Cathedral close.

Winchester Cathedral from the South West.

She was buried in the North Aisle. But there are not one, but three memorials to her in this part of the cathedral, an extraordinary situation, and it is interesting to discover how and why these memorials proliferated.

The North Aisle in Winchester Cathedral

For years this sombre gravestone, below, was the only memorial to her, and it failed, quite spectacularly, to mention her genius or her works:

Jane Austen’s Grave in Winchester Cathedral

The words on the gravestone were composed by Jane Austen’s brother, Henry Austen.  No one knows why he failed to mention her genius here, for he certainly mentioned it in the obituary  notice of her which he is thought to have written and which appeared in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal of the 28th July 1817:

On Friday the 18th inst., died in this city, Miss Jane Austen, youngest daughter of the late Rev.George Austen, Rector of Steventon, in this county, and the Authoress of Emma, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice and Sensibility. Her manners were most gentle, her affections ardent, her candour was not to be suppressed, and she lived and died as became a humble Christian.

Eventually a second memorial was erected in the cathedral to her memory. The profits from James Edward Austen-Leigh’s memoir of his aunt, published in 1870,  paid for a brass memorial tablet to be created and installed near to Jane Austen’s Grave in the north aisle:

The Memorial Brass dedicated to Jane Austen’s memory

The brass plate was designed by James Wyatt,and finally made a small mention of her writings.  But this was still not enough, it seems, to fittingly commemorate her. In 1898 a request for donations by way of public subscription, with an individual limit of 5 guineas, was made in a letter to The Times, and it was signed  by the Earl of Selborne, Lord Northbrook, W.W B Beach and Montague G. Knight of Chawton, in order that a memorial window could be erected in Jane Austen’s memory in addition to the two existing memorials.  This window  was designed by Charles Eager Kempe,  and was installed in the north wall directly above Jane Austen’s memorial tablet:

The Memorial Window Dedicated to Jane Austen in Winchester Cathedral

The imagery in the window is astounding, and I should imagine, for many visitors to the Cathedral, difficult to interpret today.  At the head of the window is a figure of St. Augustine, whose name in its abbreviated form is St Austin. It is therefore a visual pun on Jane Austen’s surname. The central figure in  the top row of the window is King David playing his harp. Directly under him is St John, who displays his Gospel, opened at the first words: “In the beginning was the Word…”  A latin inscription to Jane Austen is also included, and this can be  translated as follows:

Remember in the Lord Jane Austen who died July 18th A.D. 1817.

The figures in the four remaining  lights are the sons of Korah who each carry a scroll upon which are inscribed sentences in Latin which allude to the religious nature of Jane Austen’s character. How interesting that even in this window the references to her genius are oblique by today’s standards. And I do often wonder how many visitors to her grave notice the window, for there is only a small notice to the side of the brass tablet which explains it significance. How fascinating to see how, as her fame rose, the memorials to her got greater in size, but were not necessarily plain acknowledgments of her genius.

I suppose, however, that her true memorials are her works, and her words, for which I give daily thanks.

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).

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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.

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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.

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 ;-)

Winchester  Cathedral is of course where Jane Austen was buried, after dying near to it in College Street  on the 18th  July 1817. To begin commemorate the 200 anniversary of her death the Cathedral has decided to  open a new permanent exhibition about Jane Austen and her life. They have contacted me with details of the events and I have great pleasure in  sharing them to you here:

As the bicentenary decade of Jane Austen’s heyday and early death approaches, a new permanent exhibition at her resting place in Winchester Cathedral opens on 10 April 2010 to unveil the life and times of the renowned author like never before.

The exhibition, which will document Jane’s home and social life, will be supported by a mix of permanent and rolling exhibits borrowed from collections around the world. From 10 April until 20 September items from Winchester Cathedral’s and Winchester College’s archives will be on display. Some of these items have rarely, if ever, been displayed publicly before and include her burial register, first editions and fragments of Jane’s own writing.

In addition to the exhibition,  new guided tours, specific special exhibitions and talks will take visitors through her life and works to mark her legacy and set the stage for Jane’s bicentenary.   Some of the events planned to take place are as follows

1st May: Special Evensong to mark Jane Austen’s life, and place in the Cathedral’s history

16-18 July: Jane Austen Weekend (including Regency Dinner) which coincides with the Jane Austen Society AGM

5-6 August: Outside theatre production of Pride and Prejudice

Extended tours which take visitors beyond the Cathedral to see Jane’s final home just beyond the Cathedral Inner Close.


Charlotte Barnaville, the Cathedral’s Marketing Officer, and a team of specialist advisors have created the exhibit. Charlotte comments:

“Hampshire offers Jane Austen admirers a wonderful window into her life, at her birthplace of Steventon, where she lived at Chawton and in Winchester, her final resting place. The Cathedral provides the perfect space to bring together each element of Jane’s life through the public exhibition and to give prominence to her ledgerstone, which lies quietly in the north nave aisle and often goes unnoticed.

“Our focus will be on Jane Austen the person, her life, family and friends. So much of daily life during the regency period is so different to today, and we know this will reveal a totally different side to Jane Austen’s fans and followers.”

The exhibition will be open during Cathedral visiting hours, and visitors will be able to enjoy the rest of the Cathedral’s treasures during their visit. There is a small charge to visit the Cathedral, and an annual pass costs just £10.  But note if you are making a special visit to Winchester to visit the Cathedral that it is always wise  to contact the Cathedral in advance, as occasionally services and events may limit access to the exhibition.

I do hope some form of catalogue will be  available for this exhibit-  as yet I have no news about  one- as it would make a touching souvenir for those  Janeites amongst us who may not be able to  physically attend any of the commemorations for her death in the city where she died.

If I have any more news on this or other exhibits regarding the celebrations commemorating the 200th Anniversary of Jane Austen’s death I will of course share them with you.

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