Basingstoke has written itself into history by unveiling what is believed to be the first lifesize statue of Jane Austen in the world.
Crowds flocked to the Market Place last Tuesday on the bicentenary of the Pride and Prejudice author’s death to see the £100,000 bronze statue by Basingstoke sculptor Adam Roud finally revealed.
Austen was born in Steventon, where her father was the vicar.
And the leader of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, Cllr Clive Sanders, was delighted that she was finally being marked.
He said: “After many years of being somewhat overlooked in our borough, we have at last reclaimed Jane.
“It was in this borough that she was born and where she lived the majority of her life, and where she was the happiest.
“It was to this square that she would come to go shopping or to dance at the assembly rooms opposite.
“This was the place where her heart belonged and her creativity flowed.
“All of her books were written either in draft or revised form while she was living here in North Hampshire and nowhere else.
“It is right that on the 200th anniversary of her death we should bring her back to this Market Place she knew so well, to once again be one of us.”
The 5ft 5in statue was commissioned by the Hampshire Cultural Trust, which funded it through donations from individuals, trusts and foundation grants.
Mr Roud started the statue in March and previously said he wanted to “have Jane walking in the square where she would have done, I didn’t want to put her up on a pedestal, I wanted her to be an ordinary person”.
As well as representing Austen as a writer, Mr Roud hoped it represented her as a strong-willed and independent woman.
Creating the piece was difficult as only one portrait exists – a sketch drawn by her sister Cassandra – and is said not to be an accurate likeness of Jane.
The statue was unveiled at the ceremony attended by civic dignitaries after Claire Tomalin, author of Jane Austen: A Life, detailed her strong connections with Basingstoke, having spent the first 25 years of her life in Steventon where her father was the vicar.
The Austen Family then moved to Bath in 1801 and Jane died on July 18, 1817 in Winchester, aged 41.
Claire Tomalin said: “Nothing could be better than a sculpture of Jane Austen hurrying across the Market Square to collect library books, do a little shopping or pick up her mother from Dr Lyford’s house.
“It is an inspired idea and will be welcomed by everyone who reads her novels and cares for her memory.”