200 years ago yesterday, Jane Austen left her home in Chawton to depart on her final journey to Winchester where she died some weeks later.
Jane Austen’s House Museum ambassador Lucy Worsley marked this significant occasion yesterday by laying flowers from the garden at the site of the memorial plaque outside the front of the House. Having been introduced by Museum Curator Mary Guyatt, Worsley paid an emotional tribute to Austen, speaking of her importance and reading the last letter she wrote from Chawton detailing her ill health and her plans to soon leave Chawton for Winchester.
The memorial plaque, which is a highly popular spot for visitor photos, was originally unveiled on the centenary of Jane Austen’s death on 18th July 1917. With funding from the Jane Austen Society of North America, the plaque has recently been conserved by Plowden & Smith in time for the bicentenary commemorations.
Pavol Hudaçek of Plowden & Smith said: “The memorial had been displayed outside since 1917 and was substantially weather damaged. Repatinating the corroded bronze plaque, regilding the worn lettering, rebuilding the missing section of the oak frame and repairing the copper roof has not only restored the appearance of the memorial for this 2017 bicentenary, but will also help ensure the memorial survives for the tercentenary in another 100 years.”
From Friday, the memorial plaque will be the featured object in the Museum’s Jane Austen in 41 Objects exhibition, the story of Jane Austen’s life and legacy, told using 41 objects from the Museum collection.
Lucy Worsley is the author of Jane Austen At Home, published by Hodder & Stoughton. Her new
documentary Jane Austen: Behind Closed Doors airs on BBC 2 on Saturday 27th May at 9pm.