Hampshire marks a hat-trick of literary heroes

Hampshire will be celebrating three volumes of major literary anniversaries during the course of the coming year.

2019 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Kingsley, author of The Water Babies – along with both the 70th anniversary of Jane Austen’s House Museum being open to the public; and the 200th anniversary of Keats’ Ode To Autumn, which was inspired during a stay in Winchester and is regarded by critics as one of the most perfect short poems in the English language.

Organisers of ck200 are planning to create a village festival in Eversley this summer that will engage the public in a celebration of Charles Kingsley’s life and work.

Located in northeast Hampshire, 10 miles from Basingstoke, Eversley’s most famous resident was one of the principal thinkers of his age, who achieved worldwide fame with his children’s fable The Water-Babies, first published in 1863.

By the time Kingsley died in January 1875, he had become one of the most prominent men in his age, deeply involved in the religious, scientific and social conflicts that exercised the minds of his contemporaries.

As a churchman, he rose to become chaplain to Queen Victoria and a canon of Westminster.  As a Christian Socialist, he founded three periodicals, headed many distinguished committees.  As a scientist, he became a Fellow of the Geological Society and a friend of Charles Darwin.  As a historian, he held the post of Regius Professor at Cambridge for nine years.

Not surprisingly, the rectory at Eversley became the epicentre of many of the burning issues of the day.  Yet it was for his books, rather than any of his other achievements, that he is best known – and The Water Babies is one of the select handful of children’s classics from the last century, which is still available in over half a dozen editions today.

Back in 1919 a “Village Pageant” in Eversley marked the centenary year of Charles Kingsley in grand style; and a century later, the aim of ck200 will be to offer its visitors an imaginative and edgy celebration of this nineteenth century dynamo.

Tickets and passes for ck200 – Eversley’s big cultural and fun event on June 14 and 15 2019 – cover general admission to the festival, with free access to most events.  ‘Roam the festival’ passes are priced at £10, while ‘Tent Talks’ featuring (amongst others) Guardian columnist Giles Fraser and politician Frank Field, concerts, and other performances are priced separately from £5 to £15.

Full details can be found at https://ck200.live/shop/

A little over 15-miles east of Winchester, in Chawton, meanwhile, Jane Austen’s House Museum first opened to the public 70 years ago on July 23, 1949.  Since then it has welcomed over a million visitors and has become one of the most important and best-loved literary sites in the world.

The story of the Museum began in the 1940s when the newly-founded Jane Austen Society ran a fundraising campaign to save the house, which had fallen into disrepair.  This caught the attention of Mr T Edward Carpenter, a London lawyer, who went on to buy the house for the nation in memory of his son who had been killed in action in WWII.  He also established the Jane Austen Memorial Trust to run the house as a museum.

This display of objects and stories throughout the house reveals how generations of devotees have gone about making it the special place visitors see today; and throughout 2019 the Museum will be celebrating its 70th anniversary of opening to the public.  This will include a special “Making the Museum” exhibition that will run from February 1 to December 31.

For further details visit https://www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk/whats-on.

Visitors to the UK looking for an autumnal destination in 2019, might like to pick-up a copy of Keats’ Ode to Autumn, and follow in his footsteps on The Keats Walk in Winchester.

Keats composed the ode 200 years ago, in 1819 after a walk near Winchester one autumnal evening.  Regarded by critics as one of the most perfect short poems in the English language, it is said that its inspiration was the landscape he walked on daily basis during a stay in Winchester.

Winchester also offers the base for plenty of autumnal walking from the city centre directly into the South Downs National Park.  It also has a close association with Jane Austen, whose grave can be found inside Winchester Cathedral.

For full details of Hampshire’s rich literary heritage, visit https://www.visit-hampshire.co.uk/things-to-do/attractions/literary-heritage.

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