Jane Austen group searching for missing bust of author

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AN organisation which aims to promote the work of Jane Austen is searching for a missing bust of the author, which once was displayed in Lyme Regis.

The Jane Austen Detectives are looking for a stone bust of the author’s head, which once stood as the centrepiece of the Jane Austen Garden in Lyme Regis but has now completely disappeared.

The bust was thought to be removed in 2006, when the coastal protection works in the gardens started.

An appeal on the group’s website said: “During costal development works, the statue was removed from the garden with plans to be put back once the garden renovations had been completed. Put into storage with the rest of the things from the Jane Austen Garden during the development works, it came as a shock when the head vanished without trace.”

The Jane Austen Detectives have discussed the matter with Merry Bolton, chairman of the Lyme Regis Environment Group, which was involved in the landscaping of the new gardens.

She commented: “We can’t find Jane Austen’s head anywhere. We can’t find it in the store where all the things from the Jane Austen Garden were kept when all the works were going on.

“I have been on to Lyme Regis Town Council and West Dorset District Council about it and they can’t find it – does anybody know what happened to it?”

The organisation has also discussed the matter with Lyme Regis resident Diana Shervington, a direct descendant of Jane Austen and honourary member of the Jane Austen Society, who gives regular talks about the author.

She said: “The bust used to stand up there grandly at the back very visibly. When the garden was dedicated the bust was very much in evidence, therefore we want it back – I hope the mystery can be cleared up.”

The Jane Austen Detectives added: “With the bust vanishing as long ago as 2006, some might think that it is time to accept that Jane is not coming back. However, with the story never making big news, it is possible that people who have information about the statue might not know who to contact – or even that it is missing at all. So perhaps it is not quite time to give up hope and with a bit of luck she may appear just in time for her bicentenary.”

Anyone who can help solve the mystery should contact Merry Bolton on 01297 443334. Jane Austen is said to have enjoyed holidaying in the town and is thought to have based parts of her novels on the town, including the famed scene of Louisa Musgrove’s fall from steps on the Cobb.

The Jane Austen Detectives’ mission is to create a platform for people who want to discover more about Jane Austen’s life and her literary work. They take a hands-on approach, visiting the places she frequented and talking to the people who live and breathe Austen.

The organisation’s aim is promote the work of Jane Austen to people who still read her work today, and to create a community of contemporary Austen-inspired writers, artists and illustrators, all of whom share a passion for Austen’s romanticism and satirical writing.

More information can be found on the website www.janeaustendetectives.com

Lyme Regis editor & Colyton reporter | Francesca gained a First Class Honours degree in journalism and her NCTJ qualifications at Southampton Solent University before joining the paper full-time in 2011. She is now editor of the Lyme Regis edition, as well as a sub-editor on the East Devon and South Somerset editions, and reporter for Colyton.

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