December marks 200 years since the publication of one of the world’s most famous novels, Emma, written by Jane Austen. The author spent much of her life in Hampshire, died in Winchester’s historic College Street and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.
December is the ideal month to visit Winchester, fans of the novel, whose heroine was a great lover of Christmas, can expect a backdrop of ‘England as it used to be’ that is bustling with shoppers and revellers enjoying the compact medieval cityscape.
Winchester provides a tasteful and authentic Christmas experience - the festive season is celebrated with old and new traditions. Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market is integral to the celebrations and recognised as being one of the best in Europe. This year is the tenth time the Christmas market has occupied the inner close. To celebrate, the Tourist Information Centre team have created a magical children’s grotto for Saturdays and the iconic Coca Cola lorry is coming to town on 17 December. With lantern parades, Christmas shows and traditional pantomimes, Christmas 2015 will be a busy one for the ancient capital.
If you’re more interested in literary pursuits and would like to tread in the footsteps of Jane Austen, Visit Winchester has created a special Jane Austen trail which reveals much about Austen’s life in Hampshire, and passes the many historic monuments that inspired her work, as well as the house where she lived in Chawton and her final resting place, Winchester Cathedral. The trail can be downloaded here.
Jane Austen was buried in Winchester Cathedral in 1817 at the age of 41.Visitors can explore her final resting place and see the gravestone and plaque that commemorates her life. Cathedral entry costs £7.50 per adult and £4 per student.
The house at Chawton is where Jane Austen spent the last eight years of her life. Here she produced novels and wrote her masterpiece, Emma. The house has been transformed into a museum celebrating her life and showcases Austen family portraits, original manuscripts and first editions of her novels. Entry costs £8 per adult and £3 per child (6-16 years), under 6s enter for free.
Winchester city museum is home to a special collection of Austen memorabilia, including a handwritten poem entitled ‘I’ve a pain in my head’, written by Austen around 1811. Admission is free.
With so many landmarks to visit that are integral the life and work of Jane Austen, and a Christmas celebration like no other, there is no better time than this December to visit Winchester and celebrate Emma’s 200th Anniversary.