The mystery of the missing Jane Austen bust
Never has there been a more appropriate story for the Jane Austen Detectives. A stone bust of Jane’s head once stood as the centrepiece of the Jane Austen Garden on the Lyme Regis seafront, but has now completely disappeared.
Image by kind permission of Anne Marie Edwards, 'In the footsteps of Jane Austen'.
A stone bust of Jane’s head once stood as the centrepiece of the Jane Austen Garden on Lyme’s seafront, but has now completely disappeared. 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 chairman of the environment group, Merry Bolton, said, ‘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?’
With the works starting in 2006, Bolton knows that it would have been removed around this time, but she has no idea who took it away to be stored. Lyme Regis resident, Mrs Shervington, is related to Jane from both of her grandmothers, who were granddaughters of Jane’s brother, Edward. As an honorary member of the Jane Austen Society, she takes the history of Austen seriously, giving talks about Jane both locally and around the country. Naturally, she too is upset by the sudden disappearance of her ancestor. ‘The bust used to stand up there grandly at the back very visibly,’ she described, ‘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.’
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.
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