Object name: 1917 (Memorial) Plaque
Object number: CHWJA: JAH336
Physical description: The memorial plaque on the front external wall of Jane Austen’s House was unveiled on 18 July 1917, the centenary of Jane’s death. It has the following wording:
Lived Here From 1809 – 1817
And Hence All Her Works
Were Sent into The World.
Her Admirers in This Country
And In America Have United
To Erect This Tablet.
Such Art as Hers
Can Never Grow Old
Designed by Ellen G. Hill, sister of Constance Hill, one of Jane’s biographers, the plaque was executed by the architect Charles Evelyn Simmons. It includes personal objects and places connected with Jane’s life. The carved oak surround with pediment and pilasters each side recalls a window at 4 Sydney Place, Bath – a home of the Austen family. The repeated acorn detail in raised relief recreates the design of a muslin shawl said to have been worked on by Jane and also reflects the importance of the Navy in her life.
Placed next to what was the original front doorway onto the main road, and protected from the elements only by the classical-style pediment, the plaque had suffered during its first 100 years, and was conserved in preparation for the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death in 2017.
Made: 1917 and conserved in 2016/17
Context: In 1917 many felt it important that the centenary of Jane’s death was marked, despite the First World War raging at the time. The plaque was paid for by a fund set up by a Memorial Committee, with subscriptions gathered from devotees of Jane’s work in both Britain and America and the plaque was attached to the house where Jane had lived, in a simple ceremony.
The deeply-sunk gilt lettering summarises why it was felt so important to remember Jane in a formal way. The inscription ends with part of a quote from the literary critic George Henry Lewes: ‘Such art as hers can never grow old’.
Funding for the recent conservation was generously provided by JASNA (the Jane Austen Society of North America) and its members, to ensure the preservation of this significant memorial into the next century and beyond.
Other objects you might like: