AS one of the most globally celebrated figures in British literature, there is always excitement surrounding any Jane Austen development.
So when Goring-based fan Janet Clarke learned of the romantic fiction writer’s stay in Worthing, it led her to explore the town’s connection with the much-loved novelist even further.
At the weekend, the Jane Austen Society member took part in the Heritage open days events and displayed a wide range of artefacts including copies of letters, films and games relating to the Pride and Prejudice novelist at St Mary’s Church, Broadwater.
According to the diary of Austen’s niece, Fanny, the village’s parish church had been familiar to the writer who visited there in 1805 as part of an extended visit of at least two months to Worthing following the death of her father.
She is recorded as having been a witness to a legal document for her friend Martha Lloyd (who was staying with her in Worthing) concerning her mother’s will.
While in town, she also spent an evening on the beach, and is also recorded as having won 17 shillings in a local raffle.
Miss Austen had stayed at Stanford Cottage (which is now Pizza Express in Worthing) during that autumn and many believe she drew inspiration for her final, unfinished novel, Sanditon, on her experience in the town.
“I couldn’t believe it when I found out about Jane’s link with the town as I’d always been a fan of hers, having studied her work for A Level,” said Janet on her discovery.
She added: “It was actually through the Herald that I made this discovery in 2005 when there was a two-page story on it and it made me want to find out even more about the history of the town and her links with it.”
In her biography there is a brief mention of her being in the area but no-one had really done any research on it until I saw it in the paper.”
She added: “Sanditon is not actually Worthing, it’s a fictional place, but I think that she was inspired by her time in Worthing as the place is described as an emerging seaside resort – which Worthing very much was at that time.
“The novel also talks of the problems of the smells from its ‘putrefying seaweed’, which she would have recalled in 1805 as that is the first year that it is documented as being a problem in Worthing.
“The Heritage weekend went very well and I think the link with Jane Austen is a wonderful thing for the town.
“I am sure that the links to her can only be good for the tourist trade.”