Celebrations set to mark 200th anniversary of renowned poet John Keats' stay in Bedhampton

HIS association with the village has been called a '˜well-hidden secret'.

Saturday, 5th January 2019, 8:42 am
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 2:28 pm
Nigel Gossop. Picture: Sarah Standing

But later this month celebrations will proudly highlight the connection famed late Romantic wordsmith John Keats shared with Bedhampton.

A book release, candlelit recitation and afternoon of evensong have been organised to coincide with the 200th anniversary of his 42-stanza poem The Eve of St Agnes.

The sensual narrative was finished during Keats' fortnight-long stay at The Old Mill House in Bedhampton in January, 1819.

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Poet John Keats

And having enjoyed the visit to the home of miller John Snook so much, he returned in September, 1820 after a storm forced a ship he was on to dock in Portsmouth for repairs.

After a seven-mile walk from the harbour to The Old Mill House his stay would be his last night on English soil, before dying of tuberculosis in Rome, aged 25, five months later.

Two centuries on, Drayton historian Nigel Gossop will launch the booklet John Keats in Bedhampton at The Elms at 2pm on Sunday, January 20.

'˜Keats' relationship with the village is a well-hidden secret, but it seemed to me it was something that had to be commemorated '“ I didn't want it to go unnoticed,' he said.

'It was only when I started to work with the collection in about 2012 I found out Keats not only visited Bedhampton but came back and spent his last night here. He must've enjoyed his previous stay if he did that.

'I've now learned so much and there is probably still more to learn. But unfortunately when you go back 200 years, there are records you would love to find but you're often left searching.'

An illustrated talk will accompany the launch of the booklet, set to go on sale for £5, which is geared at illuminating Keats' connections to Bedhampton and nearby Chichester.

At 7pm on the same day, Keats fans can enjoy a full recitation of The Eve of St Agnes at St Thomas' Church (£3), led by actor Tom Durham, before celebrations close with a special evensong service at the church from 3.30pm on Sunday, January 27. 

On the celebrations, Mr Gossop said: '˜I'm incredibly excited. This is a wonderful thing for Bedhampton and local history to be part of.

'˜During his own lifetime Keats was not one of the big boys, but after his death his fame accelerated considerably. He is now one of the best-loved poets in the English language.' 

On January 26 and 27 revellers will also be able to pick up a copy of The Time Traveller's Guide to Bedhampton Village '“ enabling them to take a self-guided walk in the footsteps of Keats and others and see a large map of Bedhampton from 1825.

To learn more about the commemorations, email [email protected] 

Tickets to Mr Gossop's book launch are £4 '“ not included in the price of the book.