Bidbury Mead’s new oak bench commemorating Romatic poet John Keats’s connection to Bedhampton is a ‘gift to Havant’ as unveiling ceremony celebrates area’s cultural heritage

A SPECIAL bench commemorating the life of a Romantic poet has been unveiled in Bedhampton.

Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 3:13 pm
Updated Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 4:57 pm

The bespoke inscribed oak bench, which celebrates nineteenth century writer John Keats’s association with Bedhampton, is located on Bidbury Mead near to the Kingscroft Lane entrance.

It is the result of the hard work of many local people wishing to spotlight Bedhampton’s cultural heritage.

‘On the Eve of St Agnes’, one of Keats’s most famous pieces, was composed in Bedhampton in January 1819.

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Councillor Rennie, along with Mike Sellis and Ron Tate during the unveiling of the Keats commemorative bench. Photos by Alex Shute

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The poet also spent his last night in this country in the village at Mill House.

To mark the poet’s connection with the area, the Bidbury Mead Friends set out to create a tranquil seating space to enhance visitors’ experience.

The resulting commemorative piece was unveiled on September 30 by Cllr Alex Rennie, leader of Havant Borough Council.

Bench maker Michael Skelton of Havant Men Shed during the unveiling of the bench. Photos by Alex Shute

The Bidbury Mead Friends acted as managers for the cultural heritage project, and the bench was constructed by the Havant Men’s Shed.

Mike Skelton, a member of the Men’s Shed, project managed the bench and attended its unveiling along with the group’s chairman Steve Sadler and other members.

Mike Sellis, secretary and treasurer for the Bidbury Mead Friends’ steering group, gave a speech at the unveiling of the bench.

In this, he said: ‘It seems places, on their own without physical signs of the past, have little heritage status.

‘The openness of Bidbury Mead is testimony to the historic setting of Bedhampton.

‘This Kingscroft Lane entrance would have been Keats’s point of arrival on his walk from Chichester.

‘The bench will provide a physical commemoration of his visit. The vista from it contains features in the panorama that we would still recognise today.’

Local resident Nigel Gossop organised a series of events in 2019 to mark the bicentenary of Keats’s visit to Bedhampton.

The funds raised at those events were used to create the lasting commemoration now at Bidbury Mead.

Ron Tate, the Bidbury Mead Friends’ project manager, was also thanked for his help in bringing the bench process to fruition.

Mike added: ‘The Friends believe the bench will enhance Bidbury Mead. It forms a gift to Havant.’

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