Remembering famous poet John Keats

Wednesday, 6 October, 2021

Visitors to Bidbury Mead in Bedhampton, Havant can relax and reflect whilst sitting on a commemorative bench, that marks a famous poet who once visited the same spot.

One of England’s greatest romantic poets – John Keats stayed at Mill House and whilst there composed one of his famous poems ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’ whilst visiting friends at the Old Mill in 1819 – more than 200 years ago.

The special commemorative bench was installed in collaboration with Bidbury Mead Friends, and Havant Men's Shed and features a portrait of Keats, as well as a quote from his longest poem ‘The Eve of St Agnes’ that reads: “Ah, silver shrine, here I will take my rest”.

Unveiled during a short ceremony, the leader of Havant Borough Council, Councillor Alex Rennie gave a speech thanking those involved in this community project. He said “I was delighted to unveil this new commemorative bench for the poet John Keats. It will be a lastly legacy to his connection to Bedhampton and I hope residents can enjoy the bench and reflect on the works of one of our greatest poets. As we reflect on the 200 years since his death, it is right we recognise his cultural importance to the Borough and I hope future poets can also be inspired by taking a seat at Bidbury Mead.

“Well done to everyone involved in the project, including the Friends of Bidbury Mead and the Havant Men’s Shed for creating a wonderful bench that will be enjoyed long into the future.”

Mike Sellis, Secretary and Treasurer of the Bidbury Mead Friends Steering Group, said: "The bench provides a physical commemoration of Keats' visit to Bedhampton and the view from it contain features he would still recognise today. We are very proud to commemorate Keats in this way."

Nigel Gossop, a member of the Bedhampton Historical Collection group, based at The Elms in Lower Road has written a monograph booklet to mark the occasion. Nigel said: "John Keats was the last of the Romantic poets to be born and sadly, the first to die. He was a key figure in the second generation of the Romantic poets."

Notes:

On Saturday 23 January 1819, the poet, John Keats arrived with his friend Charles Armitage Brown at The Mill House in Bedhampton to stay with the miller, John Snook, and his wife Letitia. Keats spent two weeks in the village where he wrote The Eve of St Agnes; one of his most important poems. 

The following year, on Thursday 28 September, 1820 a storm forced the ship that John Keats was travelling on, to dock in Portsmouth, effect repairs and take on supplies. John Keats took this opportunity to return to The Mill at Bedhampton. 

By this time the poet was dying of tuberculosis and was enroute to Italy, in the belief that the warmer climate would improve his condition. His stay at The Mill House was to be his last night on English soil and he died in Rome from the condition just five months later, at the age of just 25.