What has this iconic red telephone box to do with Basingstoke’s most famous daughter? Jane Austen, the famous author responsible for writing Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, and Mansfield Park, may have stayed in Bath, lived in Chawton, and died in Winchester, but Steventon, a small village several miles to the west of Basingstoke, was where she was born, and where she spent some of the happiest years of her life. This little village was where her father was rector of St. Nicholas’ church for 44 years, before retiring to Bath for his health, taking his wife and unmarried daughters with him.
Sadly, nothing remains of the rectory in which the family lived, as it was demolished in 1824. The tiny church of St. Nicholas is worth a look, as the Austen name can be seen written across the monuments affixed to its walls. However, there is nothing else to mark the fact that this is the birthplace of Jane Austen.
As such, the village converted an old telephone box into a micro-library and information center. There is a small notice board with information about Austen’s life in Steventon, and an equally small bookcase containing books that can be exchanged. The telephone box itself is iconic. Known as a K6 kiosk, around 60,000 of these kinds of telephone boxes were installed throughout England between 1936 and 1968. With the advent of mobile and household telephones, the need for public call boxes diminished, and they were removed or decommissioned. Some communities took them on as small community buildings, which is precisely what has happened to the Steventon telephone box, which is now possibly the world’s smallest Austen museum.
Know Before You Go
Parking is limited at the side of the road. Please do not park obscuring the entrances to drive ways.
Steventon Church is a short walk or drive away, and worth a visit. There is more parking at the church, which is located at St. Nicholas Church, Steventon, Basingstoke RG25 3BE
Please bring a book or two to exchange, and take away a book in return. The one thing that is asked though is that the telephone box is kept tidy to avoid it becoming too cluttered with books! Please don't leave books if there is no space on the shelves.