A NEW trail celebrating Jane Austen has been spoilt by thieves stealing some of plaques moments after they were installed.

There were 12 plaques placed in London Road, the Top of The Town, on Sunday, 28 October holding fragments of different Austen quotes, meaning visitors will have to follow the whole trail to understand the full quote.

However, mere moments after Phil Howe, the managing director of Hidden Britain Tours and member of the Basingstoke and Deane Jane Austen Group, installed the brass plaques, two of them were stolen.

Mr Howe told The Gazette that one of the quotes which was stolen was from Austen’s letters after dancing in Basingstoke on November 1, 1800 commenting on the state of men in Basingstoke.

The quote reads: “There was a scarcity of men in general, and still a greater scarcity of any that were good for much”.

Mr Howe said: “It is a bit ironic that a quote addressing the actions of men in Basingstoke was one of the plaques which was taken.

“Whoever stole them must have acted pretty quickly as the product I used to put them in place is pretty stern stuff once it sets.”

He added: “It is quite frustrating that all this hard work has been undone by these thieves, this is meant to be something nice for the town.

“However, this will not deter us from replacing them.”

The trail begins in London Road and led to the commemorative statue of Jane Austen in Market Place which was unveiled last year to mark the 200th anniversary of the author’s death.

The quotes included in the trail is one of Austen’s most famous: “It is a truth, universally acknowledged that a young Man in possession of a fortune must be in want of a wife”- from Pride and Prejudice.

It is hoped the plaques will allow people to consider their meanings, as well as understanding her use of wit.

The new trail also hopes to bring greater awareness of her connections to Basingstoke and north Hampshire.

Mr Howe added: “The trail will permanently enhance the Top of The Town street environment and raise awareness of Jane Austen’s links to Basingstoke and raise awareness of Basingstoke’s cultural legacy.”

Mr Howe said that the stolen plaques will be replaced but he is still hoping the originals will be returned to him.

It is hoped the plaques will allow people to consider the meanings of the quotes, as well as understanding the author’s use of wit, comedy and irony.

Phil was inspired to create the plaques by the stolpersteins (German for ‘stumble stones’) in Europe, which are small plaques set in the pavement outside the houses which name the Jewish families who were deported.

The project has been supported by Hampshire County Council, the Hampshire Cultural Trust, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, Maria Miller and the Basingstoke and Deane Jane Austen Group and welcomed by Basingstoke Heritage Society.