Bookbench removal starts ahead of key auction

They have delighted thousands of people – but the time to see the Sitting With Jane bookbenches is running out as they are removed in readiness for the key charity auction.

Over the next two days, the bookbenches will start to disappear from their various locations in and around Basingstoke and they will then be cleaned up ahead of the auction, which is the grand finale of the Sitting With Jane project.  

On Friday, September 15, 22 bookbenches will be sold at the auction and 75 per cent of the proceeds raised will go to the Sitting With Jane charity partner Ark Cancer Centre Charity – leaving a lasting legacy that will help and support cancer patients and their families as Ark is raising £5million towards a unique local NHS cancer treatment centre.

Thousands of people have enjoyed going around the Sitting With Jane bookbench trail between June 17 and August 30, and it is hoped that the popularity of the bookbenches will now be reflected in a successful auction for the charity partner.

Merv Rees, Ark Cancer Centre Charity trustee, said: “Sitting With Jane has attracted a great deal of attention locally, nationally and internationally – and now the charity auction is set to provide a successful and fitting final chapter to this wonderful event.

“Hopefully, each of the bookbenches will raise several thousand pounds, which will make a significant difference to Ark’s campaign to help fund the new cancer treatment centre.

“If a business or individual donor wants to support Ark, leave a lasting legacy, and own a unique piece of Jane Austen 200 history, then buying a bookbench is a great way to achieve all of these goals.”

The auction will take place at The Ark Conference Centre, in Basingstoke. It is being organised by well-known fine art auctioneers and valuers Andrew Smith & Son, from Itchen Stoke, near Winchester.

Tickets to the auction – which must be purchased by midday on Thursday, September 14 and will not be on sale on the night – cost £10, and include a welcome drink and auction catalogue. The September 15 auction will start at 7.30pm and the registration desk will be open from 6.30pm-7pm.

Bidders will also be able to post bids online or by telephone on the night, but in order to bid for one of the bookbenches, potential bidders must register before the event by going to where there are also details on other aspects of the auction.

While ticket holders will be able to register to bid on the night in person, they need to do so before the auction gets underway. All other registration or commission bids must be with the auctioneers by noon on Friday, September 15.

The online auction is being run by and there is some useful Q & A information at

There will be a final chance to see all the bookbenches in one place ahead of the auction when a Farewell Event takes place at Milestones Museum over the weekend of September 9-10.

Largely being funded by Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the new cancer treatment centre – which will be built in the Basingstoke area – will be a beacon of excellence where medical and support teams will deliver the best possible care for cancer patients, their families and loved ones.

The vital funds raised by Ark Cancer Centre Charity will ensure that a range of support services and complementary therapies are available alongside chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments in a calm and uplifting environment.


Picture caption: One of the 22 bookbenches that will be available to buy at the auction on Friday, September 15.