Jane Austen, Basingstoke Balls and Wicked William Willson
William Willson was, in the words of Lloyd’s Evening Post for February 15, 1804, 'an Innkeeper at Basingstoke [who] eloped with a girl of fifteen, and was afterwards traced to a brothel in Covent-Garden.' He kept the Crown Inn in Winchester Street, one of the two most prestigious inns in Basingstoke. He organised the balls that Jane Austen attended and hosted the Hants Club whose members included many of her acquaintances, as well as her brother James. Jane would have known William Willson in his prime, and would have been aware of his downfall.
Content derived during research for the new VCH Hampshire volume, Basingstoke and its surroundings.