VANDALS have defaced a statue honouring an author before it could even be officially unveiled.

They broke the nose off a sculpture of Victorian novelist Charlotte Mary Yonge, which had only been put in place in Eastleigh days earlier.

It has had to be removed by Eastleigh Borough Council, which described the incident as “a mindless act of vandalism”, for repairs.

The bronze resin art piece on the corner of Twyford Road and St Catherine’s Road is by Hampshire-based sculptor Vivien Mallock. It shows Ms Yonge sitting on a bench reading a book and was designed so that members of the public would be able to sit alongside her.

The project, which cost £25,000, was funded by developers’ contributions to Eastleigh Borough Council and was part of the council’s improvement works around the Twyford Road area.

But members of the public found the nose had been broken off the statue. There was other chip damage to the face. It is now at Eastleigh Borough Council headquarters awaiting repairs.

Repairs It is likely the bill for repairs will be footed by the council through further developer contributions.

Ms Yonge is said to have in effect given Eastleigh its name as it is spelt today.

She was asked to choose which of the parishes, Barton or Eastley, the Church of the Resurrection, now flats on the corner of Romsey Road and Twyford Road, should be named after because she had donated a significant amount of money to the building. She chose Eastley. However, she advised that it should be spelt Eastleigh.

The bestselling 19th century novelist was born in Otterbourne in 1823 and her work was admired by other writers such as Alfred Lord Tennyson and Lewis Carroll.

Some of her best known works include The Heir of Redclyffe, Heartsease and The Daisy Chain. She was buried at Otterbourne Parish Church in 1901.

The statue was due to be officially unveiled by the Mayor of Eastleigh Cllr Tony Noyce, but this has been cancelled after the damage.

A council spokesperson said: “This is a mindless act of vandalism and a great shame for the local community."

Anyone with information about the incident, which happened on June 13 at around 8pm, is asked to call PC Iain Wilson at Eastleigh Police Station on 101 or leave information anonymously with Crime-stoppers on 0800 555 111.