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Thomas Hardy’s Dorset

Thomas Hardy's birthplace bedroom by Barbara Ballard Thomas Hardy was born at Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, on June 2, 1840. His father worked from the village as a master mason and builder. Hardy was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and was trained by him in the building trade. When he was 16, Hardy helped his father with the architectural drawings for a restoration of Woodsford Castle. The owner, architect James Hicks, thought highly of Thomas Hardy's work and employed him as an apprentice. When Hardy was sent to plan a church restoration at St. Juliot in Cornwall, he met Emma Gifford. They married in 1874, but had an unhappy relationship.

Hardy continued working on church restorations and began his writing career at the same time. After some time the Hardys moved to Dorchester. It was here that Hardy designed their new house, Max Gate, which they occupied in 1885. Far From the Madding Crowd, set in Puddletown brought Hardy success. He wrote Return of the Native at Sturminster Newton, one of his best known works. In 1886 Hardy published The Mayor of Casterbridge. In 1887 he wrote The Woodlanders and in 1891 Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

His book, Jude the Obscure (1896), created a lot of controversy because the Victorians felt it attacked the institution of marriage. Because of the bad publicity Hardy thereafter wrote only poetry. He published several collections, including Wessex Poems (1898).

After Emma’s death Hardy married a second time to a younger woman. He died on January 11, 1928 at Max Gate in Dorchester. Contrary to his wishes his body was interred in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey, and his heart was buried in his first wife’s grave at Stinsford.

Thomas Hardy Dorset Sites to Tour

Athlehampton House exterior by Barbara Ballard Athelhampton (Athelhull)
Hardy's father worked on the restoration of the medieval hall at Athelhampton’s medieval hall. Hardy painted a watercolour of the house.



Beaminster (Emminster)
In Tess of the d'Urbervilles, the vicar of the village was Angel Clare's father.

Bere Regis (Kingsbere)
Bere Regis is featured in the novels Tess and Far From the Madding Crowd. The Church of St. John the Baptist has a 15th century wooden roof and is the location of the tombs of the Turbervilles. Tess set up her family's bed under the Turberville window in the south wall of the church.

Bournemouth (Sandborne)
Bournemouth is, in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the place where Tess and Alec d'Urberville lived. The town is also in The Well-Beloved and Jude the Obscure.

Briantspuddle
A picturesque village where Sir Ernest Debenham erected a thatched, model estate for his farm workers.

Bridport(Port Bredy)
Bridport is the setting for the story Fellow-Townsmen, was set here, and the nearby harbour of West Bay is mentioned in The Woodlanders.

Cerne Abbas giant by Barbara Ballard Cerne Abbas (Abbot's Cernel)
The village is known for the figure of a giant carved into the hillside. The village featured in two books, The Woodlanders and Tess of the d'Urbervilles. The tithe barn in Cerne Abbas may have served as the model for the great barn in Far From the Madding Crowd.

Clouds Hill
T.E. Lawrence’s small cottage, less than a mile from where he was killed in a motorcycle accident.

Dorchester St Peter's Church by Barbara Ballard Dorchester (Casterbridge)
At the edge of Dorchester is Max Gate, designed by Hardy in 1885, and his home until he died in 1928. Max Gate is a National Trust property.

The Dorset County Museum has the largest collection of Hardy memorabilia in the world, as well as a reconstruction of his study at Max Gate, including his furniture, notebooks, photographs and manuscripts. A number of buildings in the town feature in Hardy novels.

Lulworth by Barbara Ballard East Lulworth
Hardy worked on the restoration of St. Andrew's church in 1863. The church has a permanent exhibition on Hardy's life.




Egdon Heath
The heath is described in 3 books: Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge and The Hand of Ethelberta

Thomas Hardy birthplace by Barbara Ballard Higher Bockhampton (Upper Mellstock)
Hardy’s birthplace, a thatched Cottage is in the village (owned by National Trust.)






Marnhull (Marlott)
On the edge of the village is Tess Cottage, thought to have been the model for the Durbetfield's home in Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

Melbury Osmond (Great Hintock)
Hardy’s mother grew up in a thatched house near the village and married his father in the local church. The final scene in The Woodlanders is set in the churchyard.

Moreton
TE Lawrence—Lawrence of Arabia—was a friend of Hardy and is buried in the cemetery of Moreton Church. Hand-engraved plain glass windows by Laurence Whistler bring light to the church interior.

Poole (Havenpool)
The town features in two poems, The Chapel Organist and The Mongrel and one novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge—Nelson landed here on his return from Newfoundland.

Chesil Beach by Barbara Ballard Portland (Isle of Slingers)
The Isle of Portland, joined to the mainland by a narrow strand of land, Chesil Beach, is where The Well-Beloved is set.




Puddletown (Weatherbury)
Hardy's grandfather and great-grandfather came from Puddletown. Hardy used the church gallery in Under the Greenwood Tree and In Far From the Madding Crowd, when Troy spent the night in the church porch.

Puddletown Forest and Thorncombe Wood
Situated on Hardy’s childhood doorstep

Shaftesbury Gold Hill by Barbara Ballard Shaftesbury (Shaston)
In Jude the Obscure, Philotson was schoolmaster at Shaftesbury.







Sherborne Abbey by Barbara Ballard Sherborne (Sherton Abbas)
In the novel The Woodlanders, Sherborne’s market place was where Giles Winterborne sold his apple trees. Sherborne abbey also features in the novel.

Stinsford (Mellstock)
The church was the scene of Thomas Hardy’s christening. His first wife Emma is buried in the churchyard as is his heart.

Sturminster Newton (Stourcastle)
Hardy and his first wife, Emma, lived in the village at Riverside Villa from 1876-78. Hardy said his stay here was "our happiest time".

Swanage waterfront by Barbara Ballard Swanage (Knollsea)
Hardy lived in Swanage from 1875-76 and wrote The Hand of Ethelberta here.



West Stafford
The church in West Stafford is thought to be the setting for the marriage place of Tess and Angel Clare in the novel, Tess of the d'Urberville's.

Weymouth (Budmouth Regis)
Hardy worked as an architect in Weymouth from 1869-70. The town features in Under the Greenwood Tree.

Wimborne Minster (Warborne)
Hardy lived here from 1881-83 with his first wife Emma.

Woodsford
Hardy's father repaired the thatched Woodsford Castle in 1856. Thomas Hardy helped with the remodelling plans. Because of his good work on the plans the owner of the castle, architect John Hicks, offered him an apprenticeship.

Wool
Woolbridge Manor was Hardy's Wellbridge Manor, the place where Angel Clare and Tess spent their honeymoon.


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Some of our Dorset Articles
Athelhampton House and Garden
Sherborne New Castle
Mapperton House
Enid Blyton
Sherborne Almshouse of SS John
Sherborne Abbey
Thomas Hardy’s Dorset
Shaftesbury
Shaftesbury Abbey
Riding the Swanage Steam Railway
Portland and Chesil Beach
Portland Bill Lighthouse
Lulworth Castle and Park
Hambledon Hill
Minterne Gardens and House
Other England Articles
Our Dorset Gardens
Kingston Mauward Gardens
Mapperton Garden
Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens
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