Thomas Hardy Trail, part 1 – Life & Times


Portrait of Thomas Hardy, born 1840 – died 1928

We’ve come down to Dorset for a few days with my brother Robin – over from Australia, to do the Thomas Hardy Trail. Staying at the wonderfully atmospheric Old Post Office in Lower Bockhampton – which features explicitly in a couple of his poems, is opposite the old primary school which the young Hardy attended – just a short walk from his birthplace, close to Dorchester – Hardy’s Casterbridge and central for most of the important location throughout his life and, consequently, many of the places on which he based his novels and poems. We (well actually Jane and Robin!) have drawn heavily on the many available sources to create the itinerary, but we’ve found The Landscape of Thomas Hardy by Denys Kay-Robinson to be amongst the most useful. The majority of locations we’ve visited are to be found in the delightful county of Dorset but we have wandered more widely around ‘outer Wessex’ in our quest of discovery.
This blog is divided into two parts, the first covers most of the places significant in Hardy’s own life, the second, details the actual locations – about which there is a whole library of material and much debate, believed to have been used by Hardy as the backdrop to his novels and poems.

Lower Bockhampton, location of the Old Post Office


The Old Post Office, Lower Brockhampton


The porch of the old village school where Thomas Hardy was a pupil


The water meads across which TH would have walked on his way to and from school (courtesy of RW)


Thomas Hardy’s house in Upper Bockhampton, now in the care of the National Trust


The interior of the cottage, with Jemima his mother’s chair and his father’s violins


At the back of the cottage, Hardy’s Egdon Heath – location for much of the action in Return of the Native


Jemima’s parents cottage in Melbury Osmond


As a young architect, Hardy travelled to the remote church of St Juliot, Boscastle


Here, at the Rectory (now a B&B), he met Emma and fell in love. He married her more than a decade later


Hardy was responsible for supervising a major restoration of the church

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The house in which Hardy lived briefly in Swanage, best observed from Sentry Road

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Their first home together was on the banks of the Stour, at Sturminster Newton

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The mill on the river which featured in his poetry


Max Gate in Dorchester, designed by TH and built by his father, where he lived for over forty years – first with Emma and later with Florence, his second wife. Now in the care of the National Trust (photo courtesy of RW)

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The Hardy’s reconstructed sitting room – all of the original furniture & fittings having been sold off after his death


Details of Emma’s upstairs accommodation


The contents of Hardy’s study – removed from Max Gate, on his instruction, and relocated to the town museum after his death (photo courtesy of RW)


Thomas Hardy’s grave in Stinsford churchyard – his heart is buried here whilst his ashes rest in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey. He lies in the company of both Emma & Florence


Part 2 will feature the settings for most of his major works…


This entry was posted in Travel.

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