Thomas Hardy Trail, part 2 – Behind the Scenes

We’re just back from Dorset, where we stayed at Lower Bockhampton and travelled around much of Hardy’s Wessex searching out the sites believed to have been the inspiration behind many of the locations used by him in his popular novels and poems. Here is a selection of some of the fabulous and fascinating places we visited.

Under the Greenwood Tree

The replacement of the church choir by an organ is a prominent theme in the novel. Although the setting was the church at Stinsford, where Hardy’s father was a musician in the choir, the gallery was subsequently removed. TH took guests to see one of the few remaining galleries in Dorset, at nearby Puddletown


17th century graffiti on the musicians gallery


Keeper Day’s cottage, in Yalbury Wood – based on this remote cottage in Yellowham Wood


Pair of Blue Eyes

The Smith’s cottage in the Valency valley – where, in the book, the young architects parents reside


Widow Jethway’s cottage  – based on another cottage in the same remote Cornish valley


In real life, Hardy’s takes Emma down to the stream in the Vallency valley for a picnic and, in a famous event, she loses a glass in the water. Hardy captures the moment in a sketch and later a poem – Under the Water Fall


Paddle steamers feature in several of Hardy’s novels, in this particular one there is only a brief reference.  The Waverley, here pictured moored at Swanage, is the only working ocean-going vessel of her kind left in the world


Far from the Madding Crowd

This grand property was the model for Upper Farm, which Bathsheba inherits from her uncle (photo courtesy of RW)


This, now converted tithe barn at Cerne Abbas, is thought to be the inspiration for the wedding celebration barn in the novel


Lulworth Cove, the scene of Sergeant Troy’s thwarted attempt to drown himself


TH’s poem,  At Lulworth Cove a Centuary Back 


The Hand of Ethelberta

In the novel, Ethelberta rides to Corvesgate (Corfe Castle) on a donkey


Christopher Julian, one of Ethelberta’s suitors, plays the organ in Melchester cathedral – Salisbury, in real life


The Trumpet-Major

The lower mill at Sutton Poyntz is believed to be Hardy’s inspiration for Overcombe Mill, where the heroine lodges and from where she can observe the regimental goings-on in their camp, on the hill behind


Anne, the heroine, watches the Fleet departing for Spain from Pulpit Rock, close by this lighthouse on Portland Beal


Figure of King George III, carved in this Dorset chalk escarpment, to honour a visit by the royal


King George is also commemorated in this recently restored statue on Weymouth seafront


Major of Casterbridge

Some of the remaining booths at Weyhill Fair, where the drunken Michael Henchard sold his wife, Susan, to a passing sailor!


Henchard’s Casterbridge house after he’s made his fortune and became mayor of the town


Susan spies Michael Henchard at a meeting in a first floor room of the King’s Arms Hotel, years after their estrangement


Gray’s Bridge – frequently visited by Henchard in his more melancholy moods (photo courtesy RW)


Through an unfortunate chain of events Henchard is financially ruined, but is then given, by the townsmen of Casterbridge, a seed merchant’s shop to manage, overlooking the church yard


Tess of the d’Urbervilles

The model for Tess’s family home, before the death of her father and their subsequent eviction


Tess goes to work as a milk-maid on Talbothays Farm, before her marriage to Angel. The dormer window is said to be the bedroom where Tess prepared for her wedding


West Stafford church, used by Hardy as the location for Tess & Angel’s wedding


Wellbridge manor where Tess & Angel spend their honeymoon


The fatherless family camp in the churchyard, under the d’Urberville window at Bere Regis church, seeking recognition of their rightful inheritance


The Cross in Hand, hidden in a Dorset hedgerow – omen of mis-fortune for Tess


After Tess murders Alec, she and Angel run away. They take shelter at Stonehenge, where she is arrested and subsequently tried and hanged


Jude the Obscure

Jude finds employment as a stonemason, working on Melchester cathedral (Salisbury)


Jude is believed to have resided in accommodation close to Town Gate


Sue, Jude’s cousin, lives in Shaston (Shaftesbury)




The Well-beloved

Thought to be the model for Avice’s cottage, now the Portland Museum


Pierston rents Sylvania Castle in his pursuit of Avice


Photograph of Thomas Hardy, taken in his study at Max Gate, shortly before his death in 1928. From humble beginnings he became one of the most prodigious 19th century British authors, with more than ten popular novels and nearly a thousand poems to his name. He lived the majority of his life in Dorset and created a virtual landscape – Wessex, through which he captured, described and preserved many of the customs, traditions and hard-ships of a by-gone era.



For more photographs, covering the whole Thomas Hardy Trail week, visit










This entry was posted in Travel.

2 comments on “Thomas Hardy Trail, part 2 – Behind the Scenes

  1. malcolmnoble says:

    Trevor, thanks for the great tour of Hardy country. Hope all is well, Malcolm Noble

  2. Debs says:

    Best blog ever – great words and pictures and really made me want to follow in your footsteps. Did you spy the Cerne Abbas giant? x

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