Thomas Hardy, internationally renowned poet and novelist, was born in 1840 at Higher Bockhampton, near Dorchester and spent most of his life in Dorset. 2008 marked the eightieth anniversary of the writer's death on 11th January 1928.
The great majority of locations in Hardy's celebrated novels and stories are set within West Dorset. Among these are 'The Mayor of Casterbridge', 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles', 'Under the Greewood Tree', 'Far from The Madding Crowd', 'The Woodlanders' and 'Return of the Native'.
Hardy is reputed to taken inspiration for 'Tess of the D'Ubervilles' from the case of Martha Browne, who was tried at Dorchester's Old Crown Court & Cells in 1856. The last woman to be publicly hanged in Dorset, Martha Browne was sentenced to death for murdering her husband with an axe.
Hardy adopted the historical name of 'Wessex' as the name for the 'partly real, partly-dream country' in which many of his works were set. Drawing inspiration from the people and landscapes of Dorset, as well as his own life, he went on to write an impressive 14 novels and over 50 short stories in 25 years. These literary works contain a mixture of real and fictional names for towns, villages and landscape features, all drawn from Hardy's extensive knowledge of the area.
A 'Discover the Heart of Hardy's Wessex' leaflet is available, which includes a Hardy trail linking together places where he lived, places he wrote about and the church where his heart is buried. Further information on specialist group tours in West Dorset, Hardy events and locations used for film and TV productions are also featured.
For your copy of this leaflet, please contact Dorchester Tourist Information Centre, which also stocks a large selection of Hardy maps, books and trail leaflets.
During your time in West Dorset, allow time to take a trip to the county town of Dorchester and the surrounding area to follow our Thomas Hardy & Casterbridge suggested itinerary. Better still, book yourself on a guided Thomas Hardy tour and explore the towns and villages made famous by his novels and listen to readings from his poems and tales.