The celebrated literary author, Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), spent many years of his life in Dorchester and the surrounding area - his fictional 'Wessex' - and his legacy remains in the region today. The Dorset County Museum documents his life and work in a special exhibition, and boasts the largest collection of Thomas Hardy artefacts in the world, a great many of them bequeathed to the museum by Hardy's second wife, Florence. Among the items on display in 'A Writer's Dorset' are the author's manuscripts, diaries, photographs and paintings. The centrepiece of this exhibition is a reconstruction of Hardy's study at Max Gate (his Dorchester home from 1885), incorporating his desk and other furniture, books and pens.
After relaxing in one of Dorchester's cafés for some delicious tea and cakes, take a Blue Badge Guided Walking Tour of the town. This will provide you with the opportunity to explore the town that Hardy immortalised as 'Casterbridge' in his novels, and allow you to take in such sites as the Thomas Hardy Statue, Dorchester's commemoration of a local literary hero.
Heading 1 mile to the east of Dorchester is Max Gate, the house constructed to Hardy's own specifications, and which became his home from 1885 to his death in 1928. Here you will find items of the poet and novelist's furniture on display, and you will see first hand the place where 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles', 'Jude The Obscure' and the 'Mayor of Casterbridge' were written. Heading north-east of Dorchester to Lower Bockhampton, follow the signs to Hardy's Cottage. This country cottage is where the author was born, and where he lived until he was 34 years old. It is particularly notable for the beautiful cottage garden next to the property, and is also the site where 'Far From The Madding Crowd' was created.
Continue north-west from Lower Bockhampton to Stinsford, a small hamlet whose medieval church is featured in 'Under The Greenwood Tree'. Thomas Hardy was christened in St Michael's Church, and this was where his family frequented for many years. Although Hardy's ashes are interred in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner, his heart is buried in the churchyard here, along with his two wives and other members of his family. Also take the time to examine the stained glass window inscribed in the writer's honour, and other family memorials within the church.
A leaflet detailing the region's links with the author, 'Exploring Thomas Hardy's West Dorset', is available from our Tourist Information Centres.
Plan your visit to West Dorset using the 'Add to Itinerary' button.
Select items throughout the site to build an itinerary of your choice.