Get ready for some serious Victorian allure as you discover the birthplace of Dorset’s most famous author and poet, Thomas Hardy.
Amongst towering oaks and a collage of greens, browns and oranges lies a large thatch cottage – the childhood home of Thomas Hardy, called simply Hardy’s Cottage. Located within the boundaries of Thorncombe Wood in South Dorset, Hardy’s Cottage remains as Hardy would have drawn it, thanks to The National Trust.
It faces west, and round the back and sides high beeches, bending, hang a veil of boughs, and sweep against the roof.
Originally built by Hardy’s great-grandfather in 1800, the cob and thatch cottage was lived in by the Hardy family up until 1912 and remains largely untouched since this time. It became Hardy’s birthplace in 1840 and remained his childhood home for over 30 years.
Over those three decades it developed into the inspiration and place of creation for some of Hardy’s early famous works, such as Under the Greenwood Tree. His poem, Domicilium, written about this family home at the age of 17, has all the natural sparkle of the author’s later genius and the poem’s original manuscript can be seen on display in Hardy’s Cottage.
Visiting Thomas Hardy’s Cottage is like stepping back into 19th-century rural life. Walk inside – minding your head on the low doorway – and you’re welcomed into the heart of the Hardy home: the parlour. With original stone flooring and the biggest fireplace you’ve ever seen, it’s not hard to imagine this room with the Hardy’s in it, cooking, eating and spending cosy evenings by the fire.
Head upstairs and you’ll see the simple spring bed in Hardy’s childhood bedroom, which he shared with his brother and remained in until his 30s.
In the stillness of this room, Hardy wrote several of his short stories and poems; he also produced Far From the Madding Crowd in here.
The window seat in this room provides the perfect perch to sit and gaze out over the surrounding Wessex countryside that Hardy so loved.
Outside, Thomas Hardy’s Cottage is surrounded by fields and heathland; small wonder that Hardy developed such strong associations with his natural local area, often spending childhood days taking note of the flowers, plants and wildlife he came across.
Wander around the garden with the sweet sound of birdsong echoing in the air in the footsteps of the Hardy’s. Learn how the cottage grounds were used to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs by the Hardy household. If there’s time also take a wander through the majestic apple trees of the orchard where, once upon a time, Hardy helped gather fruit to make cider.
Opening Times: Guided tours are available Tuesday – Sunday and need to be booked in advance. Visits to Hardy’s Cottage last approximately 1 hour.
Price: Admission is free to members, £8 for non-member adults and £4 for non-member children (under 5’s go free).