Sunday 19 May 2024

Thomas Hardy at Athelhampton

We looked around the gardens at Athelhampton last Sunday but not the house. We watched a short film about the writer Thomas Hardy and his connection with the house and the use of it's architectural features in his novels and short stories. Hardy was born in a small cottage only three miles away from the hall. The house that he designed and had built when he became famous, Max Gate, is six miles away, by which time he was a friend of the Athelhampton owner and a regular visitor. Endelstow House in 'A Pair of Blue Eyes' is partly modeled on Athelhampton as is Weatherbury Farm, Bethsheba's house in 'Far From the Madding Crowd.' The library reading group discussed 'A Pair of Blue Eyes' this spring so I intend to return at some point to take a look around. Hardy first visited Athelhampton in 1859 when he was nineteen years old and visiting his father, a stonemason, who was doing work on the building. In August 1914 he was having lunch at the hall with Florence, his second wife, when war was declared. Both Max Gate and the pretty cottage were he was born are now owned by the National Trust. What a contrast the three houses make, and quite a statement about the English class system, something that Hardy had an opinion about!


  1. I like Thomas Hardy, both poetry and novels.
    One of our English teachers at school had the nickname 'Festus'. I never knew why. Only recently did I discover it was a Hardy reference. His last name was Ferriman. Previous cohorts were much wittier and better educated before they allowed us working class riff-raff in.

    1. But remember that Hardy started life as what you call 'working class riff-raff'! My first Hardy school class reader was 'The Woodlanders' after which I went to the library and read through them all. Overjoyed when Bethsheba got a happy ending. (Gabriel Oak is my favourite literary hero!)