Thomas Hardy’s Birthplace

2012-07-18 12.00.58

This is the small thatched country cottage at Higher Bockhampton, a few miles from Dorchester, where the author,Thomas Hardy, was born. Today it’s owned by the National Trust. The small village, surrounded by woodland, is pretty isolated, even though it’s only just under four miles from the county town of Dorchester. Mind you, in 1840, the year he was born, four miles was a long way.

Hardy grew up in the cottage, being educated at the local village school before transferring, when he was ten, to a school in Dorchester – he used to walk the three miles there and back. After a spell of five years in London he returned, staying until he was 34. It was here that he wrote his early novels Under the Greenwood Tree and Far from the Madding Crowd. His father was a builder, and for a time had a small number of employees, so his background could be considered to be either upper working class or lower middle class. But, in either case, life would have been hard.

P1050235

The house looks pretty idyllic today. A real  “chocolate box” cottage with an attractive country garden planted with flowers and ornamental plants. Very typical of those picture postcard cottages seen throughout the county of Dorset.  But appearances can be deceptive. For a start, it’s not as big as it looks. The low building on the right of the picture is a later addition and the right hand third of the cottage is an extension, built by Hardy’s father for his mother – a sort of “granny cottage”. You can see the join if you look at the thatching.  Hardy, his parents, brother and two sisters lived in the other two thirds, to the left of the middle chimney. The cottage is only one room deep and was effectively “two up two down” until they knocked through into the extension, enlarging the house (although there were still only three rooms on each floor).

The cottage is constructed using the traditional building technique of the region – cobb and thatch. The walls, typically two feet thick on this type of building, are made from cobb, which is, effectively, compacted mud, with a lime rendering. A brick facing has also been applied to part of the front facade, although there was no information available on when this was done.

The rooms are quite small and must have felt crowded with for a family of six – Hardy had a brother and two sisters.

This is the parlour / kitchen in the “granny cottage”. The small door half way up the wall to the right of the fireplace is the bread oven.

P1050228

This was the master bedroom where the parents slept

P1050225

This is Hardy’s bedroom where he did his writing.

P1050227

The furniture isn’t “original”. That’s all been dispersed. But has been selected by the  National Trust as representative of the type of furnishings that would be found in this type of cottage at the end of the 19th Century.

Today the garden has been planted up with flowers in a English cottage garden style and is very pleasant to wander around.

P1050231

However, I guess in Hardy’s time it was more likely that most of the land would have been devoted to growing vegetables for the table.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Thomas Hardy’s Birthplace

  1. This house and Max Gate are on my long list. Just a tad far to travel from my base in East Devon at holiday times when the traffic’s bad. I’ll get there one day. Thanks for your report.

    • It was a rather tedious drive even from Lyme.

      I think you’d have to be a devoted fan of Hardy to make the trip worthwhile during the peak season. Max Gate is interesting enough but as it’s not particularly special architecturally and many of the rooms are inaccessible, it wouldn’t be worth the drive if you’re not.

      The birthplace was the more interesting of the two and in a nice setting by the woods. But it’s very small and will easily become crowded. And parking might be difficult too. We visited just outside the main season and the car park (10 minutes walk from the cottage) was pretty full and we had to wait to get inside the house as a coach party were already there when we arrived.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s