Thomas Hardy and Athelhampton

We managed to travel further afield than the neighbouring town for the first time for a while this week and headed down to Dorset for a long break. En route we stopped off at Athelhampton, a privately owned house, dating from the fifteen century, though people had built on the site well before that. It is currently owned by Giles Keating, an obviously rich banker (the house cost him £7.5 million) but it is till open to the public. It is of particular interest because of its connections with Thomas Hardy.

Both Hardy and his father worked on the property and Hardy himself painted a watercolour of it. However, once he became a famous writer, he became a regular visitor when the property was owned by Alfred De Lafontaine. Hardy set his poem The Dame of Athelhall there (it is about a woman ghost who wanders the rooms of the hall. We did not see her.) He also used the hall as background in two of his novels: A Pair of Blue Eyes and Far from the Madding Crowd.

The National Trust owns two buildings with Hardy connections:
Max Gate and Hardy’s Cottage. Both are currently closed, though we had visited them previously. They will be open for pre-booked guided tours as from 23 Jun.

You can visit the Thomas Hardy Monument, which is in the open air and visible for miles around. However, it is not a monument to that Thomas Hardy, but another Thomas Hardy, the sea captain and later admiral who was Nelson’s deputy at the Battle of Trafalgar and who is know to generations of British schoolchildren as Nelson allegedly said to him, as he lay dying, Kiss me Hardy, though he might have said Kismet, Hardy. He survived Nelson by thirty-four years. He did not write any books.

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