What to See in England
By Gordon Home
Public Domain Books
The Wessex of Thomas Hardy’s Romances
=How to get there.=–Train from Waterloo. L. and S.W. Railway. =Nearest Station.=–Dorchester. =Distance from London.=–135-1/4 miles. =Average Time.=–Varies between 3 to 5-1/2 hours.
1st 2nd 3rd =Fares.=–Single 22s. 8d. 14s. 2d. 11s. 4d. Return 39s. 8d. 24s. 10d. 22s. 8d.
=Accommodation Obtainable.=–"Antelope,” “King’s Arms,” and other hotels. =Alternative Route.=–Train from Paddington. Great Western Rly.
The centre of the district in the south-west of England which has been labelled with its ancient Saxon name of Wessex, may be found at the old-fashioned town of Dorchester. This is the Mecca of the whole countryside so vividly portrayed in Mr. Hardy’s numerous romances dealing with the rustic life of the west country. On market-days, Dorchester is crowded with carriers’ vans and innumerable vehicles which have brought in the farmers and their families from remote corners of the surrounding country, and it is then that one is able to select examples of many of the characters created by the novelist. To get at these folk in their homes, one may journey in almost any direction from Dorchester. The streets of Dorchester are suggestive of Mr. Hardy’s works at every turn, so much so that the wayfarer may almost feel that he is taking an expurgated part in The Mayor of Casterbridge. A large old-fashioned house near St. Peter’s Church seems to correspond to Lucetta’s residence–High Place Hall. Then, the comfortable bay-windows of the “King’s Arms,” an old hostelry belonging to coaching days, suggests recollections of Henchard, who dined there on the occasion of the memorable banquet, when he threw down the challenge so quickly taken up by Farfrae.
Going up South Street one passes on the right the Grammar School, founded in 1579 by a certain Thomas Hardy, an ancestor of all the Dorset Hardys–Nelson’s friend and the Wessex novelist being the most distinguished among them. Mr. Thomas Hardy lives in a new red house known as “Max Gate,” which is situated a short distance from Dorchester. Eight miles away from the town is the village of Puddletown, known as “Weatherbury” in Far from the Madding Crowd. The church Mr. Hardy describes in his novel can be seen, but Warren’s malt-house was destroyed more than twenty years ago. St. Peter’s Church, Dorchester, of the Perpendicular period, has a Norman porch and contains two cross-legged recumbent effigies.
[Illustration: Photochrom Co., Ltd. DORCHESTER.
The centre of Mr. Thomas Hardy’s “Wessex."]