Fifteen year twelve students boarded the minibus and ventured down to sunny Dorset as the finale of Enrichment week. The trip was fantastic as it enhanced both our cultural awareness and knowledge of Hardy as a novelist and poet. This will put us all in good stead for our A2 course as we will go on to study Tess of the D’urbervilles, which shocked the Victorian public in 1891.
We began the day- post bus journey- by following the ‘Thomas Hardy trail’ through the woods, to his place of birth. The secluded cottage just outside Higher Bockhampton was built by Hardy's great-grandfather in 1800 and little has been altered externally since, serving as a reminder of Hardy’s humble beginnings. Although not “on the breadline”, he was born into a working class family which is apparent throughout his writing, his first novel failing to be published as it was thought to be too searing of the upper class.
After a delicious and much deserved panini lunch in Dorchester, we visited Max Gate- the house Hardy designed and had built at the height of his success and where he eventually died aged 88. It was here that Hardy returned to solely writing poetry, after the negative reception of his two controversial novels, 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' and Jude the Obscure'. The beautiful gardens (where we played a competitive game of croquet) and isolated house were a clear inspiration for his work, with the study's latticed window framing the scenery. The positioning of Hardy's house reflects his hostile relationship with Dorchester, with his birthplace always in view.
We concluded the day by visiting Stinsford Parish Church, where his heart (which due to rumour is actually a pig's heart) is buried. Hardy's connections with the Church undoubtedly influenced 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles', with it featuring in the novel under the name 'Kingsbere'.
Before this visit, none of us had appreciated the proximity of Hardy country to Portsmouth and would like to thank Miss Burden, Miss Hart and Mr Dunne for a fun and informative introduction to his landscape. It is inspiring to think we share this part of the country with such a famous and influential writer.