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1. an overview

Thomas Hardy was involved with Athelhampton from his teens to his 70s, and his experiences there mirror his life story and aspects of characters in his books. He first visited as the son of a stonemason working on the house, only just starting to move up in the world as an architect's apprentice.  His last recorded visit is at a meal in the Great Hall as a friend and honoured guest of the owner, socially successful as a famous author and poet but in emotional turmoil after the death of his first wife and recent remarriage – and with the owner soon to face his own personal tragedy.  Along the way, Hardy visited the house frequently, his name was inscribed on the leadwork of the dovecote, and he wrote three books and two poems that include houses inspired by Athelhampton, with his words showing his architect's appreciation of its finest details.

In parallel with Hardy's own life-journey, Athelhampton itself underwent a journey at the same time, reflecting the gradual opening up of rural Dorset by the railway and the road, as it went from being a beautiful but faded building split between owners and used as a farmhouse, just like Weatherbury Farm in Far From the Madding Crowd, to being restored under a  single wealthy owner as a wonderful and elegant manor-house with formal gardens. (For sources in the section below, please see the Timeline)

Just 3 miles from Athelhampton, Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 at Higher Bockhampton, eldest of four children and son to a master mason.  As a child he was shy and reflective, encouraged by his mother to read and study beyond the usual level for local children, and at 16 he was apprenticed to the Dorchester Architect, James Hicks.



One of Hardy's tasks for Hicks was to work on the design of the new church just opposite Athelhampton House.


Hardy's father was employed to work as mason at Athelhampton House by the owner, George Wood. In 1859, on what was probably one of many visits, Hardy painted a watercolour of the house, including the Gatehouse which was to be demolished just a couple of years later. 

Hardy moved to London where he practised as an architect for five years but returned to Dorchester in 1867 to write.  His first attempt at a novel was rejected, but with the help of his future wife Emma Gifford, his second attempt, A Pair of Blue Eyes, was successful. Athelhampton was used as the joint model for Endelstow House, a key location in the story.

This first book was only mildy successful but Hardy persevered and in 1874 his next book, Far From the Madding Crowd, was a runaway success.  This again featured Athelhampton as the joint model for a key location, Weatherbury Farm, the home of heroine Bethsheba. (see separate website section giving evidence for this). This was a time of physical change at Athelhampton itself, which had come back under common ownership in 1861 for the first time in 200 years, and was being transformed from a farmhouse back into a single manor-house. 

Far From the Madding Crowd is inspired by Athelhampton just before this change occurred, when it was still a farm and most people avoided the grand frontage and entered via the back where the kitchen was: “the vital principle of the house had turned round inside its body to face the other way”, though the staff could still enter the Great Hall when summoned for payday: “Maryann, go down and keep them in the kitchen till I am dressed, and then show them in to me in the hall.” (quotes both from Chapter 9).

After this success, Hardy rapidly became a major literary figure, and he wrote not only novels but also copious short stories. One of these, The Waiting Supper (1888), features Athelhampton in the romantic heart of the story, where after a party in the Great Hall, heroine Christine dances on the lawn in the arms of her Nicholas, although in an echo of Hardy's own experiences of frustrated love, they are to be kept apart by the forces of social class and later by accidental circumstance: 



“When they reached Athelhall … Tables had been spread in the apartment which lent its name to the whole building–the hall proper–covered with a fine open-timbered roof, whose braces, purlins, and rafters made a brown thicket of oak overhead … She turned to the band. ‘The Honeymoon,’ she said.  And then they trod the delightful last-century measure of that name  … The perfect responsiveness which their tender acquaintance threw into the motions of Nicholas and his partner lent to their gyrations the fine adjustment of two interacting parts of a single machine.”


Soon after this story was published, a momentous event occurred at Athlehampton. Alfred Cart de la Fontaine purchased it in 1891 and embarked on a major restoration of the buildings and the creation of wonderful formal gardens designed by Inigo Thomas.  Hardy's house Max Gate was just six miles away and by 1895 the two men were well-acquainted enough for one of Hardy's letters to mention that he had just been staying at Athelhampton.  They clearly shared a love for careful restoration of old buildings, with Hardy having joined the new Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings, and it may well be that Hardy advised de la Fontaine on his works. 

Also in 1895, Hardy's prolific prose-writing came to an end with the publication of Jude the Obscure. Having produced 14 novels and over 50 short stories, he now focussed on poetry.  One of the poems published in his first collection in 1901 was The Dame of Athelhall, which like so much of Hardy's work seems to have autobiographical undertones. The tragic heroine abandons her plans for fleeing with her lover and instead returns home, only to overhear her husband saying that divorce is the happy solution for both of them – but too late, for she has let her beau disappear overseas:


/She homed as she came, at the dip of eve/On Athel Coomb/Regaining the Hall she had sworn to leave . . ./The house was soundless as a tomb,/And she entered her chamber, there to grieve/Lone, kneeling, in the gloom./From the lawn without rose her husband's voice/To one his friend:/"Another her Love, another my choice,/Her going is good. Our conditions mend;/In a change of mates we shall both rejoice;/I hoped that it thus might end!/

Athelhampton has a reputation for having a number of ghosts, and in a December 1901 letter to de la Fontaine, Hardy encloses a copy of the just-published Poems of the Past and the Present and writes:


“ … the story of the irresolute lady who lived in your house...I don't want to alarm you, but I fancy that the brief reminder of her life was unhappy, and that she "walks" in the hall occasionally'..."



Interestingly, in the final stanza of the poem, the husband thinks of building new rooms for his own lover, perhaps echoing the plans that de la Fontaine had for a new North Wing at Athelhampton, which was not in fact built until the next owner, George Cochrane, had taken over: 


/"I shall build new rooms for my new true bride,/Let the bygone be:/By now, no doubt, she has crossed the tide/With the man to her mind. Far happier she/In some warm vineland by his side/Than ever she was with me."/



Across the early years of the new century, letters confirm Hardy's ongoing friendship with de la Fontaine and visits to Athelhampton, with correspondence about a Shakespeare First Folio and damage to local landmarks, while a wonderful personal anecdote describes a servant at Athelhampton who noticed Hardy dropping a sausage, which she kicked under the table to save him the embarrassment of being seen to have dropped it (details and sources in Timeline). 

In 1912, Hardy's first wife Emma died, and although their relationship had become strained and he was close to Florence Dugdale, he embarked on a creative storm, writing poems about his relationship with Emma that many reviewers regard as his best poetical works.


After this outpouring, in early 1914 Hardy married Florence, and on 4th August that year the couple were dining at Athelhampton.  War was declared with Germany at 11pm:


“On this day they were lunching at Athelhampton Hall, six miles off, where a telegram came announcing the rumour to be fact. A discussion arose about food, and there was almost a panic at the table, nobody having any stock. But the full dimensions of what the English declaration meant were not quite realised at once. Their host disappeared to inquire into his stock of flour. The whole news and what it meant burst upon Hardy's mind next morning, for though most people were saying the war would be over by Christmas, he felt it would be a matter of years and untold disaster..”



The “untold disaster” became tragically personal in 1916, when on July 8th, de la Fontaine's nephew Captain Alfred Edward Cart de la Fontaine was killed on active service, age just 28. His memorial is in nearby Puddletown church.  Whether because of this personal tragedy (was de la Fontaine childless and planning to leave Athelhampton to his nephew?), or because as some reports suggest, de la Fontaine had assets abroad and was ruined financially by the war, in 1918 Athelhampton was sold, to George Cochrane, who built the North Wing in 1920-21.  


This change of ownership may have ended Hardy's visits to Athelhampton, we don't have evidence either way, but it did not end his literary involvement with the house.



In 1922, Hardy, now 72 years old, was still writing poetry, and on 21st April in the Salisbury Times and South Wilts Gazette he published “The Children and Sir Nameless”:

“/Sir Nameless, once of Athelhall, declared/These wretched children romping in my park/Trample the herbage till the soil is bared/And yap and yell from early morn till dark!/”


The punchline of this poem is that the Knight erects a monument to himself to perpetuate his memory, but 300 years later is it trampled into anonymity by children; is Hardy as he approaches death musing on how futile it is to try to ensure remembrance? 


On January 11th, 1928 Hardy died, age 87, his literature still alive not just on paper but in the stones of wonderful buildings like Athelhampton. 

an overview
Anchor 2
Anchor 3
Anchor 4
The Timeline

2. the timeline



June 2nd, Thomas Hardy is born 



Age 19, Hardy is at Athelhampton visiting his father, who is employed by owner George Wood as a stonemason on repair and restoration.  Hardy paints a watercolour that features the old Gatehouse. 

(Source: Millgate, 2004, page 65)


Date unknown, possibly around this time


Thomas Hardy's name is inscribed on the leadwork of the lantern at the top of the Dovecote, and can be seen today.




Athelhampton Gatehouse is demolished.




Hardy is in London as architect, before returning to Dorset in 1867





Hardy travels to Cornwall, meets his wife to be, Emma Lavinia Gifford 


1872 Sept to 1873 July


“A Pair of Blue Eyes” is serialised in Tinsley's Magazine, and then published in 1873. Endelstow House is central to the story and Athelhampton provides joint inspiration for it, alongside a Cornish house (see Note 1).

1874 Jan to Dec

 Far from the Madding Crowd serialised in the Cornhill Magazine, published as a book on 29th October 1874.  Substantial evidence (see Note 2) that Athelhampton, jointly with nearby Waterson House, provided inspiration for Weatherbury Farm, the home of heroine Bathsheba and central to much of the action.




17th September:  marries Emma Gifford





Return of  The Native




Hardy joins the Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), founded four years earlier by William Morris,

and becomes an active member. 



Hardy designs and moves into Max Gate, on the outskirts of Dorchester and six miles from Athelhampton.



The Mayor of Casterbridge




The Waiting Supper, a short story, published in periodicals (see Hardy 1888). Features Athelhampton explicitly, as “Ethelhampton” in the 1888 versions and as “Athelhall” in later editions (see Hardy 1913) as the scene of the wonderful “rural ball” scene set in the Great Hall where the hero and heroine dance together out on the lawn (Note 3).




first part of Tess sent to publishers; first published, in serialised form, in 1891



Alfred Cart de la Fontaine buys Athelhampton and starts his wonderful restoration work and creation of the gardens


1890s-early 1900s


a series of letters show that Hardy, a relatively near neighbour six miles away at Max Gate, becomes closely acquainted with Athelhampton's la Fontaine. Possibly, they know one another before the purchase, and maybe Hardy, as an early member of SPAB

( Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings ) even encourages la Fontaine to buy and restore it sympathetically. 




Jude The Obscure finished and published


September: Letter from Hardy to Mrs Henniker Max Gate Dorchester 3. 9. '95
My dear friend, I have just returned here from Athelhampton Hall - and we are leaving this morning for Rushmore (the Pitt-River's) and had hoped...

(Source: Pinion 1972, page 44)



Poem “The Dame of Athelhall” is published in Poems of the Past and the Present, the name clearly referring to Athelhampton



December: letter to la Fontaine, enclosing a copy of the just-published Poems of the Past and the Present:
“ … the story of the irresolute lady who lived in your house...I don't want to alarm you, but I fancy that the brief reminder of her life was unhappy, and that she "walks" in the hall occasionally'..."

(Source: Hynes 1982, page 374, citing Hardy's letters II, page 305)



Hardy writes to Sir Sidney Lee, who several years earlier in 1902 published a “census” of early Shakespeare folios, telling him: “.. Mr de Lafontaine, my neighbour in Dorset, is the fortunate possessor of a 1st Folio Shakespeare, which he would like to show you. Your opinion upon it will be highly valued by him, and of great interest to me...”

(Source: Rasmussen, 2012, page 20)



 letter from Hardy to de la Fontaine: “I hope the chill is not serious. I am as shocked as you are at the idea of the hedgerow trees on the Puddletown road being destroyed... I have heard a report, too, that the Chancel at P.T is to be pulled down and a new one erected … Fancy destroying the later Perpendicular (if I remember) wappen roof, the venerable walls, the 17th century woodwork, etc...”

(Source: TCU 1909)




letter from Hardy to de la Fontaine: apologises that he can't come to dinner, then “Another friend or two, interested in old houses, may I think be here some time next week or later, and I should much like to be able to call on you with them any afternoon that might suit.” (Source: TCU 1910)

around 1910


Anecdote: website author cites her grandma serving Hardy at Athelhampton,

kicks sausage under table so as not to embarrass him for dropping it..

(source:  The Quiet Writer, 2018)

27th November 1912 

Hardy's first wife Emma dies at their home, inspiring Hardy to become “..a great poet.”

(Claire Tomalin, Thomas Hardy The Time-Torn Man, 2006, Page xvii), but he is already very close to Florence Emily Dugdale


10th February 1914


Hardy and Florence marry

4th August 1914


Hardy and his second wife Florence are having a meal at Athelhampton with la Fontaine when a telegram arrives confirming that war has broken out.  In her biography of him, she writes (Note 4. She uses “they” to describe herself and her husband)



4th  August  1914 - 11pm 

war declared with Germany


On this day they were lunching at Athelhampton Hall, six miles off, where a telegram came announcing the rumour to be fact. A discussion arose about food, and there was almost a panic at the table, nobody having any stock. But the full dimensions of what the English declaration meant were not quite realised at once. Their host disappeared to inquire into his stock of flour. The whole news and what it meant burst upon Hardy's mind next morning, for though most people were saying the war would be over by Christmas, he felt it would be a matter of years and untold disaster..”

8th July 1916


Tragic death of Captain Alfred Edward Cart de la Fontaine, age 28, nephew of the owner of Athelhampton, killed on active service.  Memorial in Puddletown church.





De la Fontaine sells Athelhampton to George Cochrane, following the loss of his nephew and, on some accounts, having been ruined by the War.  No available evidence of Hardy's direct connection with Athelhampton continuing after this, though the poem he wrote four years later shows it remained in his mind (see below)




the new North wing built by George Cochrane, who owns Athelhampton until 1930.



21st April 1922

Publication in Salisbury Times and South Wilts Gazette (subsequently in Nash's and Pall Mall Magazine, and then in the collected Late Lyrics and Earlier, of Poem “The Children and Sir Nameless”. (Source: Hynes, 1984, page 399). Opening lines are: “/Sir Nameless, once of Athelhall, declared/These wretched children romping in my park/Trample the herbage till the soil is bared/And yap and yell from early morn till dark!/” See Hardy 1922, for musical setting Britten 1953



11th January 1928 

Hardy dies, age 87

3. weatherbury farm

Athelhampton and Weatherbury Farm in

Far from the Madding Crowd


Athelhampton has all of the idiosyncratic architectural features that Thomas Hardy uses in his wonderful poetic description of Weatherbury Farm, home of heroine Bathsheba in Far from the Madding Crowd. It is located just where he says it should be, and when he wrote this first best-seller in 1873-4, he already knew the house well.  Yet, many authors suggest that nearby Waterson House was the inspiration for the Farm. Does one house have a better claim than the other, or could Hardy have been inspired by both? Here, we look in detail at the evidence. 


Both houses were built in the right historic era, both were former grand manors being used as farms when Hardy was writing Far from the Madding Crowd, and both are “a witch's ride of a mile or more” from the imaginary location of Weatherbury Farm, using Hardy's own words from his preface to the 1912 edition.  


So could it be that Hardy drew inspiration from both houses, and wanted to leave a deliberate ambiguity?  That could explain why, in his first and only description of the geographic location of the real-world model for the Farm, he chose to do so in way that clearly fitted not just one, but rather two different places. Perhaps his aim was to emphasise that the Wessex of his novels is a “... partly real, partly dream-country..”, his famous words from that same preface.   There is clear precedent: Endelstow House, in his previous book, A Pair of Blue Eyes, was inspired jointly by two houses (Lanhydrock in Cornwall and Athelhampton, see note 10), and in Far From the Madding Crowd itself, Weatherbury church is modelled partly on Puddletown church, but the crucial gargoyles are inspired from elsewhere, perhaps the church in Sydling St Nicholas (note 13).


Yet, a glance at any of the numerous books and internet articles on “Hardy's Wessex” will find only  Waterson cited as the inspiration. So, how strong is the case for choosing one house over the other?  Looking at the evidence, there are three key differences between the claims of the two houses: first, architectural detail; second, Hermann Lea's book; third, a picture used in the original serialised edition. 


Architectural detail:  This clearly mattered deeply to Hardy, as a trained architect who spent the first decade of his life designing and repairing buildings, and whose as a successful novelist joined the new Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings.  This love of architecture is reflected in the care he uses to describe the features of Weatherbury Farm in Chapter 9 of Far from the Madding Crowd.  There are “fluted pilasters” (rectangular columns with vertical grooves) on the front of the Farm, there is stone tiling, and there are “pairs of chimneys .. joined by an arch” in the early editions, changed in the 1912 edition to a contrasting combination of chimneys that are “columnar” (a single cylinder) and “panelled” (a group all together in a rectangular brick box). The 1912 edition also adds “coped gables with finials” (a gable being the triangular wall at the end of a sloping roof, the coping being the finish at its top, and the finial an ornament above, often a short stubby pole). And there are “soft brown mosses” on the roof.

Athlethampton fits these architectural details precisely. The West Wing, which forms the most prominent part of the front as approached from the road, has magnificent “fluted pilasters” running from ground to roof level at both corners. The bottom third of the roof has stone tiles with moss, and chimneys match exactly with the details that Hardy offers in both the earlier and the later editions: the pairs joined by an arch; and the combination of columnar and panelled.  In addition, there are numerous coped gables with finials. What's more, all of these architectural features appear in the watercolour that Hardy himself made of the building as 
apprenticed teenage architect in 1859.  By contrast, Waterson has stone tiling with moss, and coped gables with finials, but the fluted pilasters (though mentioned by some authors) are not readily apparent on contemporary or modern photographs, and there are no pairs of chimneys joined by an arch, and no columnar chimneys.

Hermann Lea's books (Lea 1906 and Lea 1913):  These books, among the earliest that try to identify real-world inspirations for Hardy's fictional locations, are especially relevant because their author knew Hardy personally, travelled with him in “Wessex”, and was familiar with the area, having lived at Athlehampton itself for a while and being based nearby when he wrote the books. Given this provenance, it is unsurprising that for over a century, other authors (and now the internet) have followed the lead set by Lea, and he mentions only Waterson in the context of the Farm.


However, although Lea mentions only Waterson, he does not attempt to reconcile all the architectural details with the Farm, and his wording is not as clear as later authors assume.  He states (Lea 1913, p34): “... Weatherbury Farm. The model which served our author may be found in Waterson House ...” (italics added).  How is the word “may” to be interpreted?  Possible guidance is given in Lea's introduction (Lea 1913, p xxi), which says “..the houses.. which are to claim our attention are plainly not each depicted from one real model – for some are undoubtedly composite structures.”


The picture:  For many years, other authors were content to follow Lea's apparent lead without adding extra evidence, but then J. B. Bullen (Thomas Hardy: The World of his Novels, 2013) drew attention to a drawing used in the September 1874 issue of the Cornhill Magazine, which was serialising Far From the Madding Crowd that year. It shows part of a house, with a black-clad female figure moving in front of it. The architectural detail is very distinctive and it is clearly adapted from the eastern side of Waterson.  Note that this picture (like the other small ones appearing each month) never appeared anywhere else, in contrast with the much larger monthly plates that were re-used in many early book editions, and also note that all other pictures clearly relate to events occurring in the issue in which they appear.


Bullen, and some subsequent authors, cite this picture as key evidence linking Weatherbury Farm with Waterson. However, the drawing shows only a single coped gable with finial and none of the other architectural features that Hardy describes in detail. Moreover, the logical place for a picture of the Farm would be when it is introduced and described in Chapter 9, yet this picture appears much later, in Chapter 39, which deals with the first part of Fanny's fatal flight to Casterbridge, not with the Farm. The picture may show the moment in Chapter 41 (included in that same September issue) where Bathsheba makes the daily round of her Farm, but it is not clear why such a low-key moment might be chosen for a picture, nor why a recently-married, well-off woman would wear black. An alternative interpretation is that this picture relates to Chapter 40 in that issue and illustrates the different manor-house, many miles from Weatherbury and near to Casterbridge, that poor Fanny hears strike the hour “...from the far depths of shadow..” on her tragic last journey. Moreover, as a destitute woman on her way to the workhouse, Fanny might well be in black.

Our Conclusion..


Weighing the architectural evidence, which points clearly to Athelhampton, against the evidence of Lea's book and the picture, which give mixed support to Waterson, as well as the broader range of evidence that fits both houses equally well, it seems reasonable to conclude that Hardy was inspired by both houses, to create his “partly real, partly dream-country”.  Our imaginations can allow the magic of a “witch's ride” to fly us to both houses at once, even though physically one lies east and the other west of the Farm's fictional location!  


3 cups


3 cups




1 cup


1½ cups







Hardy's Weatherbury

"a witch's ride of a mile or more'

Athelhampton Hall is just a mile from the imagined Weatherbury Farm, Waterston Manor just over a mile and a quarter.

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"fluted pilasters"

"a pair of chimneys joined by an arch"

"coped gables with finials"


  1. Earlier editions, in Chapter 9, describe Weatherbury Farm as “of the Jacobean stage of Classic Renaissance..” but by the 1912 Wessex Edition, in which Hardy aimed to link his imaginary Wessex more closely to the reality of Dorset and surrounding counties, that changed to “the early stage of Classic Renaissance...” (subsequent editions use either wording). Neither house is Jacobean on the strict interpretation of James 1st's reign (1603-25), since both have sections from the late 1500's and mid-1600's (source: Hill, 2018) but not in between, though they could fit a looser interpretation, and both clearly do fit the amended 1912 description.

  2. A “pilaster” is a rectangular column and fluting refers to the vertical grooves within the column.  This feature is clearly visible today at the two southern corners of the West Wing of Athelhampton. It is also visible in contemporary pictures of Athlehampton such as the 1857 stone-print on display in the house and Hardy's own 1859 drawing show these fluted pilasters prominently.

  3. Athelhampton's West Wing roof fits both the description used in the early editions: the “pair of chimneys .. linked by an arch”, and the changed description introduced in the 1912 edition, of “panelled and columnar” chimneys (panelled: many chimneys all together in a brick box; columnar: a single large chimney rising up as a lone cylinder).  Waterson House does not have a columnar chimney, so it is not consistent with the 1912 edition. Some of its chimneys are grouped into a box that has a kind of arch-shape at the end, though not a complete bridge, so it could be argued that this is consistent with the earlier editions.

  4. Both houses have courses of wonderful stone tiles forming the lower part of their roofs (with more conventional earthenware tiles in the upper courses).

  5. Both houses have coped gables with finials (the decoration at the apex of the gable)

  6. The “old hall” is the setting for Chapter 10, where Bathsheba announces the dismissal of the bailiff, and then pays out wages to all of her employees.  The Great Hall of 1485 at Athelhampton matches this closely, with a raised dias at one end where Bathsheba would have sat.  There is no comparable room at Waterson, though a much smaller room could have served the same function.

  7. Hardy places Weatherbury farm just west of Weatherbury village (with overwhelming evidence that this is based on real-life Puddletown), the exact distance varying slightly between editions. Waterson lies about a mile north-west of this location, Athlehampton about a mile east.  So both clearly fit the poetical description of being “a witch's ride of a mile or more” that Hardy uses in his introduction to the later Wessex edition of 1912.

  8. Both houses were ancient manors that were in more humble use as farms by the mid-nineteenth century, just as Weatherbury farm is described in Chapter 9.

  9. Hardy's father worked at Athelhampton when he was in his late teens, and Hardy visited in 1859, making a drawing of the house (with its about to be demolished Gatehouse) which is now in the Dorset Museum in Dorchester.  By 1872, two years before writing Far from the Madding Crowd, he knew it well enough to incorporate architectural details from it a book (see note 10). For Waterson, Bullen, 2013, page 21, argues that because Hardy visited his parents in a nearby village, he would have known about Waterson, but no explicit evidence is offered.

  10. Parts of Hardy's A Pair of Blue Eyes, serialised from late 1872 and published as a book the following year, are set in the fictional Endelstow House. Kay-Robinson, 1984, page 213 states that the "principal original" is Lanhydrock House in Fowey valley south of Bodmin (Cornwall), but that Athelhampton displays all the "missing features" not found in that Cornish house, notably mullioned dormers, roof gables with grotesque finials, the polyagonal bay, and the old gatehouse in the right style. 

  11.  Far from the Madding Crowd first appeared as a 12-part serial in the monthly Cornhill Magazine in 1874, and was then published as a book. Each month 4 or 5 chapters appeared, accompanied by one full page engraved picture (also used in early editions of the book) and by a smaller, simpler drawing indented into the first page of the text, never used in the book versions. In almost all cases the illustrations clearly relate to the events of the accompanying chapters. They were by Helen Peterson.  Hardy, in a letter (presumably to the publisher around the start of the serialisation) offers to send the illustrator pictures of clothes such as smocks and of the malt house (source: Notes within Penguin edition of Far From the Madding Crowd, 2010, edited by Rosemarie Morgan and Shannon Russell).  The September issue contains chapters 39 to 42, and the indented picture shows part of a house, with the single figure of a woman in black to the left. The house is very distinctive and clearly shows a central feature on the East facade of Waterson House, though the ground floor window in the original (source: Pevsner's Buildings of England, Dorset) is changed in the illustration to a doorway. None of the distinctive architectural features described by Hardy in chapter 9 are visible in the drawing or this part of the original. Some researchers cite this drawing as proof that Waterson House is the inspiration for Weatherbury Farm.
    (a) if this drawing is intended to show the Farm, it seems strange that it does not appear alongside chapter 9 (where the Farm is first fully introduced and described in detail), and that it contains no architectural detail consistent with the text;
    (b) it also seems strange that the Farm should be illustrated by part of the east facade that in the original did not have a doorway and did not face either the road or the rear, given Hardy's emphasis (chapter 9) on how most activity had switched from the road-facing door to the rear (for both Waterson and Athelhampton, the road side is south with the rear facing north);
    (c) in one scene in the September issue (chapter 41) Bathsheba does walk near the Farm, but it seems an unlikely moment to pick out in a picture since it has no special drama, she is simply going about her daily routines in charge of the farm. Moreover, it seems unlikely that as a recently-married bride, not yet facing tragedy, she would be dressed all in black.
    (d) another possibility is that the drawing is intended to relate to Fanny's desperate walk into Casterbridge (chapters 39 and 40), part of which (her shelter by the haystack) forms the full-page engraving in this issue. In the text, she passes near to a different manor whose clock is heard striking (though not as close as shown in the picture), and as a penniless single woman in the final stages of pregnancy thrown out by her employer and desperate for the harsh refuge of the workhouse, she might well have been dressed all in black;
    (e)  Hardy's letter (cited above) suggests that he provided drawings that were used as inspiration by Peterson, and Bullen (cited above), page 21, sees this as evidence that he “probably” provided a sketch on which the September issue picture is based. However, it is notable that the only building Hardy mentions in that letter is the malthouse.  He may have sent more sketches later, though as September approached his time for providing sketches would be limited by preparations for his marriage that month – and it seems odd to add such a key building as an afterthought.

  12.  Hermann Lea's (see Lea 1906 and 1913) linking of Waterson with Weatherbury Farm is important more because he knew Hardy than because of the hard evidence that he gives, which is limited. In Lea 1906 (p53), he mentions only its Jacobean dating, while in Lea 1913 (p34) he adds also the moss, the location (albeit moved), and the fluted pilasters. All of these points apply also to Athelhampton, and it is not clear why he mentions fluted pilasters, since they are not shown in his photo of Waterson, nor are they visible in modern pictures. Moreover, his wording leaves open the possibility that Waterson is not the only model. He states (Lea 1913, p34): “... Weatherbury Farm. The model which served our author may be found in Waterson House ...” (italics added).  The word “may” can be interpreted in different ways, noting that the introduction (Lea 1913, p xxi) says: “..the houses.. which are to claim our attention are plainly not each depicted from one real model – for some are undoubtedly composite structures.”

  13.  Bullen, 2013, page 44, discusses Weatherbury church and suggests that while it is largely modelled on Puddletown church, the gargoyles, which play an important role and appear in the title of chapter 46, may have been inspired from elsewhere, perhaps the church of Sydling St Nicholas.

4. the harvest supper


The Harvest Supper in the Great Hall at Athelhampton



In 1888, Hermann Lea, who ten years later became firm friends with Thomas Hardy and wrote books describing Hardy's Wessex (Lea 1906, Lea 1913), was living at Athlehampton. George Wood was the owner at this time, so Lea, who was working at a nearby farm, was presumably his tenant.  Lea, describes a Harvest Supper held in the Great Hall, likening it to the events in Far From the Madding Crowd (Harvest celebrations are usually held in late September):


“... I witnessed a sheep-washing. As I stood watching the operation, I was taken back in thought to Weatherbury Farm – the sheep, the men, and most of all, the conversation and remarks and exclamations. The utter realism of Hardy's writing forced itself upon one; only a writer who had actually watched and listened could have reproduced the scene in words...


… Further confirmation of this realism reached me at our own Harvest Supper, held in the hall at Athlehampton, when, after the supper, the men's natural nervousness was overcome and the time for songs arrived. The chorus for one of those songs haunts me yet:


'Did she ever rheturn, no, she never rheturned,

no, she never rheturned any mwhore'


I believe the song was entitled 'The ship that never returned'.  I tried to keep track of the verses, but after the sixteenth yer' 'Chok it Bill, that's too much, that is' 'Dazee, sit down, Bill, and let I have a turn' – and surely, I thought, it was Laban Tall and his contemporaries interjecting the protestsverse I lost count and became bewildered. Still it went on, and on, until finally the standing singer was forcibly pulled down by his neighbour, following many protests – 'that's 'nuf, Bill', 'Stop it, caint'

[Source:  Hermann Lea's Notes for a Biography of Thomas Hardy, written at various time between 1913 and 1918, and published posthumously in Lea, 1964, p19]


[Laban Tall is one of the men employed at Weatherbury Farm in Far From the Madding Crowd, and in Chapter ten, where Bathsheba meets her staff in the hall of her Farm to pay them, he discusses with her the search for the missing Fanny.]



Britten, Benjamin, 1953:  The Children and Sir Nameless: recording on Youtube 


Bullen, J. B. , 2013: Thomas Hardy: The World of his Novels


Hardy, Florence Emily, 1930:  Life of Thomas Hardy: the later years 1892-1928


Hardy, Thomas, 1872: A Pair of Blue Eyes, published in serialised version starting 1872, first book edition 1873


Hardy, Thomas, 1874:  Far From the Madding Crowd, published in twelve monthly instalments of 4-5 chapters each in Cornhill Magazine, with one large illustration and one small one each month.


Hardy, Thomas, 1874 and after:  Far From the Madding Crowd, published in multiple book versions


Hardy, Thomas, 1888, The Waiting Supper published in Harper's Weekly and Murray's Magazine


Hardy, Thomas, 1901: Poems of the Past and the Present


Hardy, Thomas, 1912:   Far From the Madding Crowd, the definitive Wessex edition, with revised version of the preface


Hardy, Thomas, 1913:  A Changed Man and Other Tales, collected short stories including The Waiting Supper


Hardy, Thomas, 1922: Late Lyrics and Earlier

Hynes, S, 1982:  The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hardy, vol I


Hynes, S, 1984:  The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hardy, vol II


Kay-Robinson, Denys, 1984: The landscape of Thomas Hardy (Note: earlier edition published as Hardy's Wessex reappraised)


Millgate, Michaelm 2004: Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited


Lea, Hermann 1906: A Handbook to the Wessex Country of Thomas Hardy's Novels and Poems


Lea, Hermann, 1913: Thomas Hardy's Wessex


Lea, Hermann 1964: Thomas Hardy Through the Camera's Eye


Hill, Michael and Newman, John, 2018: Pevsner's Buildings of England, Dorset


Morgan, Rosemarie and Russell, Shannon (eds), 2010:  Far From the Madding Crowd, Penguin Edition 


Pinion, F. B. (ed), 1972: One Rare Fair Woman: Thomas Hardy's Letters to Florence Henniker 1893-1922


Rasmussen, Eric, 2012:  The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios


Ray, Martin 1997: Thomas Hardy.. a textual study of the short stories


TCU (Texas Christian University) Mary Couts Burnett Library, 1909: 

Letter from Thomas Hardy to Alfred Cart de la Fontaine 


TCU (Texas Christian University) Mary Couts Burnett Library, 1910:
Letter from Thomas Hardy to Alfred Cart de la Fontaine 


The Quiet Writer, 2018:


Tomalin, Claire, 2006: Thomas Hardy The Time-Torn Man


Widdowson, Peter (ed), 1996: Thomas Hardy: Selected poetry and non-fictional prose

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