In Thomas Hardy’s tragic novel, Michael Henchard is the eponymous Mayor of Casterbridge who lives in the fictional town (based upon Dorchester). When I moved to the county five years ago, this was the first book I read as a Dorset resident. The narrative follows the actions of Henchard, who sells his wife and young daughter after drinking too much at a fair. Years later, when his wife tracks him down, she sees him at the hotel, through the ‘spacious bow-window projected onto the street over the main portico’ and learns that he is being entertained as the Mayor.
This is a photograph of the hotel today and it’s just one of the buildings of the town, described by Hardy.
Barclays Bank bears this plaque indicating its connection to the novel. And below is a photo of the building.
Henchard’s house was ‘one of the best, faced with dull red-and-grey brick. The front door was open, and, as in other houses, she could see through the passage to the end of the garden nearly a quarter of a mile off.’
Chapter 9, The Mayor of Casterbridge
In 1931 the statue of Thomas Hardy was unveiled by James Barrie, author of Peter Pan. Each year wreaths are laid here on the Saturday nearest to the anniversary of Hardy’s birth on 2 June.
When the weather improves, I’ll cycle over to Stinsford to take photographs of the church where Hardy’s family are buried and visit the National Trust property that is the home of his birth.
If this focus on Dorchester has inspired you to share your stories about places in the UK that have a literary link, please think about joining a new project called ‘Literary UK’. You can become involved by posting information through writing, photography or painting. For further information, please contact Victoria Bantock (editor, What the Dickens? Magazine): email@example.com