Hardy returns home

Far-from-the-Madding-Crowd-filmAt 34 years old, Thomas Hardy had his first literary success with Far from the Madding Crowd, penned in the tiny cob and thatch cottage in deepest Dorset where he was born. Nearly 150 years on, actress Carey Mulligan’s costumes from the new film adaptation of the book are bringing Hardy’s Cottage to life.

With the film on general release in cinemas in the UK and Ireland from 1st May, two of the costumes actress Carey Mulligan wore as Bathsheba Everdene are now on display in this National Trust cottage until 5th July.

Through the spring and summer, both Hardy’s Cottage and nearby Max Gate – where Hardy later lived and died – will be filled with the words and music of true Hardy country. Tim Laycock and the New Hardy Players will celebrate the work of Thomas Hardy, and this year some of the Players’ major claim to fame is as supporting artists in the new Far from the Madding Crowd film.

Howard and Alison Payton of the New Hardy Players now live in Dorset, and have a lifelong passion for Hardy. Howard appears in the new Far from the Madding Crowd as an Everdene farmer, and Alison as a farm worker.

At 15, Howard picked up the Far from the Madding Crowd book at school.

He said: “I was hooked from page one, and somehow Hardy dictated my life. Now 50 years on, I have come full circle. We farmed livestock and trained working collies, and here we are in Hardy Country, performing with the New Hardy Players, and with the added delight of being supporting actors in the Far from the Madding Crowd film.

“Hardy has been a huge influence. Many years ago, I even proposed to Alison with Gabriel Oak’s words to Bathsheba ‘…whenever you look up, there I shall be – and whenever I look up, there will be you.’ ”

Tim Laycock, performer in residence, explores Hardy’s love of poetry and ‘tuneful tunes’, and on 2nd May performs ‘Woodland Words’ with the New Hardy Players – with excerpts from scenes in Far from the Madding Crowd. These are at 1pm and 2.15pm, followed at 3.30pm by a ‘shearing supper’ at a table in front of the cottage.

Martin Stephen, National Trust Visitor Services Manager, said: “Hardy’s Cottage, Max Gate and the surrounding countryside were at the heart of Hardy’s life. As well as standing in the very rooms in the cottage where he grew up and wrote his first great works, you can wander through the rich woods and heathland from which he drew his inspiration.

“With the release of this major new film, we can bring both Hardy’s first and last homes to life with wonderful Wessex words and music, and give people the unique opportunity of seeing Bathsheba’s on-screen dresses for real.”

The Far from the Madding Crowd film tells the story of independent, beautiful and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), who attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer, captivated by her fetching wilfulness; Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a handsome and reckless sergeant; and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a prosperous and mature bachelor.

Hardy was hugely influenced by what he called his Wessex – ‘partly real, partly dream-county’. From the new Hardy’s Birthplace Visitor Centre, a joint project between the National Trust and Dorset County Council, walk in Hardy’s footsteps through Thorncombe Wood to the cottage, and out on to heathland.

These special places were engrained in the young Thomas Hardy’s mind and translated into his writing – including memories of walking the Roman road with his mother to Puddletown, which became Weatherby in Far from the Madding Crowd.

Sir Andrew Motion has always been hugely influenced by Hardy’s poems, and on Hardy’s birthday on 2nd June he’ll open a new ‘Writing Places’ season with a Hardy poetry reading and talk at Max Gate www.nationaltrust.org.uk/writingplaces

On the evenings of 9th and 10th July, the New Hardy Players will perform Hardy’s The Return of the Native in the garden of Max Gate. Booking recommended on 01305 266079.

For further details on Hardy’s Cottage and Max Gate and all the events visit

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