The project vision is to bring to life the unique story of Thomas Hardy’s formative years at the heart of his ‘Wessex’ landscape, and inspire interest in the work of this major literary figure. The aim of the project is to transform the way people engage with, learn about, and experience Hardy’s birthplace and to pull together all aspects of Hardy birthplace in a coherent way, to provide an enjoyable, exciting and interesting visit. The project aims to explore ‘the fusion of historic landscape, literary connection, social history, and natural history’.
Thomas Hardy is one of the nation’s great authors and poets. He was born in 1840 in a small cob and thatch cottage at Higher Bockhampton near Dorchester, Dorset; where he lived until he was 34. It was built by his great-grandfather, and is little altered since the family left. The property is owned by the National Trust (NT) and has been simply furnished by them. The NT’s ownership is limited to the cottage and a charming cottage garden.
Hardy’s cottage is adjacent to Thorncombe Wood, a 26-hectare site close to Dorchester with a wide diversity of habitats including heathland, woodland and a pond. The wood is owned by Dorset County Council and managed by the Dorset Countryside service (DCC). Thorncombe Wood is one of the few woods of broad- leaved, semi-natural character that is open to the public in the Dorchester- Weymouth area.
Hardy’s Birthplace and Thorncombe Woods are linked both in being the environment in which Thomas Hardy lived and worked and in the continuing activities of the Ranger Service as regards woodland management. This link has been developed as a key design driver.
In addition the following key project themes (developed from an analysis of Hardy’s work) are identified:
Theme 1 - Inspirational landscapes - Landscape as a source of inspiration. Seasonal changes, changes in quality of light, changes in availability of resources and produce (including the reality of difficult human impacts e.g. isolation during winter).
Theme 2 - Materials, provenance and impacts - Use local materials in appropriate and sustainable ways. Exploring local materials in contemporary and vernacular forms.
Theme 3 - What do we notice? - What part do all our senses play in our direct experiences - sight, smell, sound, touch, taste? Can the building be about a way of looking at things? Can it help to develop observation skills, perspectives and learning to look at the landscape?
Theme 4 - Creative journeys - How do different creative and craft disciplines come together to collaborate?
Theme 5 - Human beings and habitats