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By A Beaminster Cottage, Richard Hine, 1914

Even as late as the eve of the First World War, parts of Dorset retained their rural character. This elderly couple standing by their cottage door could easily pass for Tess’s parents. They were photographed by Richard Hine for one of the forty illustrations in his ‘History of Beaminster’.

Richard Hine was a native of Beaminster, the town that Hardy calls Emminster. His photographs show that life was still very basic for many living in the nearby countryside. Rural poverty had already become a problem during the first half of the 19th century. The Beaminster Poor Law Union was established in 1836. Its first decision was to build a workhouse, large enough to accommodate 230 unfortunates from the surrounding villages, at Stoke Water, about a mile out of Beaminster.

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