The Hardy Country, published in 1904 by Charles Harper, was one of the first books to provide a geographical analysis of Thomas Hardy’s novels. By the end of the 19th century the identification of areas of Dorset and the surrounding counties with Hardy’s novels was strong enough for the words ‘Wessex’ and ‘Hardy Country’ to be readily understood as the settings for the books.
In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Tess and Angel Clare spend the first few days of their married life in what Hardy describes as ‘once a portion of a fine manorial residence, and the property and seat of a d'Urberville, but since its partial demolition a farmhouse’. Clare starts off on the wrong foot by welcoming Tess to what he calls ‘one of your ancestral mansions’.
Harper identifies this building as Woolbridge House, in the village of Woolbridge, still a farmhouse when Harper was writing. It still stands, as does the stone bridge in front of it. Nearby are the ruins of Bindon Abbey, the Cistercian Abbey of Tess, and Bindon Mill where Clare proposed to learn milling.
The illustration in Harper’s book seen here shows the Abbot’s Coffin, where Clare lays Tess while he is sleep-walking.
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