In the approach to the 172nd anniversary of Thomas Hardy’s birth, Jackson-Stops & Staff is offering a chance to buy a slice of Hardy’s literary legacy. Lower Lewell Farm House near Dorchester is reputed to be the inspiration for Talbothays Dairy in Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Thomas Hardy was born in a cottage near Dorchester and received only a modest education but by the time of his death in 1928, Hardy had become one of England’s most celebrated authors.
Tess of the d’Urbervilles was first published in 1891. The story is set, like all of Hardy’s novels, in southwest England in an area he describes as ‘Wessex’ after a medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom. Hardy himself was born and lived in ‘Wessex’, just outside Dorchester and about two miles from Lower Lewell Farm House, otherwise known as Talbothays Dairy.
Talbothays Dairy is an important setting within the novel. Tess flees to the farm where she meets and falls in love with Angel Clare.
Marion Tomblin, the owner of Lower Lewell Farm House first discovered this literary connection whilst visiting Dorchester museum with her son, “There was an exhibition of artwork illustrating Hardy’s Wessex and as I was browsing through the paintings, I spotted the front of our house in one of the works.” After further enquiries the Tomblins discovered that their house was widely believed to be the setting of Talbothays Dairy and, understandably, decided to buy a collection of the original artwork from the local artist.
The farmhouse has many of its original 17th and 18th century features that would have been present at the time of Hardy’s writing, such as inglenook fireplaces, exposed beams and shuttered sash windows. The seven bedroom house has mature gardens including an orchard and storage buildings.
The novel has seen many reincarnations on both screen and stage; perhaps the most successful was the BBC adaptation in 2008 written by David Nicholls starring Eddy Redmayne and Gemma Arterton. It is often said that Hardy’s imaginary settings within his novels are inseparable from the places that inspired them. This is evident in Lower Lewell Farm House; Hardy not only created a character by the name Lewell in the novel but also built Talbothays Lodge for his sister on the same road in order to give the fictional place name a physical reality.
Lower Lewell Farm House is on the market with Jackson-Stops & Staff, Dorchester (01305 262123) for £650,000