Built at the turn of the 19th century, this small cob cottage was where English novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy, was born. Now owned by the National Trust, it is a great way to experience rural Victorian life, and to learn how his early years in the countryside formed the connection with nature which runs throughout his written works.

A thatched cottage surrounded by a garden filled with flowers
This picture perfect thatched cottage is where Thomas Hardy grew up

In rural Dorset, near the small village of Higher Bockhampton, is an almost impossibly perfect thatched cottage, surrounded by a typical cottage garden and mature, towering woodland. It looks exactly how you would imagine a thatched cottage should look; small and rustic with irregular outbuildings, little windows tucked up in the eaves of the thatch, chimneys sprouting through the roof and creepers growing haphazardly over a central front door.

Built in 1800 by Thomas Hardy’s great grandfather, this idyllic cottage was Hardy’s birthplace and home for a substantial part of his life. Born a rather sickly child in 1840, but with the advantage of a well read mother, he soon excelled at reading and writing. He was a pupil at the local school and then Dorchester Grammar, before becoming an apprentice to a local architect and draughtsman, and it was in this cottage that he would sit at his small desk and write his early poetry and novels.

The cottage still looks much as it did when Hardy was living in it, with the exterior little altered. It is now owned by the National Trust, who have recently added a modern visitor centre – fortunately some distance away from the cottage itself. This is the starting point for any visit to the cottage, and is the only place where tickets can be purchased. With displays about Hardy and Victorian life, as well as how the Trust looks after the landscape, it is a good place to wait for your timed entry slot, as the cottage is so small that it can only hold so many people at a time.