Our Literary Connections
At the heart of the beautiful Blackmore Vale, Sturminster Newton has long been a place of inspiration.
Thomas Hardy, raised near Dorchester, lived in Sturminster for two years and described the location of Riverside Villa – his pretty pink house – as ‘idyllic’. He referred to the two years he spent there with his new wife Lavinia as some of the happiest of his life. He is known to have written ‘Return of the Native’ in Sturminster and the surrounding Blackmore Vale is the setting for ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’. Sturminster Newton, or ‘Stourcastle,’ as it is known in Hardy’s fictional world, is one of the few places to appear on multiple incarnations of Hardy’s map of Wessex.
The renowned poet William Barnes was born in the neighbouring village of Bagber and grew up in and around Sturminster. He worked as a solicitors clerk and later a schoolmaster in Sturminster. He became ordained in the church and went on to become curate at Whitcombe near Dorchester. His best-known poem is Linden Lea and is written in Dorset dialect – which was preserved in the Blackmore Vale until the arrival of the railways. He died aged 85 in 1852 having become a friend of the younger Thomas Hardy.
Robert Young was another from the same era who wrote poems in the Dorset dialect. He was born and raised in Sturminster Newton and after a short stint outside of the town, he returned to become a prosperous businessman. Thomas Hardy was one of his tenants in Riverside Villa. He wrote his dialect poems initially for friends, but they found them so funny they persuaded him to publish them. “Rabin Hill’s Visit to the Railway: What he Zeed and Done, and What he Zed About It” is one of his best known.