28 May – 30 October 2022
The largest collection of Thomas Hardy objects ever displayed at one time
A major exhibition across four venues – Dorset Museum (Dorchester), Poole Museum, The Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Museum (Devizes)
Take a fresh look at the Victorian novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy, in the stunning Wessex landscapes that shaped his view of the world. His story will be retold in exciting new ways by our museum collections, from period costumes to personal letters, art to archaeology.
- Four exhibitions, each exploring a different Hardy theme
- A treasure trove of objects that give personal insights into Thomas Hardy’s life
- Many of the objects have never been on public display before
- Each exhibition has a star object on loan from a national museum
Hardy’s Wessex at Dorset Museum
The exhibition at each venue will be different – in Dorset Museum, it explores Hardy’s views on social tensions and animal welfare. Famous as a novelist, poet and social commentator, Hardy never lost touch with his experience of the working-class lives and poverty of rural Dorset. Paintings, writing, costume and drawings will bring his writing and personality to life. The painting The Village Choir by Thomas Webster (loaned by the Victoria and Albert Museum), for example, provides a snapshot of the rural musicians Hardy grew up with and wrote about in his novels.
Hardy had family pets and designed and carved his dog, Wessex’s, tombstone himself. He was also deeply concerned about the welfare of animals and became friends with early animal rights activists. He wrote to the newspapers to protest against performing animals, wrote poems criticising blood sports, and published novels about the link between people and animals.
Friday 22 September 2023, The Victorian Hall will also be closed all day for a private function. The Fine Foundation Dorset Story Space, next the the Thomas Hardy's Dorset Gallery will also be closed for an hour around Midday.
Daily: 9.00am - 4.30pm
Sunday: 10.00am - 4.00pm
Bank Holidays: 10.00am - 4.00pm
10% discount for Adult and Young Person Unlimited Ticket booked online using discount code DM01BOOK ONLINE SAVE 10%
Dorset MuseumHigh West Street
Dorchester DT1 1XA
Dorset Museum is part of the NPO (National Partnership Organisation) with Wessex Museums.
Wessex Museums is a charity that exists to build the resilience of partner museums and make them relevant to diverse audiences.Visit website
This exhibition is supported by the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund.
Social tensions and animal welfare
Find out how Hardy felt about the social tensions and inequalities of the time, and how he campaigned against animal cruelty. Then take a walk around Dorchester, the market town that inspired one of Hardy’s most popular novels, The Mayor of Casterbridge.
Discover Hardy’s passion for all living things
As well as standing up for the rights of working people, Hardy campaigned against cruelty to all living things, becoming an animal rights champion.
From his first nature sketch to his controversial article defending the Dorsetshire Labourer, visitors will come to understand Hardy’s humanity and compassion.
Explore these questions:
- What role did Hardy play in the formation of early animal rights societies?
- How did the son of a builder and a servant become one of the most famous men of the 20th century?
- Did this fame sit easily with Hardy?
Highlights for visitors
- Witness a man’s grief at the death of his beloved pet, in Hardy’s hand-drawn tombstone design for his famous dog, Wessex.
- See Hardy’s first childhood watercolour of the landscape around him – and imagine this child who went on to write books that changed the world.
Take part in our Wessex Words reading challenge this summer, inspired by our Hardy’s Wessex exhibition.
21 July - 29 October 2023
Nature Heals | Photography by Trevor Parsons
Dorset Museum and Dorchester Arts co-present Nature Heals, an exhibition of nature photography by Trevor Parsons.Find out more
21 July - 29 October 2023
Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Wildlife Photographer of the Year, the world-famous exhibition from the Natural History Museum, is coming to Dorset Museum this summer.Find out more
4 August – 28 September 2023
The Askerswell Hoard
Discover a rare Roman coin hoard recently acquired by Dorset Museum, and find out about the work going on to preserve, research and catalogue it, in this special showcase display outside the Collections Discovery Centre.Find out more
6 October 2023, 10:00am -1:00pm,
Creative Journeys Through Time | 6 week art workshop with Helen Garrett
Designed for adults interested in art, prehistory and archaeology, and running as a six-week block, this course is an exciting opportunity to get up close with some extraordinary artefacts in the collection at Dorset Museum.Find out more
9 October 2023, 2:00pm to 4:30pm
Life Drawing at Dorset Museum – Eight-week course led by James Meiklejohn
This eight-week structured course is suitable for complete beginners to those with some experience.Find out more
10 October 2023, 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Wildlife friendly gardening | Mitch Perkins
Would you like to make your garden more wildlife friendly? Join Mitch Perkins to find out how.Find out more
19 October 2023, 5:00pm - 6:30pm
FREE | Museum After Hours
Join us for an opportunity to explore the Museum at this FREE late opening.Find out more
19 October 2023, 7:00pm - 8:30pm
Real Dorset | Jon Woolcott
In this lecture, let Jon Woolcott take you on an amusing whistle-stop tour through some of the discoveries and oddities that make Dorset unique.Find out more
25 October 2023, 2:00pm - 2:45pm
Collections Discovery Centre Tour
Join our Collections Team for an opportunity to explore behind the scenes in the Museum’s Collections Discovery Centre.Find out more
Survey of your visit
We hope you enjoyed your visit to the exhibition Hardy’s Wessex: The landscape that inspired a writer.
We would like to invite you to complete the survey in the link to help us understand your experience better and to improve our exhibitions in the future.
We look forward to seeing you again at Dorset Museum in the future.Start Survey