Dorset's Famous Folk

Dorset's most famous literary figure is undoubtedly Thomas Hardy. He lived at Max Gate outside Dorchester, the town on  which was Casterbridge in his novels was based.  He is responsible for some of the greatest works of English Literature - including  Far From the Madding Crowd, Jude the Obscure and  Tess of the d'Urbervilles.  He died in 1928 - although he had wanted to be buried beside his first wife, Emma, but his his body was interred in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey, and only his heart was buried in Emma's grave at Stinsford.


William Barnes

Poet William Barnes was born in Bagber near Sturminster Newton in North Dorset in 1801.  He became curate at Whitcombe near Dorchester and also ran a school in the county town. His poems are seen as a valuable record of the old Dorset dialect and working people's lives in the 19th Century.


Hardy and Barnes aren't the only writers to have been inspired by Dorset's people and lanscapes.  Jane Austen visited  Lyme Regis in 1804 and her novel, Persuasion is partly set in the West Dorset resort.

Children's author Beatrix Potter spent a holiday in Lyme in 1904, and used some views of the town for the story, Little Pig Robinson.


Enid Blyton's adventure stories  were inspired by the Isle of Purbeck countryside. She first came to the the area in 1931 and some Dorset landmarks became places in her books - Whispering Island is based on Brownsea Island and Corfe bears a remarkable likeness to Kirrin Castle in the stories.


Mary Anning was born in  Lyme Regis in 1799 - her discoveries of dinosaur fossils along the Jurassic Coast were ground-breaking at the time and laid the foundations for much of our knowledge of dinosaurs.  She was known as "Princess of palaeontology".  Each year the Philpott Museum holds a special Mary Anning weekend of events to commemorate her life.


One of Dorchester's more infamous residents was Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys - the 'hanging judge'.  Judge Jeffreys lodged at 6 High Street West, now a  restaurant, and held his 'bloody assizes' in 1685 during which 74 people were executed.


Explorer and buccaneer, Sir Walter Raleigh lived at Sherborne Castle in North Dorset.  He was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I who granted him ownership of the lands of the 12th Century Sherborne Castle on which he built Sherborne Lodge.  He explored America, bringing back potatoes and tobacco to Britain.  He eventually fell out with the Queen and was sent to the Tower of London, and was later beheaded for treason by James I.


The Trade Union movement was effectively born in Dorset.  The 'Tolpuddle Martyrs' were all farm labourers who decided to set up a Union in Tolpuddle to give them bargaining strength to curb their impoverished conditions.

Enclosed in Poverty


Between 1770 and 1830, enclosures changed the English rural landscape forever.

Landowners annexed vast acreages, producing even greater wealth from the now familiar pattern of small hedged fields.

Peasants no longer had plots to grow vegetables nor open commons for grazing their single cow or sheep and pigs.

Diet was basic - tea, bread and potatoes.


Low wages, appalling conditions and unemployment, bad winters and poor harvests in 1829 and 1830 fuelled a great explosion of anger, resulting in riots led by the mythical "Captain Swing" in November 1830.

Throughout England 600 rioters were imprisoned; 500 sentenced to transportation; and 19 executed

The six Tolpuddle Martyrs were all farm labourers, paid 9 shillings a week and lived in dreadful poverty.

Their leader George Loveless, decided to set up a Union in Tolpuddle to give the labourers bargaining strength.

The landowners, led by James Frampton,born in 1769 at Moreton House, near Tolpuddle, into a long established family of country gentlemen, he passionately believed in Church, Constitution, King and Country - and maintenance of the status quo.


James Frampton framed the Martyrs on a trumped up charge of administering an unlawful oath, using a law applicable to the Navy not workers' rights.

He feared trades unionism threatened the power base and wealth of the landed upper classes.

Having witnessed the French Revolution, he was determined to suppress any sign of rebellion or opposition whatever the cause and supported by the government, were determined to squash unions and to control increasing outbreaks of dissent


George Loveless, James Brine, James Hammett, James Loveless, John Standfield and Thomas Standfield were all transported to Australia for 'administering illegal oaths' but the injustice of their sentence led to a massive campaign across the country.  The martyrs are commemorated each summer at a special festival in Tolpuddle which attracts trade unionists from around the world. There is now a museum dedicated to the martyrs .The museum evolved out of the library which formed part of the Tolpuddle Martyrs Memorial Cottages, built in 1934 to mark the Centenary of the Martyrs' conviction. The library, meant for use by the workers living in the cottages, soon became a depository for various artefacts, documents and memorabilia relating to the history of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Over the years, a rather ad hoc display telling the story of the Martyrs had evolved into the Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum.Website Link .

Details below.


Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum

Tolpuddle, Dorchester, Dorset,

England UK, DT2 7EH

Phone +44 (0) 1305 848 237






LINDEN LEA - “Translated”


Within the woodlands, flowery gladed,

By the oak tree's mossy moot,

The shining grass-blades, timber-shaded

Now do quiver under foot;

And birds do whistle overhead,

And water's bubbling in its bed,

And there for me the apple tree

Do lean down low in Linden Lea.


When leaves that lately were a-springing

Now do fade within the copse,

And painted birds do hush their singing

Up upon the timber tops;

And brown-leaved fruit's a-turning red,

In cloudless sunshine, overhead,

With fruit for me, the apple tree

Do lean down low in Linden Lea.


Let other folk make money faster

In the air of dark-roomed towns,

I don't dread a peevish master;

Though no man do heed my frowns,

I be free to go abroad,

Or take again my homeward road

To where, for me, the apple tree

Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

      Original Dorset Dialect Version

By Dorset Poet William Barnes (1801-1886)



'Ithin the woodlands, flow'ry gleaded,

By the woak tree's mossy moot,

The sheenen grass-bleades, timber-sheaded,

Now do quiver under voot ;

An' birds do whissle over head,

An' water's bubblen in its bed,

An' there vor me the apple tree

Do lean down low in Linden Lea.


When leaves that leately wer a-springen

Now do feade 'ithin the copse,

An' painted birds do hush their zingen

Up upon the timber's tops;

An' brown-leav'd fruit's a-turnen red,

In cloudless zunsheen, over head,

Wi' fruit vor me, the apple tree

Do lean down low in Linden Lea.


Let other vo'k meake money vaster

In the air o' dark-room'd towns,

I don't dread a peevish measter;

Though noo man do heed my frowns,

I be free to goo abrode,

Or teake agean my hwomeward road

To where, vor me, the apple tree

Do lean down low in Linden Lea.



For those  who are aquainted with British Literature, one of the most notable writers who have lived in Bournemouth is the author of books such as 'Kidnapped', 'Treasure Island' and 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde'.

Robert Louise Stevenson (1850 - 1894)

Whilst staying in Bournemouth, the Stevenson Family's last residence was a house in the Westbourne area of Bournemouth, the 'site' of the house which was named 'Skerryvore' by the Stevensons is at the junction of A lum Chine Road and the road that was named in his honour - R L Stevenson Avenue - Sadly, all that remains of the house, which was badly damaged by enemy action during the Second World War are the gardens which have been laid out in the form of the original building and contain a model of the 'Skerryvore' lighthouse, which was designed by and built his relatives and their family firm. It is said that, even though he was suffering from

tuberculosis during his stay in Bournemouth, this was a very prolific time in his writing. It was because of his poor health that Stevenson chose to live in Bournemouth, he was attracted like many others to the clear air of Bournemouth and its growing reputation as a 'Health Resort'. Although, the Pine Trees and open heathland reminded Stevenson of his Scottish homeland and gave him inspiration for his writing, it was not enough to keep him in Bournemouth. It would seem that the attributes given to the resort of Bournemouth, were not the conditions required by Stevenson to improve his health and the Stevenson left Bournemouth in 1887 for his final destination and now resting place, of Samoa in the South Seas.


R L Stevenson died in 1894 at the age of 44.

The gardens are open to the Public all year rou

As from the house your mother sees

You playing round the garden trees,

So you may see, if you will look

Through the windows of this book,

Another child, far, far away,

And in another garden, play.

But do not think you can at all,

By knocking on the window, call

That child to hear you. He intent

Is all on his play-business bent.

He does not hear, he will not look,

Nor yet be lured out of this book.

For, long ago, the truth to say,

He has grown up and gone away,

And it is but a child of air

That lingers in the garden there.


         Robert Louis Stevenson