Hardy's Wessex

The landscapes that inspired a writer

The Salisbury Museum

Urban Wessex - Women’s equality and religion

Step into the urban world of Thomas Hardy’s novels. Find out about the strong women that shaped the young Hardy, how he went on to campaign for women’s rights, as well as his thoughts on religion.

The Salisbury Museum is housed in the building that was formerly the teacher training college where Hardy’s sisters studied to be teachers. Both of them avoided marriage, taking the advice of their mother to put their careers first.

Star loan object at The Salisbury Museum

On loan from: The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

A key theme in The Salisbury Museum’s exhibition is Hardy’s views on religion. The novel Jude the Obscure is about a stonemason who works on Hardy’s ‘Melchester’ Cathedral (Salisbury). It was Hardy’s last completed novel.

The museum is located under the shadow of the cathedral’s famous spire, and the manuscript will sit alongside stonemasonry tools used by a Salisbury stonemason.

Our star loans were made possible by support from the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund.

Jude the Obscure manuscript


Handwritten manuscript
Courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Image number: Ms 1-1911_1_202108_mfj22_dc1

The man behind the writer

Meet the man behind the writer, through objects as personal as Hardy’s granny’s kettle, in which she boiled tea while telling Hardy the stories that would shape his imagination. 

Look at his beautifully-drawn church designs, giving a glimpse of the ambitious young architect who dreamt of becoming a writer.

Explore these questions:

  • Was Hardy born to be a writer, or was he the product of an ambitious mother?
  • What did women of the day think of Hardy’s writing?
  • Why did Hardy go from aspiring to be a vicar to having his book burnt by the Bishop of Wakefield for obscenity?

Highlights for visitors

  • See Kate Hardy’s stunning red silk dress that she wore as a teacher in Dorchester.
  • Read some of her letters describing what it was like to have to make the choice between career and relationship.
Victorian style red dress as worn by Hardy's sister
Red silk dress worn by Hardy's sister, Kate. Photo: Dorset Museum/Jonathan Gooding
Intricately decorated blue velvet cape with gold fringing
Cape belonging to Hardy's friend, Millicent
Fawcett, a campaigner for women's rights.

Planning your visit

For details of opening times, admission prices, facilities, directions, etc, please visit The Salisbury Museum’s website.

We are hugely grateful to Battens Solicitors for sponsoring this exhibition. 

Our star loans were made possible by support from the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund

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