As we have mentioned before, Dorset’s most famous author is Thomas Hardy, who was born in Dorset and lived much of his life here. Many of his novels – Far from the Madding Crowd, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, The Mayor of Casterbridge to name a few – are clearly set in Dorset and these locations can be recognised in existing towns today. For example, the fictional town of Casterbridge is based on the county town, Dorchester.
Both his birthplace at Higher Bockhampton, known as Hardy’s Cottage and his home at Max Gate in Dorchester are owned by the National Trust (so free to members!) and open to visitors. To help visitors track locations from their favourite novels there is an official Thomas Hardy trail leaflet
Many other authors have used Dorset as an inspiration. Enid Blyton used many Dorset landscapes, and in particular the areas around Purbeck and Poole Harbour.
Author T E Lawrence (known as Lawrence of Arabia), lived at Clouds Hill near Wareham. The cottage where he lived and wrote is owned by the National Trust and open to the public.
Lyme Regis is the setting for another classic novel by modern writer John Fowles – The French Lieutenant’s Woman. The film of the book starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons was largely filmed here. The author Jane Austen often visited Lyme Regis and her novel Persuasion is partly set in the town (visitors might like to know that there is much more information in the Lyme Regis Museum). Jane Austen lived and died not far away in Alton in Hampshire; and she is buried in Winchester Cathedral.
Dorset is also heavily used for television and film locations. Visitors may be keen to visit West Bay (on the coast south of Bridport), which is the setting for the hit television series Broadchurch. This has proved so popular that a walking trail has been launched to help visitors discover the settings of various scenes (download it here). Older visitors may remember another TV drama series from the late nineties called Harbour Lights, also filmed in West Bay.
In 2013, Hollywood film crews descended on Sherborne and Mapperton House near Beaminster to shoot Thomas Vinterberg’s adaptation of Hardy’s fourth novel and first major literary success Far From the Madding Crowd. Film locations include Mapperton House, Sherborne Abbey, Castleton Church and Abbey Close, the streets of which were transformed into an 1870s market square for the fictional town of Casterbridge.
Purbeck was used for the film Nanny McPhee with Emma Thompson and Colin Firth; and Weymouth has seen a variety of stars on its beach including the cast of EastEnders and the presenters from CBeebies!