Norrie Woodhall

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011
Norrie with the New Hardy Players
Norrie with the New Hardy Players

We were sad to hear the news last week that Norrie Woodhall, one of the most recognised and popular people in Dorchester, had passed away. What an incredible life she led – born in December 1905, she lived through almost the entirety of the 20th century, and her longevity meant that she was the last surviving person to know Thomas Hardy personally.

Hardy was already a living legend when in 1924 he chose Norrie for the part of Liza Lu in the stage version of Tess of the d’Ubervilles. She was 18 at the time, while he was 84 and in the last years of his life. She always spoke fondly of her time with Hardy, remembering him as a kind and modest man.

The Telegraph has put together a fantastic obituary, with some fascinating insights about Hardy and Norrie, and his controversial relationship with her older sister Gertrude. It’s well worth a read and is testament to Norrie’s remarkable life that her death has created such interest among the public and press alike.

One of her greatest achievements came in 2005 when she re-instituted the Hardy Players, the group she was originally a member of back in 1924. She also worked tirelessly to raise funds for the Dorset County Museum, and helped to ensure valuable Thomas Hardy memorabilia including scripts and notes stayed in the public domain rather than being sold to America.

She was a truly remarkable lady and a great ambassador for the town who will be sorely missed.

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