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Thomas Hardy Statue

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

The statue of Thomas Hardy beside the Top o’ Town roundabout is one of the most recognisable landmarks in Dorchester. It depicts Hardy sitting on a tree stump, looking thoughtfully ahead with a book on his lap (it is said that the decision to sculpt Hardy sitting was made to compensate for the fact that he was known to be very short in stature!)

The statue is a testament to the impact that Hardy has had on the town – his novels and poems still play a major role in shaping the self-image of Dorchester and its residents to this day. But what do we know about the statue itself? This week’s blog looks at the history behind this iconic monument…

About The Sculptor

Eric Kennington

The Hardy Statue was created by renowned sculptor Eric Henri Kennington in 1931. Kennington was born in London in 1888, the son of a portrait artist Thomas Kennington. He served in the British Army during the First World War, and was sent home after being badly wounded in June 1915.

Unable to return to frontline action due to his injuries, Kennington was employed by the War Propaganda Bureau in 1917 to create pictures of the Western Front. With demand for memorials high at the end of the war, he became a stone carver and spent the next few years designing a great many war memorials around the country.

By the end of the 1920s he was one of the country’s most highly regarded sculptors. In 1931, after completing a set of relief panels for the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford, Kennington was commisioned to work on creating Thomas Hardy’s Statue for Dorchester.

Unveiling The Statue

The finished statue was unveiled on 2nd September of 1931 by J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan and a long-time close friend of Thomas Hardy. The ceremony was captured on film and can be seen below.

Hardy’s Statue Today

Today, Hardy’s statue still occupies pride of place at the top of the High Street that the author himself knew so well. There have been ongoing discussions about possibly moving the statue to a more central position in the town, but so far no one has been willing to uproot the author from the spot he has occupied for the last 80 years.

And while the bronze may have faded a little since its unveiling, the statue remains one of the best loved landmarks in Dorchester. One Dorchester resident recently paid an affectionate tribute to the statue by adorning it in some knitted decorations including a hat and socks!

In coming weeks on the blog we’ll be looking at other sites in Dorchester with a connection to the life and works of Thomas Hardy. In the meantime, you can find more information about the celebrated author in our Thomas Hardy Resources.

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