An Exhibition of Merrily Harpur’s Artwork

Merrily Harpur at Work

Merrily Harpur at Work

Dorset County Museum is pleased to present an exhibition by Merrily Harpur, the well-known cartoonist and illustrator, her work having appeared regularly in all the national broadsheets, and in books by Kingsley Amis, Miles Kington, Gerald Durrell, John Michell and others.  She also found time to write the authoritative study of Britain’s mystery big cats – the panther- and puma-like creatures regularly spotted in our countryside, not least in Dorset.

Rodden the Wind from the Sea by Merrily Harpur

Rodden the Wind from the Sea by Merrily Harpur

However she has always been a secret painter of landscapes, and upon moving to this county fell hopelessly in love with its beauties and surprises – the unexpected changes of angle and perspective that West Dorset offers with each half mile travelled.  She paints en plein air or, more accurately, in situ – sitting in the car, enjoying the scent of turpentine and listening to Radio 3. If you spot a mossy, mud-bespattered car in an unlikely corner of a field or lane, this could be her – probably paint-bespattered – attempting to conjure up, in paint, the genius loci – the particular magic of our place.

She now lives and paints in Cattistock, where in 2013 she inaugurated the Fox Festival, and wrote the libretto for Nick Morris’s acclaimed oratorio The Fox That Walked on Water.

Merrily’s work will be on view from 16 January 2017 – 1 April 2017 in the museum’s Tea Room, and it will be FREE to come and view. Her work will be for sale during the exhibition.

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Evening Talk & Book Launch: ‘A Freezing Horror’, the Wreck of the Halsewell East Indiaman

The Unfortunate Captain Peirce and the Wreck of the HalsewellOne freezing night in January 1786 a shocking and dramatic shipwreck on the Dorset coast stunned the nation. Local author Philip Browne’s talk at Dorset County Museum sheds fresh light on the career of Captain Richard Peirce of the East India Company and the wreck of his ship, the Halsewell.

On Wednesday 2nd December at 7.30pm at the Dorset County Museum, Philip Browne will draw on original research to explore the factors that led to the shipwreck and will examine the impact of the disaster on Captain Peirce’s own family and the response of society to this horrific event. Come along and find out the answers to the questions who was Captain Peirce, and was he to blame for the loss of his ship and the deaths of his own daughters?

Signed copies of Philip Browne’s book ‘The Unfortunate Captain Peirce and the Wreck of the Halsewell’ will be on sale after the talk.

The talk is on Wednesday 2nd December 2015 : 7.00pm for 7.30pm and is FREE, although a small donation of £3 is requested to cover costs. For further information and other forthcoming events contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Book Launch and Signing, The Song Collector by Natasha Solomons With traditional Dorset Folk Musician Tim Laycock

Natasha Solomon author of The Song Collector

Natasha Solomon author of The Song Collector

On Wednesday 1st July Dorset County Museum will host an evening of singing to launch local author Natasha Solomon’s new book, The Song Collector.

The popular author of Mr Rosenblum’s List and The House of Tyneford will be signing copies of her new book, which will be available to purchase on the

The Song Collector by Natasha Solomon

The Song Collector by Natasha Solomon

evening. She will be accompanied by the traditional Dorset folk musician Tim Laycock for an evening of song and ballads.

Tickets cost £5 each and are available from the Museum’s shop, or by phoning 01305 756827. The price of the ticket can be redeemed against a copy of The Song Collector on the evening.

All proceeds from this event will go towards the Dorset County Museum’s Collections Discovery Centre Development

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Dress owned by Thomas Hardy’s sister goes on display at Museum

Katharine Hardy

Katharine Hardy © DCM

Dorset County Museum’s textile archive includes a significant collection of clothing originally owned by Thomas Hardy’s family. Among the pieces is a stunning red bustle dress worn by his sister Katherine.

Until now most of the collection has remained in storage but a generous grant from the Daphne Bullard Trust has enabled the dress to be specially prepared and placed on display in the Museum’s Writers Gallery.

Bustle dress from 1890s owned by Kate Hardy, sister of Thomas Hardy © Jonathan Gooding 2014

Bustle dress from 1890s owned by Kate Hardy, sister of Thomas Hardy © Jonathan Gooding 2014

The bustle dress has been mounted on a bespoke mannequin with text panels and photographs showing the context in which it was worn. The dress, made in about 1889, consists of a bodice and skirt in red grosgrain silk. It is an evocative, personal garment with a tight-fitting, fashionable bodice and skirt. With its luxurious red silk and bustle, it is similar to the fashionable dresses Tess wears in Hardy’s famous novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

Displaying the dress both safely and sympathetically was a complicated project. A particular consideration was Kate Hardy’s large bust. She also had a very small waist and narrow shoulders so a special mannequin was adapted with additional padding in the relevant areas. A petticoat was added for support and padded arms allow the sleeves to hold their natural shape. Extra pads were finally attached around the hips to help support the weight of the skirt and prevent stress on the original fastenings.

To see the dress, visit Dorset County Museum between 10.00am to 4.00pm, Monday to Saturday.

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Daphne Bullard Trust Hardy Signs

Katharine Hardy’s Dress exhibited at the Dorset County Museum

Katharine Hardy

Katharine Hardy © DCM

A significant collection of Thomas Hardy’s family clothes has recently been researched and documented at Dorset County Museum. This collection, spanning three generations of the Hardy family from 1800 to 1928, tell us so much about the shape, tastes and lives of the original wearers. It includes Thomas Hardy’s embroidered christening robe, a crinoline dress worn by his mother and a striking red bustle dress worn by his sister Katharine (Kate). Until now most of this collection has remained in storage, as it requires specialist mounting and display.

Dorset County Museum selected Katharine Hardy’s dress for display, as it is particularly significant in terms of colour, design, Hardy family history and in illustrating descriptions of dress in Hardy’s literature.

Bustle dress from 1890s owned by Kate Hardy, sister of Thomas Hardy © Jonathan Gooding 2014 Bustle dress from 1890s owned by Kate Hardy, sister of Thomas Hardy © Jonathan Gooding 2014

Bustle dress from 1890s owned by Kate Hardy, sister of Thomas Hardy –
Images © Jonathan Gooding 2014

Kate Hardy, born in 1856, was also involved in bequeathing the Hardy archive to Dorset County Museum. The importance of this collection is recognised through its recent inscription on the UK Register of Important Literary Heritage under the UNESCO ‘Memory of the World’ programme.

The grant from the Daphne Bullard Trust enabled this dress to be mounted on a conservation-grade mannequin and displayed in the Thomas Hardy Gallery, in which there was previously no examples of dress. This display will be pivotal in engaging a new and broader audience for the Gallery. It is sure to stimulate public fascination and this visually attractive and accessible object of personal significance will bring the literature to life.

The Dress

Donated in 1984, the dress consists of a bodice and skirt in red, ribbed (grosgrain) silk. It was made in c.1889 by the linen drapers, Genge, Dixon & Jameson in Dorchester.

Kate Hardy (front left) with other teachers © DCM

Kate Hardy (front left) with other teachers © DCM

Kate Hardy (left) © DCM

Kate Hardy (left) © DCM

Tess of the DUrbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

An evocative personal garment with its tight-fitting, fashionable bodice and skirt, it closely resembles a dress worn by Kate, a local teacher, in photographs above. With its luxurious red silk and bustle it is also similar to the fashionable dress Tess wears in Tess of the d’Urbervilles when she is fleeing with her husband Angel Clare, having stabbed Alec d’Urberville:

‘Her clothes were of the latest fashion, even to the dainty ivory-handled parasol that she carried, a fashion unknown in the retired spot to which they had now wandered; and the cut of such articles would have attracted attention in the settle of a tavern.’

Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Penguin Classics, 2008, (first published 1891), p. 390

Conservation and Mounting the Dress

Conservation Mounting of Kate Hardys Dress_001 Conservation Mounting of Kate Hardys Dress_003

The intention of this project was to display the dress both safely and sympathetically by providing adequate support. It was also important for the result to look aesthetically pleasing to the museum visitor.

Dresses of this period were less structured and supported by petticoats although there is a small bustle pad attached to back of skirt.

Dresses of this period were less structured and supported by petticoats although there is a small bustle pad attached to back of skirt.

A particular consideration was Kate’s large bust as it was difficult to weigh up “filling” every fold but wanting the bodice to look as natural as possible.

A particular consideration was Kate’s large bust as it was difficult to weigh up “filling” every fold but wanting the bodice to look as natural as possible.

Kate Hardy had a very small waist and narrow shoulders so a museum grade mannequin was purchased. This was adapted by padding relevant areas with polyester wadding. Strips of wadding were sewn onto the torso with care taken to work symmetrically. When the correct shape was acquired the entire mannequin was covered with cotton jersey. The fabric was left unstitched in places to allow more padding to be added if necessary when the dress was finally placed on mannequin.

Conservation Mounting of Kate Hardys Dress_004 Conservation Mounting of Kate Hardys Dress_005

A calico petticoat was made and attached to the torso and net flounces were sewn in layers to support the skirt and accentuate the slight train of the dress. A silk overskirt was made to prevent the net catching the fragile lining of the skirt and enable ease of dressing the mannequin.

Conservation Mounting of Kate Hardys Dress_008 Conservation Mounting of Kate Hardys Dress_009

Padded arm supports were made with a slight curve to allow sleeves to hold their natural shape. These were attached at the shoulder point only and allowed to hang freely to enable easier dressing of the mannequin.

Conservation Mounting of Kate Hardys Dress_010Extra pads were attached around the hips to help support the weight of the skirt and prevent stress on the original fastenings.

A pattern was taken of neck and conservation board cut to shape and covered with a grey polyester fabric. The neck circle of the mannequin was covered in same way and reattached by sewing. A ‘bib’ was sewn onto the mannequin to match and fill the open neckline for photography and display.

The intention was to bring this vibrant dress belonging to Kate Hardy to life and this has been achieved. The dress is well supported on the adapted mannequin and is now on display in the Dorset Writers Gallery, enhancing this space with its dramatic presence.

Displaying the Dress

The display opened in the Thomas Hardy Gallery on Friday 12th December, 2014. The garment is displayed in a case together with Kate’s black and white striped parasol. It is the first time that it has been displayed alongside photographs of the wearer and in the context of Thomas Hardy’s literary heritage.

Displaying Kate Hardys Dress_004 Displaying Kate Hardys Dress_005
The dress is positioned in front of an illustration of Stonehenge, from the serialisation of Tess of the d’Urbervilles in The Graphic, 1891. Tess of the d’Urbervilles, wearing a similar dress, is resting on a slab of stone before being arrested © DCM

The dress is positioned in front of an illustration of Stonehenge, from the serialisation of Tess of the d’Urbervilles in The Graphic, 1891. Tess of the d’Urbervilles, wearing a similar dress, is resting on a slab of stone before being arrested © DCM

A text panel, labels and photographs interpret the dress in the context of Kate Hardy’s life, and the rich array of clothing described in Thomas Hardy’s works, illuminating fiction with fashion. The display also reflects the inspiring and engaging potential of collections, uncovering new research and displaying previously unseen objects for public enjoyment.

Displaying Kate Hardys Dress_001 Displaying Kate Hardys Dress_002

The dress will be linked with the Thomas Hardy: Fashion, Fact and Fiction exhibition at Dorset County Museum, planned for April 2019. This exhibition will examine Hardy’s work from a fresh perspective in the context of fashion, interweaving costume with images, letters, literature and diaries. It will be based around a core Dorset County Museum collection of dress worn by Thomas Hardy and his family, fashionable dress and rural workers clothing.

Dorset County Museum is very grateful to the Daphne Bullard Trust for its generous support in making this project possible.

Helen Francis, Mounting Conservator
Lucy Johnston, Curator
Dorset County Museum,
12th December 2014

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Daphne Bullard Trust Hardy Signs

The Painter of Victorian Dorset, Henry Joseph Moule by Gwen Yarker, BEM

View from the North side of Poundbury by Henry Joseph Moule, 10th July 1880

View from the North side of Poundbury by Henry Joseph Moule, 10th July 1880 © DCM

On Thursday 30th January 2014, local art historian and curator Gwen Yarker is giving a lecture at Dorset County Museum on the watercolour paintings of Henry Joseph Moule.

Henry Joseph Moule produced several thousand paintings of the Dorset countryside, particularly around Dorchester. An antiquarian and author, he was first curator of the newly built Dorset County Museum.  Thomas Hardy and Moule were close associates and through Moule’s paintings this lecture will illustrate the Dorset they both knew and loved.

Gwen Yarker has been a curator of art in national and regional museums. She has produced a large number of exhibitions featuring local artists, including two exploring the Dorset watercolours of Henry Moule. Most recently she curated the highly successful Georgian Faces exhibition at Dorset County Museum. Through an important curatorial grant from the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art, Gwen is now researching a major exhibition on twentieth-century painters working in Dorset

The talk is FREE of charge but a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.  Doors open at 7.00pm and the talk will commence at 7.30pm.  For further information please see www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or telephone 01305 262735.