Carols, Songs and Dancing: The Musical Heritage of Thomas Hardy’s Family

Among the fine collection of Hardy items in the Dorset County Museum, one of the most interesting is the music-book which belonged to his father and grandfather.  This is a hand-written book of carols, hymns, ballads and songs which had been passed down orally and collected over the generations, and the pages sewn together in this simple homemade book.

Here are two carols from the family carol book used for ‘Going the Rounds’ at Christmas, when the Mellstock Quire visited the cottages around Bockhampton and Stinsford to sing carols to the locals. If you’re musical, you might have a go at playing them!

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night

Hark The Herald Angels Sing

hark-the-herald-angels-sing_1Hark The Herald Angels Sing

Thomas Hardy’s grandfather, father and other relatives played violins and cellos in the West Gallery church choirs at Stinsford and Puddletown until about 1835-40, when the church replaced the instrumentalists with barrel organs.

On Christmas Eve, the tradition was for these singers and players to walk through the dark night, lit only by lanterns, carrying their music and instruments, to sing and play carols at all the cottages and houses.

From these family musicians, the young Thomas inherited a love of music.  As a boy, he was taught to tune and play the fiddle by his father, with whom he played at parties and weddings.  He later drew on the family memories of the choir in Under the Greenwood Tree:


Shortly after ten o’clock the singing-boys arrived at the tranter’s house, which was invariably the place of meeting, and preparations were made for the start. The older men and musicians wore thick coats, with stiff perpendicular collars, and coloured handkerchiefs wound round and round the neck till the end came to hand, which they just showed their ears and noses, like people looking over a wall. The remainder, stalwart ruddy men and boys, were dressed mainly in snow-white smock-frocks, embroidered upon the shoulders and breasts, in ornamental forms of hearts, diamonds, and zigzags. The cider-mug was emptied for the ninth time, the music-books were arranged, and the pieces finally decided upon. The boys in the meantime put the old horn-lanterns in order, cut candles into short lengths to fit the lanterns; and, a thin fleece of snow having fallen since the early part of the evening, those who had no leggings went to the stable and wound wisps of hay round their ankles to keep the insidious flakes from the interior of their boots.



Just before the clock struck twelve they lighted the lanterns and started. The moon, in her third quarter, had risen since the snowstorm; but the dense accumulation of snow-cloud weakened her power to a faint twilight, which was rather pervasive of the landscape than traceable to the sky. The breeze had gone down, and the rustle of their feet and tones of their speech echoed with an alert rebound from every post, boundary-stone, and ancient wall they passed, even where the distance of the echo’s origin was less than a few yards. Beyond their own slight noises nothing was to be heard, save the occasional bark of foxes in the direction of Yalbury Wood, or the brush of a rabbit among the grass now and then, as it scampered out of their way.”

Helen Gibson
Honorary Curator of the Thomas Hardy Archive and Collection

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Literary Lives: Thomas Hardy and Folk Song by Dr. Peter Robson

Musicians of Mellstock Choir - Hardy Players 1910 DCM © 2015

Musicians of Mellstock Choir – Hardy Players 1910 DCM © 2015

Thomas Hardy refers to more than thirty folk songs in his novels, with many further references in his poetry, short stories, letters etc. 

Some knowledge of the folk songs in Hardy’s writings helps the reader to appreciate how appropriate they are to the author’s plotting, characterisation and settings. The songs can also occasionally throw light on Hardy’s own background.

This exploration of Hardy and Dorset song will begin by looking at the nature of folksong and at the golden age of folksong collecting, with particular reference to the work of the Hammond brothers in Dorset. Dr. Robson will then illustrate the variety of places where references to folksongs may be found in Hardy’s published and unpublished writings.

From this body of material it is then possible to suggest where and how Hardy might have obtained the songs which he knew and to look at some examples of the ways in which he used folk songs in his novels. Finally, the speaker will identify the songs which seem to have been Hardy’s personal favourites, and at a song which was actually collected from him.

Dr. Peter Robson has been researching Dorset folklore and folksong for many years and has written and spoken widely on this subject. Most recently he has become particularly interested in Thomas Hardy’s writings as an almost untapped source for the study of rural folklore.

The lecture will take place on Thursday 30 June in the Dorset County Museum’s Victorian Hall and is FREE to the public; however a donation of £3 encouraged to cover costs. Doors open at 7.00pm for a 7.30pm start.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

All the fun of a Victorian Fayre at the Dorset County Museum

The Victorian Fayre last year at the Dorset County Museum

The Victorian Fayre last year at the Dorset County Museum

On Sunday 21st February, from 2.00pm to 5.00pm, the Dorset County Museum opens its doors for the second year running to a traditional Victorian Fayre to celebrate the birthday of William Barnes, Dorset dialect poet. This FREE event will offer something for all the family.

Stalls will include traditional crafts and gifts and the chance to learn rural skills. There will be Maypole dancing for the children as well as popular parlour games.

The friends of the William Barnes Society and Tim Laycock, well-known folk musician, actor and storyteller will provide traditional singing, music, dance and poetry reading throughout the afternoon.

Frome Valley Morris Mummer

Frome Valley Morris Mummer

The Frome Valley Morris Men will perform the Mummers and Hoodening play. The event would not be complete without a raffle, quiz and a Victorian afternoon tea.

Marion Tait, Honorary Curator of the William Barnes Gallery and Archive said that last year the Victorian Fayre was a huge success and was hoping for a repeat performance.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

The Dorset Ooser

This monstrous wooden mask, a bull’s hair and horns mounted on its low brow, was used to scare people at midwinter gatherings. Another was reported at Shillingstone and there may have been many more throughout Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire.  The Rev. William Barnes defines Ooser, oose or wu’se, as ‘a mask…with grim jaws, put on with a cow’s skin to frighten folk. “Wurse” … is a name of the arch-fiend.’

The replica Dorset Ooser mask that hangs in the Writer’s Gallery of the Dorset County Museum was carved by John Byfleet in 1975 for the Wessex Morris Men and is often used in May Day celebrations at Cerne Abbas and in dance performances.  DCM © 2015

The replica Dorset Ooser mask that hangs in the Writer’s Gallery of the Dorset County Museum was carved by John Byfleet in 1975 for the Wessex Morris Men and is still used in May Day celebrations at Cerne Abbas and in dance performances. DCM © 2015

From the ‘Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society’ Volume 84, 1962, an article written by the H. S. L. Dewar. entitled ‘The Dorset Ooser

This extraordinary object, portrayed in the illustration, has, most unfortunately disappeared from human ken. Some 65 years ago it was in the possession iof the Cave family at Holt Farm, Melbury Osmond. When Dr. Edward Cave left Holt for Crewkerne in Somerset before the year 1897, he took the Ooser with him. Leaving Crewkerne for Bath in 1897, for the time being the mask was left in ‘the care of the family coachman. When Dr. Cave enquired for it subsequently, it appears that he was told it had been disposed of. It is suggested that it may have eventually found its way to America.

Dorset Ooser, Melbury Osmond. This horned mask was formeriy in me possession of Mr. Gave of Holt Farm, but has long since disappeared. DCM © 2015

Dorset Ooser, Melbury Osmond. This horned mask was formeriy in me possession of Mr. Cave of Holt Farm, but has long since disappeared. DCM © 2015

The hollow mask, for such it was, is said to have been in the care of the Cave family from time out of mind. But although it has now been lost to sight, the memory of it and its associations in the district still provide great interest to students of folklore and others. That the mask was the last of a long line of renewals can hardly be doubted, since it was made of wood as a base, and must have suffered periodically from woodworm and decay.

As can be seen in the illustration, the mark was provided with a lower jaw which was moveable, and gnashing teeth, the jaw being worked by a string. It was adorned with crisped hair, flowing whiskers, a beard, and a fine pair of horns. Between the eyebrows it bears a rounded boss for which it is difficult to find an explanation. The expression of the eyes conveys a really agonized spirit of hatred, terror and despair. That the head in its turn was intended to inspire terror in the minds of the foolish and the wicked is unquestionable. It is perhaps the latest representation of ithe Devil to be made and used in England. The Devil, be it said, whom the Church of England has recently decided to retain in the Catechism, no doubt with good reason. The Ooser was, nevertheless, an unorthodox representation of the King of Evil.

The tradition that inspired both the creation of the Devil at large and the manufacture of his varied images is, of course, nearly as old as man himself. We find his prototypes, probably connected with phallic or fertiility worship, in the Mesolithic period. At Starr Carr in Yorkshire some 9000 years ago, the primitive hunters of the Middle Stone Age were making skull-caps for ‘wear out of the skulls and antlers of deer. Archaeologists believe they were intended to be worn for ritual use in dances connected with their hopes for ‘successful hunting. The fertility of both the hunters and the hunted was something that had to be achieved for the perpetuation of the tribe and for its sustenance.

The rituals that inspired this kind of performance were already thousands of years old. We have only to turn to the painting of a man disguised in the skin and horned head of an animal in the cave of Les Trois Freres in France to see what is perhaps the earliest representation of a priest of this fertility cult, his face turned to the spectators for admiration. Antlers have been recorded as found near the heads of individuals buried in Bowl-barrows of the Early Bronze Age in Dorset.

Today, in the famous, annual horn-dance at Abbots Bromley in Staffordshire, the modern equivalents may be seen, though politely modified, perhaps descended from remote antiquity through various -media. Incidentally, the Abbots Bromley horns are said to be hung up in the Church between the ceremonies.

It is not difficult to trace the evolution of a god of an early cult, or a fertility spirit with attendant ritual., to the Devil of a succeeding religion. The new priests still needed to keep some of the images of the older faith, and to trot them out periodically for the edification of the people, or as a warning. The transition from god of pleasure or plenty to god of pain, often in a subordinate and derogatory position as a devil, was assured. For example, the crude fertility symbolism of the Giant of Gerne Abbas was preserved, probably through May Day revels, by the local inhabitants, with the presumed, though perhaps tacit assent of the Church, and of the Abbey of Cerne.

Thus it may well be, as the inhabitants of Melbury Osmond believe, the Ooser, originally an image connected with fertility worship, was eventually relegated to occasions for “Skimity Riding” (Information from Mr. K. G. Knight.), (sometimes rendered as “Skimmerton”) as in Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, and “Rough Music”. This performance may be explained by pointing out that before the days of the Divorce Courts and the popular press, public opinion had a good way of expressing interest in and disapproval of husband-beating, scolding, sexual unfaithfulness or irregularity, and cuckoldry. Many of these are, after all, often due to the uncontrolled excess of the urge to fertility. And so, when an aberrant pair, or an erring spouse was located, the man, or sometimes the woman, or both, were made to ride on a donkey or a horse, face to tail. Meanwhile the crowd made rude and rough music by beating on frying pans and ketitles, bull’s horns, marrow bones and cleavers. Such was the band with which they had earlier woken and serenaded the sinful. Elsewhere, the donkey was called a “celebrated Jerusalem,” a curiously inverted form of sarcasm. At Melbury it is related that the Ooser was brought out and paraded to complete such a show. Skimmity Riding is portrayed on a panel in one of the rooms in Montacute House in Somerset.

By now the once triumphant horn of plenty, fertility and power had become a symbol of scorn, horror and derision. The latest phase of all seems to have been when the Ooser’s head — or was the head itself the Ooser — on occasion used to be brought to the door of the tallet (hay-loft) of a barn to terrify the children of the village(Information from Mr. K. G. Knight.) should occasion call for it. The word “tallet” is of some interest here, since it seems to be akin to the Welsh : “taflod”, a hay-loft, and its use as a dialect word in Dorset could indicate a Celtic origin.

The tale is still told in (Melbury that it was sometimes used to scare grown up people as well as young ones, chains being attached, while lucifer matches were pushed alight into the head. One is tempted to visualize smoke pouring from the infernal nostrils. The story goes that once it was so used to frighten a stable-hand (Information from Mr. K. G. Knight.), and that in a fright he jumped through a window and so injured himself that his ‘life was despaired of. At one time it is said that the Ooser was kept in the Malt House, which was once a Button Factory, and now a Chapel. If one looks for a parallel elsewhere, Violet A If or d in her book on English Folk-Dances, records that a man used to accompany the ‘Christmas Wassailers at Kingscote in Gloucestershire, “dressed in a sack, his head in a real bull’s face, head and horns complete”.

The name Ooser may be connected with “Wurse,” as William Barnes remarked, the name of the arch-fiend-himself in Layamond’s Brut. Others believe it connected with “Osor,” a name used in Italy in the 17th century for the Devil of the ‘Christians. It seems possible that the Ooser may claim relationship with such figures as the Mayday Jack-in-the-Green, or the Green Man of our Inn signs. He is likely enough an off-shoot from the 14th century and later Mummers’ plays. Some authorities hold that the older form of Mumming was “(Masking”, while Polydore Vergil relates that the disguising and mumming at Christmas were derived from the feasts of Pallas that were done with vizars and painted -masks. Again, it is known that in early ‘Christian times people ran about wearing masks upon New Year’s Day on the occasion of the Feast of Circumcision, imitating a pagan superstition. In ancient missals the words written in the mass for this day were : “Missa ad prohibendum ab idalis” A clue can very likely be seen also in Isaiah xxxiv. 14.

These masques or mysteries may have evolved eventually into the Morality Plays. In France, men and women (wearing such disguises are said to have been forbidden going to the Churches in 1598 at the instigation of the Bishop of Angres, and by State Legislation in 1668. A suggestion has also been made that “Ooser” is a derivative of “Guisard” or “Guiser”, connected with such words as “vizard,” “vizor,” or “vizard,” the old words for “Mummer” or “Guise.”

Mr. G. W. ‘Greening of Dorchester can recall the figure of a Beelzebub which puffed smoke, had four short legs and a tail like a crocodile, in a play performed by the Bradstock Mummers when he was a boy. It is a great pity that such figures as the Ooser should have faded into the mists of time. It is only due to the great interest taken in folklore by a few enthusiasts, and by Mrs. H. H. (Marshall, a daughter of Dr. Edward Cave, and by Mr. K. G. Knigiht of Evershot, and the very retentive memories of the older men and women of Melbury Osmond that many of the above details have been preserved.

Those who wish to pursue the subject may be referred to F. T. Elworthy’s Horns of Honour, and to Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries, Vol. ii (1891), p.289, or to any of a vast number of books concerning the Devil and his Works that are to be found in most public libraries. Skimmity Riding is discussed in Brand’s Popular Antiquities, and elsewhere.
It may be permissible to ask philologists whether there is any evidence that the ‘well-known Hampshire dialect word “Wooster”, meaning a lover, and “Wooster blister,” a mark allegedly caused by a lover’s kiss, is related to the Ooser?

  • The writer’s thanks are most cordially given to Mr. R. N. R. Peers, to Mr. G. W. Greening, and to Mr. K. G. Knight of the Melbury Estate Staff, for their interest in local traditions about the Ooser, and for the trouble they have taken in the matter. Last but not least, also to Mrs. H. H. Marshall, who has come forward with some new facts after this paper had been almost completed. It should be noted that “Ooser” is pronounced with a short, quick “s”, as in “boss,” not as in “nose.”

Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Vol 135 – 2014

Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Volume 135 - 2014The Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Vol 135 – 2014 is out now and available at the Dorset County Museum shop for £15.00. For more enquiries Tel: 01305 262735 or email

One of the articles featured in the Proceedings and which is of particular interest this time of year is the folk custom of Mumming Plays.

Mumming plays, like several other winter customs, have enjoyed a huge revival in modern times, largely due to the enthusiasm of morris sides. This paper written by Jerry Bird titled  ‘Mumming Plays in Hardy’s Wessex’, delves into the mysterious origins of the Christmas mumming play, before examining its extent and importance in the County of Dorset.

The Mummers, as remembered by Thomas Hardy for the Mummers' play in the 'Return of the Native' performed in Dorchester in 1920 by The Hardy players

The Mummers, as remembered by Thomas Hardy for the Mummers’ play in the ‘Return of the Native’ performed in Dorchester in 1920 by The Hardy players © DCM

Thomas Hardy famously used a mumming play as a dramatic device in his novel Return of the Native, and seems to have had an abiding interest in folk-drama generally; his last published work which was not poetry was The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall, billed as a ‘play for mummers’. He came from a long line of folk-musicians and his cousins performed in the Puddletown play. Despite this, the play he used in his novel appears not to have a local origin, though his description of the players was accurate, and he later borrowed a genuine Dorset script to write a new version for a stage production of ‘Return of the Native’ in the 1920s, thus inadvertently becoming an early revivalist.

Jerry Bird has collected together numerous references to mumming plays in Dorset, and the paper is well illustrated with photographs from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library and elsewhere. The incident in which the Fordington mummers did battle with the Bockhampton band in Dorchester in 1845 is covered, with contemporary newspaper accounts reproduced here in full for the first time.The author explores the social and economic background to this event in the context of the upheavals of the time amongst the rural workforce, which included rick-burnings and the’Swing riots’ as well as the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ trial.

The well-known folklorist John Symonds Udal, author of Dorsetshire Folk-lore was an early collector of mumming plays, and fortunately the author was able to have access to his original play scripts and notes. There seems to have been a distinctive character to West Dorset plays in particular, which incorporated other traditions such as the ‘hobby horse’ and the Dorset Ooser.

The Appendix includes the scripts of ten Dorset plays, including Hardy’s own version. These are well annotated with extensive notes, and illustrations, including some musical notation and a photograph of one of Udal’s original scripts.

Other Papers in the Proceedings include:

  • Mabel St Clair Stobart 1862-1954: The Lady of the Black Horse, Peter Down, 1-19
  • ‘Primitive Betrothal’: The Portland Custom and Thomas Hardy’s The Well-Beloved, Jacqueline Dillion, 20-32
  • Sir Claude Scott and the development of Lytchett Minster in the nineteenth century, June Palmer, 33-45
  • How the Newburghs of Lulworth came to own Sutton Poyntz, William Egerton, 46-55
  • The Poets’ Christmas Eve: mythology into verse, Alan Chedzoy, 56-61
  • An account of Mary Anning (1799-1847), fossil collector of Lyme Regis, Dorset, England, published by Henry Rowland Brown (1837-1921) in the second edition (1859) of Beauties of Lyme Regis, Michael A. Taylor and Hugh S. Torrens, 62-70
  • An anonymous account of Mary Anning (1799-1847), fossil collector of Lyme Regis, Dorset, England, published in All the year round in 1865, and its attribution to Henry Stuart Fagan (1827-1890), schoolmaster, parson and author, Michael A. Taylor and Hugh S. Torrens, 71-85
  • Mumming Plays in Hardy’s Wessex, Jerry Bird, 86-148
  • The Cyril Diver Project, John Newbould and David Brown, 149-159
  • The Steve Etches collection of Kimmeridge Clay fossils: a Jurassic jewel on the Jurassic Coast, David M. Martill, 160-164
  • Severe drought and exceptional summer flooding: consequences for the South Winterborne macroinvertebrates, J. A. B. Bass, Patrick D. Armitage and J. L. Pretty, 165-166
  • Coastal landslide mapping of the Black Ven Spittles complex, Charmouth, Chloe Morris and Servel Miller, 167-180
  • New insect fossils from the Lower Lias (Lower Jurassic) of West Dorset, Robert A. Coram, 181-188
  • The gastropod and ammonite fauna of two anomalous facies in the Inferior Oolite of Burton Cliff, South Dorset, John Whicher, David Sole and Robert Chandler, 189-197


  • Hengistbury Head, Bournemouth, Mike Trevarthen, 198
  • Wood Hill, Charlton Down, Charminster, Richard Tabor and Cheryl Green, 198
  • 2 Wick Lane, Christchurch, Mike Trevarthen, 198
  • HMP Dorchester, Dorchester, Tom Weavill, 198
  • Max Gate, Dorchester, Mike Trevarthen, 198-199
  • Wall behind Wadham House, 50 High West Street, Dorchester, Richard Tabor and Cheryl Green, 199
  • New sea wall, Kimmeridge Bay, Kimmeridge, Mike Trevarthen, 199
  • Keates Quarry, Home Field, Acton, Langton Matravers, Mike Trevarthen, 199
  • Lewis Quarry, Home Field, Acton, Langton Matravers, Peter Bellamy, 199
  • Bottle Knap Cottage, Long Bredy, Mike Trevarthen, 199
  • Geophysical survey of the South Lawn, Kingston Lacy Park, Pamphill, Martin Papworth, 199-200
  • Limekilns at Inmosthay Industrial Estate, Inmosthay, Portland, Richard Tabor and Cheryl Green, 200
  • Land to the west of Reap Lane, Southwell, Portland, Richard Tabor and Cheryl Green, 200-201
  • Sherborne House, Newland, Sherborne, Richard Tabor and Cheryl Green, 201
  • Belle Vue Farm, Herston, Swanage, Lilian Ladle, 201
  • Geophysical survey of Long Mound, Beacon Knap, Swyre, Martin Papworth, 201-202
  • Chapelhay Gardens, Weymouth, Peter Bellamy, 202
  • Land to the south of Chickerell Road, Wyke Regis, Weymouth, Richard Tabor and Cheryl Green, 202
  • South Dorset Ridgeway: Purlands Farm (Winterborne St Martin) to north of Tatton House (Portesham), Richard Tabor and Cheryl Green, 202-203
  • Cross Farm, Church Street, Yetminster, Richard Tabor and Cheryl Green, 203
  • Dewlish Roman villa: post-excavation report 2013, Iain Hewitt, 203-204
  • The Langton Herring mirror and grave goods, Jon Murden, 205-208
  • The Roman villa at Druce Farm, near Puddletown, Lilian Ladle, 209-211
  • Ower Quay, Keith Jarvis, 212-216
  • The Durotriges Project, phase one: an interim statement, Miles Russell, Paul Cheetham, Damian Evans, Ellen Hambleton, Iain Hewitt, Harry Manley and Martin Smith, 217-221
  • Roman Purbeck Limestone mortars, John Palmer, 222-234
  • Portable Antiquities Scheme 2013, Ciorstaidh Hayward Trevarthen, 235-236
  • Excavation of c. eighteenth-century wall footings at Hive Beach, Burton Bradstock, Martin Papworth, 237-240
  • Roman remains found at Hyde Farm, Shapwick, Kingston Lacy Estate, Martin Papworth, 241
  • The Romano-Celtic temple at Badbury Rings, Dorset, Martin Papworth, 242-271
  • Investigations on the south shore of Brownsea Island by the Dorset Alum and Copperas Industries Project, Peter S. Bellamy, Gill Broadbent, Mark Corney and Clare Wilson, 272-283
  • Investigations at Kimmeridge Bay by the Dorset Alum and Copperas Industries Project, Peter S. Bellamy, Gill Broadbent, Mark Corney, Alan Hawkins, Mike Trevarthen and Clare Wilson, 284-296
  • Investigations on the Studland Circles by the Dorset Alum and Copperas Industries Project, Peter S. Bellamy, Gill Broadbent, Mark Corney and Clare Wilson, 297-310

County Boundary Survey

  • Hampreston: A parish in the counties of Dorset and Hampshire, J. W. Hart, 311-315
  • Boundaries of Dorset, J. W. Hart, 316-319
  • The Dorset County Boundary Survey 2013, Katherine Barker, 320-324
  • The Dorset County boundary at Biddlesgate, between the parishes of Cranborne (Dorset) and Damerham (Hampshire from 1885; formerly Wiltshire), Katherine Barker, 325-333


  • A. Eccles, Vagrancy in law and practice under the Old Poor Law, Martin Ayres, 334-335
  • Michael Millgate and Keith Wilson (eds), The collected letters of Thomas Hardy, volume VIII: further letters, Will Abberley, 335-336
  • Michael Hill, East Dorset country houses, Helen Brown, 336-337


  • Liz-Anne Bawden MBE (1931-2012), Max Hebditch, 338-339

Natural history reports 2013

  • General weather survey, John Oliver, 340-341
  • Dorset rainfall, John Oliver, 341-345
  • Butterfly survey, Bill Shreeves, 345-349
  • Frome Valley winter bird survey, John Newbould and John Campbell, 350-351
  • Some Dorset plant gall record highlights, John Newbould, 351-352
  • Field meeting reports, John Newbould, 352-355
  • County Boundary Survey visits, Katherine Barker and John Newbould, 355-357

Local auction report 2013, Gwen Yarker, 358-359

Report of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society for 2013, 360-372

Index, 373-376

Notes for contributors, 377-378


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The Poets’ Christmas Eve by Dr Alan Chedzoy

Rev. William Barnes © DCM

Revd William Barnes © DCM

On Wednesday 4th December Dr. Alan Chedzoy is giving a literary lecture at Dorset County Museum entitled The Poets‘ Christmas Eve: Mythology into Verse.

Dr. Alan Chedzoy is Chairman of the William Barnes Society and is well known in Dorset and beyond for his performances and recordings of the writings of the Revd William Barnes and Thomas Hardy.

All are welcome to the talk which starts at 7.30pm. Doors open at 7.00pm. The talk is FREE of charge but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs.

For further information please see or telephone 01305 262735.

Lecture: Thomas Hardy and Dorset Folklore by Dr. Peter Robson

Hardy Players' Mummers

The Mummers in the Hardy Players’ version of ‘The Return of the Native’. Eustacia Vye (extreme left, disguised) was played by Gertrude Bugler. On Christmas Night 1920 the players gave a performance at Hardy’s house, Max Gate.

The novels and stories of Thomas Hardy are filled with examples of folklore – customs, songs, superstitions, witches, mummers and much more.

But were these country traditions actually taken by Hardy from the Dorset of his childhood or were they products of his fertile literary imagination?  On the Thursday 25th July 2013 at 7.30pm at the Dorset County Museum Dr. Peter Robson will explore this question by looking at a variety of examples of Dorset folklore described by Hardy, from the Mellstock Quire to the Egdon Mummers, from Conjuror Trendle to the unfortunate William Privett and beyond. He will illustrate his talk by pictures of the people and places concerned and by sound recordings.

Dr. Peter Robson has been researching Dorset folklore for many years and has written and spoken widely on this subject. Most recently he has become particularly interested in Thomas Hardy’s writings as an almost untapped source for the study of rural folklore.

This is the second in a series of five lectures about Thomas Hardy and is part of a larger project including the National Trust and the University of Exeter. It is hoped that the more academic nature of these lectures will provide the general public and lovers of Hardy’s novels with an increased connection to contemporary ideas about his work.

Entry to the talk is FREE but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs. Everyone is welcome and there is no need to book.  Doors open at 7.00pm.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on

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