Poole Museum
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Opening times:
From 9 April - 30 October 2022,
Daily, 10am - 5pm

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Hardy's Wessex: The landscapes that inspired a writer

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Saturday 28 May - Sunday 30 October 2022

The largest collection of Thomas Hardy objects ever displayed at one time.

A major exhibition across four venues – Dorset Museum, The Salisbury Museum, Wiltshire Museum and Poole Museum.

Take a fresh look at the Victorian novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy, in the stunning Wessex landscapes that shaped his view of the world. His story will be retold in exciting new ways by our museum collections, from period costumes to personal letters, art to archaeology.

  • Four exhibitions, each exploring a different Hardy theme
  • A treasure trove of objects that give personal insights into Thomas Hardy’s life
  • Many of the objects have never been on public display before
  • Each exhibition has a star object on loan from a national museum

Pick up a discount voucher when you visit, and use it to get a generous 25% off the entrance price to one of the other Hardy exhibitions.  

Coastal Wessex - love and war

At Poole Museum, experience the romance and excitement of the coastline which inspired Thomas Hardy’s writing. This exhibition explores the coastal themes in Hardy’s life – from first meeting his wife Emma on the wild cliffs of Cornwall, to his fascination with the Napoleonic wars.

See the difference between Hardy’s romanticised views of love and war in his early life, to his portrayal of the realities of both in his later writings.

Romance versus reality

Hardy was a man conflicted. While he wanted to believe in the romance of love and war, objects like the letter telling him of his cousin’s death at Gallipoli and malicious gossip written about his first marriage show that romance and reality were often different.

Explore these questions:

  • How did Hardy’s legacy influence the young First World War poets, like Siegfried Sassoon and Edmund Blunden?
  • Did Hardy’s own love life reflect that of his characters?
  • Was Hardy a conscientious objector?

Star loan object at Poole Museum

On loan from: The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

An oil painting by Constable in 1816, Weymouth Bay depicts Weymouth Beach as it would have looked in the time of Hardy’s Napoleonic love story The Trumpet-Major. The eye is drawn to the central couple walking along the beach, whom we can imagine to be lovers in Hardy’s novels or John Constable and his wife on honeymoon. 

In the exhibition, the painting will set the scene as visitors look at Hardy’s The Trumpet-Major research book as well as Napoleonic swords, epaulettes and a curious prisoner-of-war carved bone guillotine.

Our star loans were made possible by support from the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund.

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Weymouth Bay by John Constable. Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Image number: 2014ha9997

Highlights for visitors

  • The macabre bone guillotine was carved by a Napoleonic prisoner of war. This gruesome period of history inspired Hardy’s romantic love triangle in the novel, The Trumpet-Major, between soldier John Loveday, his sailor brother Bob Loveday and Anne Garland.
  • His epic three-volume poem, The Dynasts, inspired some of the greatest war poets of the next generation.
  • The Tribute Book was presented to Hardy by Siegfried Sassoon, representing 43 of the greatest writers of the age, including Rudyard Kipling, Walter de la Mare and Robert Graves. It acknowledged the influence he’d had on their writing.

Exhibition entry charges

Adult (Age 18 and over) £5  (Accompanying essential carers FREE)

14-17 year olds £4

Students (showing a valid ID card) £4

Child (under 14 years old)  FREE (No unaccompanied children permitted)

Poole Museum Foundation Members FREE

Art Fund Pass £2.50

Poole Museum is part of the NPO (National Partnership Organisation) with Wessex Museums.

Wessex Museums is a charity that exists to build the resilience of partner museums and make them relevant to diverse audiences.


This exhibition is supported by the Weston Loan Programme witArt Fund.

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