We’re all familiar with Thomas Hardy as the author of such novels as Far from the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
But did you know that Hardy also spent time in Cornwall? It was the North Cornish coast, the Valency Valley, where Hardy, met his first wife, Emma, in 1870. Both the place and Emma herself provided inspiration for Hardy’s works for years to come.
Hardy was a 30-year-old architect who came to survey the building and prepare the design for St Juliot Church and the rectory. It was there that he met Emma Gifford on 3 March 1870. Emma was living at the rectory with her sister, wife of the Revd Cadell Holder. Hardy’s first visit to the area lasted four days during which he visited Tintagel, Beeny Cliff and the Valency Valley.
Hardy returned to St Juliot in August that same year when he stayed longer. As well as working on the church, he and Emma continued to explore the North Cornwall coast including Bude, Trebarwith Strand and The Strangles beach.
Other visits followed and the couple married in 1874. Thomas Hardy’s third novel, A Pair of Blue Eyes, was published in 1873 and Emma was the model for the heroine of the book. However, many places were deliberately disguised and created by Hardy as a fusion of great houses he once visited.
After Emma’s death in 1912, Hardy returned to St Juliot. There, he designed the memorial tablet to Emma on the north wall of the church, and had it made by a Boscastle stonemason.
As part of an event titled ‘An Evening Sabine Baring Gould and Thomas Hardy’, you can hear a talk about Thomas Hardy by Andrew Leah. The event will be held on Saturday 5th May 2018 at 7pm at Rosehip Barn, St Clether, Launceston. To find out more or to book your tickets, visit this website, or ring (01726) 879500.