The late afternoon sun caresses the side of Stinsford Church whilst autumn leaves carpet the ground between the graves. The church, dedicated to St Michael, lies in a hamlet just a couple of miles from Dorchester and is most famous for its literary connections. It was the local church of Thomas Hardy and he was baptised here as well as teaching in the Sunday School. The graveyard is also his resting place, or to be more exact, the resting place of his heart, his ashes being interred at Westminster Abbey. Nearby him in the graveyard is the body of fellow writer Cecil Day Lewis who specifically chose his resting place near Hardy whom he admired.
Naturally the church features in Hardy’s novels, it was known as Mellstock Church in Under the Greenwood Tree. It is predominantly 13th/14th century although, as with a lot of buildings, it was altered by the Victorians. The most controversial change was probably the removing of the musicians’ gallery and the box pews, the former being replaced by a barrel organ. This upset the Hardy family considerably since they provided a lot of the musicians.
I visited the church at the end of a 15 mile walk over the weekend, a walk that not only took in several Hardy links and Cecil Day Lewis, but also several William Barnes links too. It was a Dorset ‘literary walk’ which I have blogged before and there is a link below to my earlier post which was a lovely springtime walk.
Stinsford Church was a fitting place to end a fine day out in Hardy country. I spent a while there, watching the sun go down from the churchyard before making my way home a happy man.
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Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler
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