Brendan McCarthy Esq
Wessex Regional Director
National Trust Regional Office
Eastleigh Court
BA12 9HW
Dear Mr McCarthy,
Proposed Conversion of Hardy’s Cottage to Self-catering Holiday Accommodation
I am writing to register a very strong objection to the proposal to convert Hardy’s birthplace to holiday accommodation with public access reduced from its present level of Easter to the end of October to just May-August.
I find it incredible that the Trust could even be seriously contemplating anything so crass for what is a literary shrine to one of the world’s greatest poets and novelists, that attracts pilgrims from all over the world.
At present the building is tastefully furnished in a sympathetic nineteenth-century cottage style, and as there has been no resident custodian for about 25 years, no compromises have had to be made with the requirements of modern residential use. This is as it should be. I cannot see how its conversion to modern self-catering holiday use can be achieved without complete re-furnishing and inserting modern heating, plus a kitchen and bathroom with all mod cons. Given the premium rates charged by the NT for its holiday lets, tenants would naturally expect a high level of creature comforts. The character and atmosphere of the birthplace would be ruined in the process; and how would it be presented to visitors in the greatly restricted opening period?
The cottage is a structurally delicate example of cob-built vernacular architecture built in 1801 and designed to last only a term of three lives under its original copyhold tenure. It is therefore to the credit of the Trust that it has hitherto been maintained and conserved to a high standard, but this could be jeopardised with the risk of damage, including fire, resulting from intensive holiday letting.
I also believe the proposal would be illegal under the terms of Katharine Hardy’s will - the relevant section reads (my italics):
            4. I Give and Devise the freehold House and garden known as "Max Gate" Dorchester aforesaid which formed the residence of my late brother Thomas Hardy unto The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty of No. 7 Buckingham Palace Gardens, London Upon Trust to retain the same in its present condition so far as possible and to use the income thereof   for its maintenance and so far as they are able to do so for the preservation and protection of the house at Higher Bockhampton Stinsford Dorset in which  my said brother and I were born in order that so far as practicable the same  may be preserved for all time in the same condition as at present and so far as   the income may not be required for those purposes then to apply the balance of the income for the general purposes of the Trust.
As it is not necessary to carry out this conversion, the phrase ‘as far as is practicable’ hardly provides a legal pretext for what is proposed. It would most certainly be contrary to the spirit of the will.
In short, I would urge the Trust to drop this unfortunate and insensitive proposal and continue with the present more generous opening arrangements that maximise access to literary pilgrims.
Yours sincerely,