- 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
- Yours sincerely,