News & Features

2011: Cornish Weekend

September 1, 2011

Category: Events (Pre - Aug 2013) |

24th-25th September 2011:
Cornish Weekend - to celebrate the Dedication of the Thomas Hardy Information Boards in St Juliot Church.

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Friday 24th September:  7pm: Guided tour of the Old Rectory Garden with poetry readings followed by Cheese and Wine served in the Conservatory. Prior booking essential.

£6.50 per head.

Saturday 25th September: Visit to Morwenstow to visit the historic Church, Hawkers Hut and the Old Vicarage. Coffee & biscuits at the Old Vicarage and an opportunity to see rare R.S.Hawker related photographs and documents.

7pm:Cornish Supper served at The Old Rectory in the Conservatory.

Followed by a recollection of Gertrude Bugler and her memories of Hardy by The Rev. Rob Yeomans (second cousin of Gertrude). Prior booking essential.

£10 per head to include 1st glass of wine

Sunday 26th September: 11.30 am: Harvest Festival Service at St Juliot Church including dedication of the new Information Boards. Followed by lunch served in the Church.

St Juliot Weekend

Chris and Sally Searle organised a splendid weekend for locals and THS members alike, centred around the dedication of the information boards in St Juliot Church, to which the Thomas Hardy Society has made a substantial contribution.

The weekend started on Friday evening with supper and poetry readings in the recreated conservatory at the Old Rectory.

Saturday morning found us at the Old Vicarage, Morwenstow, at the kind invitation of Mrs Jill Wellby, who shared with us the wealth of research material and lively stories she had collected over twenty years living in former home of the Rev. R S Hawker (1803 -1875) the eccentric but well-loved vicar of Morwenstow.

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Hawker turned out to be a delightful character - as a child he had been a very naughty boy! Early one morning he had tied the village up in string and tripped up a number of elderly ladies; he painted zebra-white stripes on the doctor's horse before calling him out to a fictitious patient. Some years later, after being educated at Oxford, he returned to the village as vicar. After his childhood antics he had some difficulty in establishing credibility with the locals but his compassionate nature eventually won them round.

At the age of 19 he had married Charlotte, aged 41 and used the fortune she brought with her to put himself through college and, later, to build the splendid vicarage, whose chimneys he designed as copies of the towers of his college and churches - the kitchen chimney being a copy of his mother's tomb! The project almost bankrupted the couple. He was 60 when Charlotte died and a year later he married a young woman of 19 with whom he had three daughters.

It was he who insisted on a proper Christian burial for the sailors lost in the many shipwrecks along the treacherous coast, and personally retrieved the bodies from the shore for burial in the churchyard. He is also credited with introducing the modern Harvest Festival.

But it was as a poet that he was feted in his day, by the likes of Tennyson and Dickens. His best known work ' Song of the Western Men' has become the Cornish 'national' anthem. The poems were written in a tiny hut he built for himself out of driftwood on the cliffs above the treacherous shoreline from which he had retrieved so many bodies. 'Hawker's Hut' is the National Trust's smallest property.

It was purely by chance that Hardy did not meet Hawker; writing to John Lane, the publisher, in December 1913 he writes: 'Hawker, though bigoted and superstitious to a degree, had the imagination of a true poet, and I regret that I never met him. When Mrs. Hardy before her marriage was living in the rectory of St Juliot, near Hawker's parish, with her sister and brother-in-law, Rev. C. Holder (who knew Hawker) we often used to talk of driving to Morwenstow, but unfortunately never did.'

(Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy IV 328  - Purdy & Millgate)

The evening saw us back at St Juliot Rectory enjoying a Cornish supper with Sally and Chris, with much discussion of Hardy and Emma and their lives here. The Rev Rob Yeomans gave us a fascinating insight into the life and times of his cousin Gertrude Bugler, Hardy's 'Tess' in the 1924 production of his dramatisation. He read a previously unpublished letter about her view of her relationship with Hardy.

On Sunday morning we attended the Harvest Festival at the beautifully dressed St  Juliot Church -the sun streaming through the Hardy memorial window. The service culminated in the blessing of the two recently installed information boards commemorating the history of the church and Thomas Hardy and Emma Giffords' association with the parish. The Rev Robert Thewsey, in his colourful  ocean-inspired surplice, conducted the service and blessed the boards. Our chairman thanked all those who had contributed to the creation of this imaginative project, which would, for many years to come, give visitors to the church an insight into the relationship of Thomas and Emma Hardy and the part which St Juliot played in it.

Andrew Leah.

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