Dorchester: Museum and St Peter's Church

The Museum

The writer Thomas Hardy lived in Dorchester, and the Museum contains various items relating to him, including various portraits of him. The best of these is a marble bust by Hamo Thornycroft, and a head and shoulders oil portrait by Herkomer.

The collection is in fact strong on portraits, with various examples from the 17th-19th centuries. Note in particular a good watercolour portrait of Florence Dugdale by William Strang, a big family portrait of Revd Nathaniel Bond and Family (1848) by Beetham, and a very large equestrian hunting portrait of J J Farquharson (1858) by Francis Grant, one-time President of the Royal Academy. There are feeble portraits by Thomas Hardy's sister, Mary Hardy, and further work by local 19th Century artists in the William Barnes room.

Sculptural work includes a cast of the Siege of Corfe Castle (1868) in high relief by Marochetti, a plaster bust of A A Cooper by F. Winter, and a mantlepiece by Alfred Stevens for the Coalbrookdale Iron Company.

St Peter's Church

In a row with the Museum are the Town Hall by the architect Benjamin Ferrey, Holy Trinity Church, also by Ferrey, and St Peter's Church, a 15th Century church restored in the 19th Century by J. Hicks, the architect for whom Thomas Hardy worked. There is a modest signed plan by Hardy inside the church.

More interesting from the point of view of these pages is the painted reredos by C. E. Ponting. The painted figures have Pre-Raphaelite faces, rather in the mode of Burne-Jones, especially the three knights. Lots of little carved angels above, central high relief Last Supper, with lively gesturing figures. Above, the East window is by Hardman, but not particularly impressive. The rest of the windows date from the 1890s and are more interesting, especially those in the South Aisle, which have expressive faces with good shading and tonality.

Otherwise, notable are the two recumbent medieval knights, legs crossed on lions, and the 1699 monument to Denzel Lord Holles, a reclining figure Roman style with incongruous wig, three angelic heads above, a la Italienne, pillars, drapery etc all in black and white marble bar economies on the big pillars of painted plaster, now chipped and showing their true nature.

Outside the church stands a bronze statue of the poet William Barnes (1888), by E R Mullins. It is simply posed, with a certain dignity to the Darwin-like head.

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