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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 September 2006, 07:13 GMT 08:13 UK
Hardy's cottage to be rented out
Cottage at Higher Bockhampton courtesy of National Trust
The two-bedroom cottage was built by Hardy's grandfather in 1800
Plans to turn the birthplace of Thomas Hardy into a holiday cottage have angered fans of the Dorset author.

The National Trust, which owns the property at Higher Bockhampton, said it needed to ensure the cottage is "financially sustainable".

But Rosemarie Morgan, president of The Thomas Hardy Association, said it was an "horrific" idea.

Hardy was born at the two-bedroomed house in 1840 and wrote several works there such as Under the Greenwood Tree.

It's a shrine, people visit from all over the world
Rosemarie Morgan

The cottage does not contain any of his personal belongings but around 15,000 people from all over the world visit the house from April to October each year.

A National Trust spokesman said: "We are looking at a whole range of options to improve access and conservation of the building and improve the visitor experience.

"One of the options is whether we let people stay for a week or two at a time over the winter months when it is currently closed. No decision has been taken yet."

Thomas Hardy
Hardy wrote Far from the Madding Crowd at the cottage

Andrew Thomson, chairman of Stinsford Parish Council, said residents had expressed their fears about updating the cottage to make it suitable for holiday let while maintaining its basic, rustic charm.

Ms Morgan, of The Thomas Hardy Association, said: "It's a shrine, people visit from all over the world.

"For people who follow one of the greatest writers in the English language with such devotion, particularly foreigners, it's a shocking thing to think that tenants can leave their marks on a place that figures so highly in his novels and poetry and his life. Only in England would this happen."

The trust would have to obtain planning permission from West Dorset District Council for change of use.


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