Thomas Hardy was a 30 year old architect working to restore the church of St Juliot when he met Emma on 3 March 1870. Emma Gifford was living at the rectory with her sister, the rector's second wife. The first visit lasted four days during which Hardy visited Tintagel, Beeny Cliff and the Valency Valley.
Hardy returned to St Juliot in August that same year when he stayed longer. As well as working on the church he and Emma continued to explore the North Cornwall coast including Bude, Trebarwith Strand and The Strangles beach. It was whilst visiting Tintagel Castle that they found themselves locked in and had to attract attention by waving a handkerchief.
A special place
Other visits followed and they married in London in September 1874. Thomas Hardy's third novel, 'A Pair of Blue Eyes', had been published in 1873 and Emma was the model for the heroine of the book. However, many places were deliberately disguised and created by Hardy as a fusion of great houses he once visited.
The marriage between Hardy and Emma turned sour but when she died in November 1912, Hardy, consumed with remorse, wrote several poems in her memory. He returned to St Juliot the following spring. There, he designed the memorial tablet to Emma on the north wall of the church, and had it made by a Boscastle stonemason.