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Clouds Hill One Hundred Years Ago: A Winter Visitor

A close up of the light blue door at Clouds Hill, Dorset
The front door at Clouds Hill | © National Trust Images / James Dobson

The end of January 1924, Clouds Hill saw, what was probably the first recorded visit of Florence Hardy (Florence was the wife of Thomas Hardy, Dorset's famous poet and author) to Clouds Hill.

Clouds Hill One Hundred Years Ago: A Winter Visitor

Had you walked into Clouds Hill a century ago there would have only been a modicum of creature comforts: piles of logs for the open fire, rudimentary cooking facilities, some basic furniture, a wind-up gramophone, classical recordings and a small but eclectic collection of books. It was a ramshackle place, but a much-needed haven from what, for TE Lawrence, was a stressful atmosphere at nearby Bovington Camp.

The end of January 1924 probably saw the first recorded visit of Florence Hardy to Clouds Hill. We say probably because Lawrence wasn’t in, and later on he couldn’t be sure if it was Florence who had come calling. Finding no-one at home it appears she instead called on Arthur and Henrietta Knowles across the road but, for whatever reason, seemingly chose not to reveal her identity; unlike her famous husband she was not such a recognisable figure.

As Lawrence wrote to Mrs. Hardy the next day, January 27th: “I think you came here yesterday - but the Knowles’ family, with whom the gifts were left, are not very sure.”
She had brought several items for Lawrence, amongst them, rather intriguingly, was a picture of Killua Castle, the ancestral seat in Ireland of Lawrence’s late father and a baronetcy Lawrence was never destined to inherit. Which throws up the question of whether the visitor was actually one of the Frampton family (owners of Clouds Hill, to whom Lawrence was distantly related) and therefore someone who understood the relevance of Killua to their new famous tenant. Perhaps, as Lawrence surmised, the picture had been given to Florence by one of the Frampton family, with whom she was acquainted, and Florence had indeed just come to see Clouds Hill for herself, inquisitive as to whether it really was a plain and humble refuge for such a complex and charismatic man.

written by Tony Gill