Maumbury Rings, Dorchester, viewed from the East — The Ring, Casterbridge, on the Budmouth Road, in Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886). Photograph and following commentary by Philip V. Allingham 2008. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL.]

The Romans during their colonisation of the Durotriges converted this ancient British stone circle (dated to the early Bronze Age or late Neolithic period by excavations in 1908) into an amphitheatre for games and gladiatorial shows. In 1685, at the close of the Monmouth Rebellion, Judge Jeffreys ordered eighty of the rebels to be executed here. The Neolithic henge was modified by the Romans as an arena for gladiatorial games, as Hardy suggests in the novel.

A number of significant scenes occur here in Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), particularly the clandestine reunion of Susan and Michael Henchard. See chapters x, xi, xxviii, xxxv, and xlii in the novel. Denys Kay-Robinson adds:

Notwithstanding its changed environment, Maumbury must remain the grimmest spot in Dorchester, its black story culminating in 1706 [Hardy gives 1705 on p. 55] in the hideous execution of nineteen-year-old Mary Channing [wife of a Dorchester grocer, and allegedly his killer]. Hardy used this event in his poem 'The Mock Wife', and recorded some of the grislier details in his notebooks. (26) [See Thomas Hardy's Personal Writings, ed. Harold Orel, pp. 225-232.]

Other photographs


Daiches, David, and John Flower. Literary Landscapes of the British Isles: A Narrative Atlas. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981.

Kay-Robinson, Denys. The Landscape of Thomas Hardy, photographs by Simon McBride. Exeter: Webb and Bower, 1984.

Hardy, Thomas. The Mayor of Casterbridge. An Authoritative Texts, Backgrounds, Criticism. Ed. James K. Robinson. London & New York: W. W. Norton, 1977.

Lefebure, Molly. Thomas Hardy's World. London: Carlton, 1996.

The Oxford Illustrated Literary Guide to Great Britain and Ireland, ed. Dorothy Eagle and Hilary Carnell. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Pinion, F. B. A Hardy Companion. New York and London: Macmillan, St. Martin's Press, 1968.

Seymour-Smith, Martin. Hardy. London: Bloomsbury, 1994.

Last modified 19 April 2024