Most if not all of Thomas Hardy's novels are set in the fictional(ish) English region of Wessex. He uses many real towns and locations as settings, but gives them fictional names: for instance, Oxford becomes "Christminster" and Dorchester becomes "Casterbridge". (Both of these towns are in Wessex, which shows how massive that region must be.)

My edition of Tess of the d'Urbervilles includes a lengthy table mapping real locations to the fictional names they're given in the books. Presumably most of these correspondences can be deduced directly from the text of the novel, by looking closely at the spatial relationships between different locations therein. Some of them also include wordplay which makes the connection obvious.

More interestingly, another of my Hardy books (possibly The Mayor of Casterbridge) includes a map of the region of Wessex, divided into subdomains with names such as Near Wessex, Outer Wessex, and East Wessex. (I'm guessing here, since I can't remember the exact phrases, but most of them were in the form "something Wessex".)

My question is: how canonical is this map? Or more generally, what canon information is available on the exact boundaries of Wessex within the real England?

Did Hardy himself ever draw a map of his Wessex, or write out a table of correspondences between real places and the names he used for them in his books?

1 Answer 1


There isn't a direct relationship, but here's a map drawn by Bertam Windle based on his correspondence with Hardy:


From Windle's book, The Wessex of Thomas Hardy, regarding Thomas Hardy's input into the book:

Without Mr. Hardy's generous assistance, these pages must have been much less complete than it is hoped they will be found to be. Nor, without the same generous assistance, would the writer have been able to speak with such certainty as the to the identification of certain of the spots.

B. C. A. W. [Bertram Coghill Alan Windle] Weatherbury, Harborne,
July 30th, 1901.

Here is also a list of place names and their equivalents, taken from the book linked above: (warning - really long)

Wessex - Name - Region of Wessex Actual Name

  • Abbot's-Cernel - South Wessex - Cerne Abbas
  • Abbotsea - South Wessex - Abbotsbury
  • Aldbrickham - North Wessex - Reading
  • Alfredston - North Wessex - Wantage
  • Anglebury - South Wessex - Wareham
  • Bramhurst - West Wessex - Lyndhurst
  • Budmouth - South Wessex - Weymouth
  • Casterbridge - South Wessex - Dorchester
  • Chalk - Newton South - Wessex Maiden Newton
  • Chaseborough - South Wessex - Cranborne
  • Christminster - North Wessex - Oxford
  • Cliff - Martin Outer - Wessex Combe Martin
  • Cresscombe - North Wessex - Letcombe Basset
  • Downstaple - Lower Wessex - Barnstaple
  • Durnover - South Wessex - Fordington
  • Emminster - South Wessex - Beaminster
  • Evershead - South Wessex - Evershot
  • Exonbury - Lower Wessex - Exeter
  • Falls - Park Outer - Wessex Mells Park
  • Fountall - Outer Wessex - Wells
  • Havenpool - South Wessex - Poole
  • Isle - of Slingers - South Wessex Isle of Portland
  • Ivell - Outer Wessex - Yeovil
  • Kennetbridge - North Wessex - Newbury
  • Kingsbere - South Wessex - Bere Regis
  • Knollsea - South Wessex - Swanage
  • Lulwind - Cove South - Wessex Lulworth Cove
  • Lumsdon - North Wessex - Cumnor
  • Marlott - South Wessex - Marnhull
  • Marygreen - North Wessex - Fawley
  • Melchester - Mid Wessex - Salisbury
  • Mellstock - South Wessex - Stinsford and Higher & Lower Bockhampton
  • Overcombe - South Wessex - Sutton Poyntz
  • Port - Bredy South - Wessex Bridport
  • Po'sham - South Wessex - Portesham
  • Quartershot - Upper Wessex - Aldershot
  • Sandbourne - Upper Wessex - Bournemouth
  • Shaston - South Wessex - Shaftesbury
  • Sherton - Abbas South - Wessex Sherborne
  • Slingers - South Wessex - Isle of Portland
  • Solentsea - Upper Wessex - Southsea
  • Stancy - Castle Outer - Wessex Dunster Castle
  • Stoke - Barehills Upper - Wessex Basingstoke
  • Street - of Wells - South Wessex Fortuneswell
  • Stoke - Barehills Upper - Wessex Basingstoke
  • Toneborough - Outer Wessex - Taunton
  • Trantridge - South Wessex - Pentridge
  • Weydon-Priors - Upper Wessex - Weyhill
  • Wintoncester - South Wessex - Winchester

Both the e-copy of the book on Archive.org and the image were from the University of California.


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