The Thomas Hardy Victorian Fair is a Huge Success for Dorchester

Dorchester’s first Thomas Hardy Victorian Fair to celebrate the birthday of the famous literary great was a huge success.

Scores of people flocked to the historic town centre yesterday to witness craft demonstrations, bell ringing, Dorset horn sheep, a steam traction engine, an inflatable museum and much more.

The event began with a children’s costume competition in the Corn Exchange followed by a performance by the Wessex Military Band. Maypole dancing and a Punch & Judy show completed the agenda for the rest of the morning. At 12:30pm Dorchester Town Council led a procession and wreath laying at the Thomas Hardy statue, with a short performance by the New Hardy Players.

The afternoon continued with live folk music courtesy of the Stomping Boondocks Ceilidh Band and performances by The Purbeck Village Quire and Durnovaria Silver Band, all interspersed with maypole dancing and Punch & Judy. The event closed in slightly damper conditions than it had started, but despite the change in weather mid-way through proceedings, this did not dampen the spirits of the crowd, and the street fair closed with bell ringing at St Peter’s Church.

Dorchester Town Crier Alistair Chisholm commented: “It dawned on me Thomas Hardy’s birthday fell on a Sunday this year, and having closed the road the previous year for the Heritage Open Day / Dorset Architectural Heritage Week, I thought we could make more of the occasion this time. Not just a quiet ceremony to lay a wreath at Hardy’s statue, but a much more vibrant and popular event in the town centre all wrapped up in a glorious Victorian Fair.

It’s no longer a case of which shops are the most fashionable on the high street, it’s about making the town more interesting. I have no doubt that businesses in the town centre benefited from the extra footfall.

The Thomas Hardy Victorian Fair showed what a medium-sized market town can do when you get different elements of the community to work together with a common objective. A thoroughly fascinating day for people of all ages!”

Event organisers are hopeful to repeat the Thomas Hardy Victorian Fair every two years. Let us know what you thought of the event in the comments below.

Thanks to all sponsors and supporters, especially Headline Sponsors Kingston Maurward and Goulds of Dorchester