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Chapter 6: Long Lane, Bothenhampton, 1825

Updated: Sep 26, 2020

As is evident from previous posts (Chapters) I love to find paintings from the time about which I am writing that also serve to illustrate the place about which I am writing. We find our protagonist at a very low ebb mentally, and at the suggestion of his father, he moves into the old family cottage in Bothenhampton to serve his self-exile, partly as penance, and partly to reflect upon the unfortunate chain of events that has befallen him. Bothenhampton is a bucolic setting of flax and hemp fields that provide the raw materials for the rope cordage and sailcloth industry of the bustling commercial market town of Bridport – the adjacent parish. Ananias leaves his accounting job to turn his hand at farming. It is a marked shift of occupation and setting.

A painting by Helen Allingham, a water colour artist from the era, captures what I had envisioned, although I did not stumble onto her “Cottage in Bothenhampton” work until very recently. In 1874, Allingham was commissioned by Cornhill Magazine to provide twelve illustrations for the serialization of Thomas Hardy's novel Far from the Madding Crowd. Perfect. Most Hardy novels convey a similar wanton despair as can be found in this chapter.

And if you are perhaps thinking that Thomas Hardy has influenced my writing, postulate no further.

Consider this photograph below by Derek Harper. Path to Long Lane. Are you there yet?

This chapter mentions the adage for growing flax: one hundred days in the soil. The acreage to support the industry in the early 19th century must have been remarkable, despite being almost 600 years removed from King John’s 1231 edict “to be caused to be made at Bridport, night and day, as many ropes for ships both large and small cables as you can, and twisted yarns for cordage for ballistae”.

A photograph by Tony Atkin actually shows Long Lane. That's it in the centre!

Again, I have to say that these images existed in my head and then in my writing well before I searched for a photo. But I wanted to do this, for you.

Bothenhampton is the kind of rural enclave that doesn’t experience a great deal of change. The population in 1801 was 334. The population one-hundred years later was 423. I can’t speak from experience, but I expect that even today it might be a good place to retreat from the hustle and bustle of the urban world.

This photograph by Nigel Mykura depicts Bothenhampton today. As I have suggested, I expect that not a lot has changed since 1825. The bluff at West Bay can be seen in the background. From there the yellow rock cliffs plunge down fifty metres - literally crashing into the Atlantic Ocean.

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