A review by THS Chairman Mark Chutter

Westminster Abbey Anniversary Wreath-Laying 2023

A review by THS Chairman Mark Chutter

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The ashes of Thomas Hardy were buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey on 16th January 1928. Hardy died at Max Gate in Dorchester on 11 January of the aforementioned year. The chief mourners were his widow Florence, his sister, the Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, Rudyard Kipling, Sir James Barrie, George Bernard Shaw and A.E.Housman.

The casket had lain in St Faith’s Chapel prior to the service. The grave was lined with purple and the Dean of Westminster sprinkled a handful of earth on the casket during the service (the earth from his beloved Stinsford). The simple inscription reads:

'THOMAS HARDY O.M. 1840-1928'

The original stone had recently become worn so a new one with incised inscription was created in 2019. The original stone now rests in St Michael’s, Stinsford.

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Saturday 14th January at 3pm this year marked our annual wreath laying service at Westminster Abbey. The Venerable Tricia Hillas, Canon in Residence, gave us all a warm welcome. A wreath was then presented by the Chairman of the Society (kindly created by Shirley Churchill of Stinsford) and was beautifully adorned with yew and berries from Hardy’s Mellstock. An eclectic range of poems were recited from ’Domicilium’, ‘The Darkling Thrush’ and ‘The Ruined Maid’ read by Mark Chutter to ‘Snow in the Suburbs’ recited by Lucy Boyle-Brown to ‘The Last Performance’ read by Rebecca Shipp to ‘One We Knew’ performed by Oindrila Ghosh and then Tony Fincham finishing with ‘Afterwards’. His heart in Wessex and his ashes in the abbey, Hardy was a genius of a novelist and of course a poet (a rarity to be accomplished at both) and his name placed appropriately in the annals of the literary establishment in Westminster. I would like to end on this apposite verse from ‘ Afterwards’:

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'When the Present has latched its postern behind my tremulous stay,

And the May month flaps its glad green leaves like wings,

Delicate-filmed as new-spun silk, will the neighbours say,

“He was a man who used to notice such things?”'

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Mark Damon Chutter, Chairman and Academic Director

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