Tess of the d’Urbervilles

by Thomas Hardy adapted by Michael Patterson

directed by Michael Patterson

Performed at the

Nuffield Theatre


29th January to 2nd February 1991


The twice-married Hardy is renowned for having an eye for the ladies, and must have greatly enjoyed the surge of interest from leading ladies from the London stage, anxious that he should adapt the play as a starring vehicle for them.

He prepared a script but it was never performed - until in 1908 the Dorchester Debating Literary and Dramatic Society performed an adaptation of The Trumpet Major. This started an annual tradition, which continued until 1924 when the Hardy Players, as they were by then called, asked to do Tess of the d’Urbervilles. The lead was taken by the beautiful Gertrude Bugler, the daughter of a Dorchester confectioner, who had first caught Hardy’s eye when she starred, at the age of 17 in 1913, in The Woodlanders, to acclaim from the London critics, and with her photograph in the Daily Mail.

It is recorded that Hardy spent more time backstage than in the auditorium during ‘Tess’, and following the production (in Weymouth and Dorchester) the manager of the Haymarket Theatre in London wrote to ask if Gertrude Bugler would play Tess with a professional cast at the Theatre.

Terms, salaries and rehearsal times were agreed; Hardy wrote a new prologue scene and became highly excited at the thought of going to London. Then Florence, his wife, intervened, sending telegrams, letters and calling in person on Gertrude Bugler begging her to give up the idea; she seemed certain that Hardy - who was now 85 years old - was planning on elopement! Gertrude Bugler, by now 29 years old, found the situation alarming and withdrew from the production.

In 1929, the year after Hardy died, Gertrude Bugler played with great success in a revival at the Duke of York’s - with her name in lights as ‘Thomas Hardy’s Own Tess’.

Gertrude Bugler still lives in Weymouth, now 94 years old.


In Victorian times it was customary for a new book to be published first in serial form in one of the many weekly magazines that then flourished, and Hardy’s popularity was based on the wide audience that these publications provided. In June 1887 he signed a contract worth £1,000 with a newspaper syndicate, Tillotson & Son of Bolton, for the serial rights to his next novel. The first ideas he noted down formed the basis of Jude the Obscure, actually published after Tess; but a number of family anecdotes developed into the d’Urberville story - particularly that of Mary Head, his grandmother, who lived near Reading and bore an illegitimate baby by one John Reed, who must have been a man of standing because the child carried his name. Like Tess, she was remanded in custody for three months under threat of hanging (for stealing a copper kettle, but she was discharged for lack of evidence).

Hardy sent the first portion of the manuscript to the publishers - at that stage called ‘Too Late, Beloved’ - in September 1889. They immediately returned it, saying that a story about a raped village maiden was not a fit subject for their readers; the contract was cancelled and the fee returned.

In October Hardy sent the manuscript to Murray’s Magazine who also rejected it, the editor claiming, ‘I believe it is quite possible and very desirable for women to grow up and pass through life without the knowledge of immoral situations and their tragedies’.

Further rejections followed, but Hardy continued work on the manuscript. Interestingly, the name he chose at first was Love; then Cis, Sue and Rose-Mary, before settling on Tess.

So, after a whole year’s work, Hardy had a story which seemed unsaleable. Eventually The Graphic agreed to serialise a heavily censored version - no mention of the rape or the illegitimate child, and Angel Clare was not allowed to carry Tess and the dairymaids through the flooded lane - he had to push them in a wheelbarrow!

In 1891 the unexpurgated book was published, and despite the reaction of some critics it produced heated discussion over the tea cups and in the pubs and won considerable popular acclaim, generally acknowledging it to be Hardy’s finest book.

The Cast
John Durbeyfield Graham Buchanan
Parson Tringham & Narrator David Pike
Mrs Rolliver Philippa Taylor
Joan Durbeyfield Sheana Carrington
Tess Durbeyfield Debbie Moorhouse
Alec Stoke d’Urberville Peter Scrivener
Elizabeth, a maid Maria Hutchings
Mrs Stoke d’Urberville Jenni Watson
Reuben Dewy Kevin Mitchell
Abraham Durbeyfield Dominic O’Farrell
Vicar Kevin Mitchell
Mr Crick (Dairyman) Albert Minns
Mrs Crick Christine Baker
Jonathan Kail Andrew Easton
Izz Huett Karen Upfield
Retty Priddle Hazel Burrows
Marian Angela Stansbridge
Liddy Smallbury Anya Cook
Angel Clare Steve Clark
Rev. Clare Ken Hann
Mrs Clare Mollie Manns
Rebecca Spinks Brenda Atkinson
Maryann Money (a Housekeeper) Sonia Morris
Henery Fray Robbie Carnegie
Farmer Groby Neville Green
Liza Durbeyfield Emma Grace
Gabriel Oak Bruce Atkinson
Mrs Brooks (Landlady of The Herons) Jean Durman
Mr Blagdon - her gardener Mike Turner
Sgt. Troy (a Policeman) Graham Hill
Joseph Poorgrass Rob Robinson
Laban Tall Chris Stockton
Matthew Moon David Gates
Fancy Day Pam Simpson
Ann Dewy Jane Royle
Fanny Coggan Jan Ward
Beth Clark Julie Zillwood
Ruth Wetherbury Angela Mackie
Patience Penny Nichola Horne
Hope Durbeyfield Amy Stansbridge or Katie Ward or Susannah Lawther
Cain Durbeyfield Tom Stansbridge or Nicholas


For the Maskers
Written and directed by Michael Patterson
Production Assistant Jan Ward
Stage Manager Belinda Drew
Technical Coordinator Ron Tillyer
Set Design John Carrington
Construction Team Chris Finbow, Edwin Beecroft, Geoff Cook, Brian Langford, Kevin Mitchell, Pam Simpson
Lighting Design Clive Weeks
Assisted by Anthony Baldery, Angie Burt, Scott Chapman, Sue Coleman, Stuart Cross, Faith Emmett, Dave King, Ali Mountford, Adrian Plaw
Sound Lawrie Gee, Pat Sawyer
Special Effects Tony Lawther, Ron Tillyer
Properties Ella Lockett, Dawn Finbow, Sheana Carrington, Nichola Horne, Sonia Morris, Rob Robinson, Jan Ward
Wardrobe Hazel Burrows, Angela Stansbridge, Helen Wheeler and members of the cast
Make-up Co-ordinator Graham Buchanan
Publicity/Posters Michael Patterson, Jan Ward, Ken Spencer, Edwin Beecroft
Choreographer Brenda Bennett

Musicians from ‘The Madding Crowd’

Pat Guy, Gordon Thick, Caroline Humphreys, Brian Hodgson, Peter Hackston, Sarah Lewin, Brenda Grimshaw, John Martin, Mike Bailey


Thomas Hardy’s father and grandfather, with other relations, made up the village and church West Gallery bands of Stinsford and Puddletown from about 1770 to 1850. Young Thomas probably never played his fiddle with these bands officially, but Under the Greenwood Tree would not have been possible without his close knowledge of them. The village bands and choirs were suppressed by the Victorian reformers, and the last handful died out in the 1930’s.

The Madding Crowd, members of whom open the show, are a band and choir of about 25 people from South Hampshire, formed to rescue and perform the repertoire of the village bands and choirs, drawing on manuscripts and printed books. Since the first concert in 1975, over 200 hymns, anthems, psalms, secular songs, marches and dances have been researched.

All other music used in the show is by English composers, most of them contemporary with Thomas Hardy - including Edward Elgar, Gerald Finzi, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Michael Tippet.

The Echo Review (Click to enlarge)
The Hampshire Chronicle Review (Click to enlarge and read)

A large press special. Click below to view.



Some Notes by the Director


Hardy was a man torn between two worlds - the deeply entrenched strength of his family roots in Dorset, contrasting with his involvement in fashionable and aristocratic London society where he was feted as the most outstandingly successful novelist of his day. This schizophrenic situation mirrored the inner conflictsof his mind that were both the source of his genius as a novelist and the cause of much misunderstanding about his personal life which still persists today.

To clear away some of the confusion of legend, I thought you might be intrigued, as I have been, by some aspects of the true facts; Hardy himself propagated much of the confusion by recording events in the way he wished them to be seen, often suppressing the reality. Indeed, the story of Tess uses much family material which he would never admit to.

  • He was born on 2 June 1840 at the estate cottage in the hamlet of Higher Bockhampton where his father was a life tenant. The midwife thought he was dead and had laid the baby to one side while she attended to his mother - until a slight movement alerted her to her mistake.
  • Jemima, his Mother, was a cook and servant, one of 7 children brought up on parish charity, his Father (also Thomas) a builder by trade who worked on the Kingston Mauward Estate.
  • Hardy fabricated a completely false record of his origins, obsessively claiming that - like Tess’s family - they were descended from greater things. He claimed Captain Hardy (Nelsons captain) as a relative, and described his parents’ simple Bockhampton cottage as ‘seven-roomed ... and rambling... with a paddock ... and till lately stablings’ and he denied that Dorset dialect ‘was ever spoken in his Mother’s house’.
  • Both his Mother and Grandmother became pregnant before marriage, and - like Tess - his Grandmother’s baby was fathered by an apparently well-to-do man who never married her; she also suffered imprisonment for three months under threat of the death penalty (accused of stealing a copper kettle), but was acquitted for lack of evidence.
  • All requests for permission to write a biography were refused by Hardy; he did not want the truth exposed. Instead he announced that his second wife, Florence, was writing it, but in fact composed it himself, destroying letters, notebooks and other material as he went, so that source material could never be checked.
  • Hardy was probably the richest author in England. When he died in January 1928 he left over £90,000, equivalent to about 2 million pounds today. But he was miserly. He gave his wife a housekeeping allowance so small that she had to make it up from her dress allowance. When she was ill she had to pay the surgeon’s and nursing home fees out of her own pocket. They never owned a car (Florence bought one as soon as he died), and their house, Max Gate in Dorchester, had no bathroom; Florence recorded ‘‘I have to bath in a puddle - a quart or three pints of hot water in a smallish hip bath’’’- water drawn from a well and heated in saucepans over the kitchen fire. Hardy was discovered by the maid darning a 20 year old pair of trousers with string, rather than give them up.
  • Hardy married his first wife Emma in 1873, and after 20 years the relationship deteriorated drastically; they lived in the same house without speaking; she was banned from his study, and created a self-contained flat for herself on the upper floor of the house. She became seriously ill in 1911 and died a year later, with Hardy apparently completely ignoring her deteriorating condition.
  • In 1908 Prime Minister Asquith offered Hardy a Knighthood; he refused it, being unwilling to accept an honour which would have elevated Emma to become Lady Hardy. Two years later he was awarded the Order of Merit - conferred on him in company with Sir Edward Elgar. Emma stayed at home in Dorchester, too ill to attend.
  • Emma’s absence sulted him well, giving him the opportunity to spend time with Florence Dugdale, who he passed off as his secretary or ‘research assistant’. Hardy was now 70 and she 31, and they became caught in a web of concealment as they stayed in London, Aldeburgh and Ventor, and she in turn stayed at Hardy’s house in Dorchester. She was permanently installed there within a month of Emma’s death; and they married on 10th February 1914 in Enfield Parish Church at 8 o’clock in the morning to avoid the press.
  • Almost immediately Hardy changed, filled with remorse at the loss of Emma. Poems to her memory began to fill out, and Florence was dragged around Comwall where Emma had lived and they had courted. So, when Hardy died, it was Florence’s generous wish that he should be buried alongside her in her grave. But the nation wanted his ashes in Westminster Abbey. Unsure how to resolve the matter Florence consulted the Vicar, who suggested the historic compromise that Hardy’s heart should be removed and buried with Emma.

click on a photo to enlarge it

The Review
??, Debbie Moorhouse, Angie Stansbridge and Steve Clark
Karen Upfield, Debbie Moorhouse, Steve Clark, Albie Minns
Debbie Moorhouse plus?
Albie Minns, Bruce Atkinson with hat, centre Chris Baker, Karen Upfield and Hazel Burrows. Debbie Moorhouse drinking at the back
Hazel Burrows, Angie Stansbridge, Karen Upfield
Steve Clark, ...Albie Minns

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Established 1968

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