Puddletown is a small crossroads village close to Dorchester that retains a magical sense of times past. Formerly called Piddletown, for its proximity to the River Piddle, legend has it that Queen Victoria insisted the name was changed before a state visit. There is little evidence for this, however, and the village, which in Victorian times had the status of a town, held onto its original name until the 1950s. The word piddle is a Saxon word meaning clear water.
Puddletown rose to fame in the 19th century as the fictional 'Weatherbury' of Thomas Hardy's Wessex novels. In reality it was where is grandfather and great-grandfather were born, and it is nearby High Bockhampton where Hardy himself was born. The thatched cottage where Hardy was born in 1840 was built by his grandfather is now owned by the National Trust.
Hardy's cousin (and some say lover), Tryphena Sparks, also lived in Puddletown. Tryphena, who died during childbirth, was the inspiration for Hardy's poem 'Thoughts of Phena at her Death'.
The village is an attractive mish-mash of thatched and slate roofs with a very well-preserved old church that boasts a Norman font and a 17th century gallery. The graves of the Martyn family, who owned two manorial houses close by, fill the south chapel.Nearby Athelhampton was once owned by the Martyn family and is reputed to be one of the finest examples of a 15th century manor house in the country. The privately owned house is set in 160 acres of parkland and gardens and is open to the public.
Athelhampton is also alleged to have not one but several ghosts. These include a black monk, headless man and a grey woman!