The Acorn Inn began life as a coaching inn in the 16th century and was originally called the Kings Arms. It had plenty of competition in those days, as the small village of Evershot supported six pubs back then (somebody must have been drinking a lot – and the records of the local police constable some years later, lists “drunk and disorderly” as the most persistent crime in the village!). The fact that the Acorn Inn is the only pub to survive suggests it was always pretty popular. In those days the landlord brewed his own ales with water drawn from the source of the river Frome, just behind the church.
It is believed that the notorious Judge Jeffreys, whose severity earned him the title “The Hanging Judge” used what is now the lounge as a court for sentencing local convicts – they were strung up at the red signpost on the way to Benville.
Thomas Hardy's 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' is set in the immediate area. Evershot is referred to as Evershed and the Acorn was called 'The Sow and Acorn'. When Tess walked many miles to meet Angel Clare's parents she stopped half way in Evershed and breakfasted at Tess Cottage just next to the church. All of our bedroom names are derived from the book. The Acorn also features as 'The Sow & Acorn' in two of Hardy's other powerful stories: In 'Interlopers at the Knap' Philip Hall collected Sally's dress that had been left here by the carrier. And in 'The First Countess of Wessex' Squire Dornell's man Tupcombe, sat in the inglenook in the hope of hearing news of Betty.
In 2005 the Tollman family, owners of the award winning Red Carnation Hotel Collection, bought Summer Lodge Hotel Country House Hotel, Restaurant and Spa, just down the main street from The Acorn Inn. They soon fell in love with the village and couldn't resist buying The Acorn, the only pub in their collection, as well as the village shop.
In 2008 Jack and Alex took over the management of the inn before passing over the reins to Natalie and Richard in 2016. Had Thomas Hardy visited today it's likely that the experience would almost certainly have lifted the spirits of a man whose books were a bit on the melancholy side!
16 Places to Visit in Thomas Hardy's Dorset
Weymouth - Budmouth Regis
Hardy worked as an architect here in 1869-70, and the town features in Under the Greenwood Tree.
Woolbridge Manor was Hardy's Wellbridge Manor, where Angel Clare and Tess spent their honeymoon.
Hardy worked on the restoration of St. Andrew's church in 1863, and the church now hosts a permanent exhibition on Hardy's life.
Swanage - Knollsea
Hardy lived in Swanage in 1875-1876 and it was here that he wrote The Hand of Ethelberta.
Bournemouth - Sandborne
Tess lived here with Alec d'Urberville, and the town also features in The Well-Beloved and Jude the Obscure.
Poole - Havenpool
In The Mayor of Casterbridge, Newson landed here on his return from Newfoundland. The town features in two poems, The Chapel Organist and The Mongrel.
Wimborne Minster - Warborne
Hardy lived here from 1881-1883 with his first wife Emma.
Salisbury - Melchester
In Jude the Obscure, Jude worked at Salisbury Cathedral, and Sue and Phillotson were married in St. Thomas’ Church. Sue attended the Teacher Training College as did Hardy's two sisters in real life. It was at nearby Stonehenge that Tess was arrested in Tess of the d'Urbervilles.
Shaftesbury - Shaston
In Jude the Obscure, Philotson was schoolmaster here. Gold Hill in Shaftesbury offers superb views over the Blackmoor Vale.
Marnhull - Marlott
Just outside the village is Tess Cottage, thought to be the model for Durbetfield's home in Tess of the d'Urbervilles.
Sturminster Newton - Stourcastle
Hardy and his first wife, Emma, lived here at Riverside Villa in 1876-1878. Hardy called his stay here "our happiest time".
Sherborne - Sherton Abbas
Giles Winterborne sold his apple trees in the Market Place here in The Woodlanders, and Sherborne Abbey also features in the novel.
Melbury Osmond - Great Hintock
Hardy's parents were married in the church here, and his mother grew up in a thatched house nearby. The Woodlanders final scene also takes place in the churchyard.
Beaminster - Emminster
In Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Angel Clare's father was vicar here.
Bridport - Port Bredy
Briport is the setting for the story Fellow-Townsmen, and the nearby secluded harbour of West Bay is mentioned in The Woodlanders.
Portland - Isle of Slingers
The Isle of Portland, joined to the mainland by the narrow strand of Chesil Beach, is the setting for The Well-Beloved.