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The book cover for In Search Of Martha Brown by author Nicola Thorne which reveals, a 16 year old Thomas Hardy watched Martha Brown hung in 1856.
Lord Julian Fellowes has added his voice to those calling for developers to exhume human remains at the former prison where the tragic woman author Thomas Hardy used as the real-life inspiration for his novel Tess of the D'Urbevilles is buried.
The Downton Abbey writer has written to the council and developers about the plans for the former Dorchester Prison site in Dorset, calling for a sensitive, full-scale dig of the burial ground to be carried out.
Martha Brown was publicly hanged outside the jail for the murder of her violent husband in 1856, a macabre event that 16-year-old Hardy witnessed and used 40 years later to write an ending for his best-known heroine.
Developer City and Country has said it will remove any remains at risk of being disturbed by the development, but historians and Hardy enthusiasts have been left disappointed because there is no guarantee they will ever identify tragic Martha.