Hardy Players actress Norrie Woodhall dies

image captionNorrie Woodhall was chosen by Hardy to play Liza-Lu in Tess of the D'Urbervilles

The last surviving member of a Dorchester theatre group set up by Thomas Hardy has died at the age of 105.

Norrie Woodhall was among a handful of Dorset actors who performed plays based on the author's works in 1924, rehearsing at Hardy's home at Max Gate.

Later Ms Woodhall became president of the New Hardy Players.

On its website the group said it would miss her "inspiration and guidance" after her death on Tuesday.

Ms Woodhall's mother is believed to have inspired the character Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

And her sister, Gertrude Bugler who was said to have inherited her mother's looks, was later given the role of Tess by Hardy.

'Wonderful person'

Speaking to BBC Inside Out earlier this year, Ms Woodhall said: "Tess is described as being dark and very beautiful, my sister was.

"My mother was milking a cow, when he [Hardy] saw her.

"He said later on: 'I must have seen your mother milking a cow and that put me in mind of Tess all those years ago'."

Ms Woodhall played Tess's sister, Liza-Lu, alongside her sister in a staging of Tess of the D'Urbervilles by the Hardy Players.

Hardy wrote in extra lines for her part.

The play was a hit, however, Hardy never gave permission for it to be put on stage in London.

Ms Woodhall carried on performing and became president of the New Hardy Players when it was set up in 2005.

She had also been involved in fundraising for Dorset County Museum, which has many items of memorabilia from the original Hardy Players.

Her friend Alistair Chisholm, who is also a member of the New Hardy Players, said: "She was a wonderful, wonderful person.

"To hear her read Thomas Hardy, to hear her read aloud The Ruined Maid in the style of a much earlier period was absolutely wonderful."

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