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Atmospheric Victorian home designed by Thomas Hardy

Max Gate, an austere but sophisticated town house a short walk from the town centre of Dorchester, was the home of Dorset's most famous author and poet Thomas Hardy. Hardy, who designed the house in 1885, wanted to show that he was part of the wealthy middle classes of the area, to reflect his position as a successful writer, and to enable him to enter polite society. The house was named after a nearby tollgate keeper called Mack.

Many of Hardy's possessions were dispersed before we acquired the house, but we've furnished the rooms for you to enjoy the spaces he created to write and live in. He wrote some of his most famous novels here, including Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, as well as much of his poetry.

You will find the garden much as it was originally planned, with high walls and large trees encircling the property to preserve Hardy's privacy. The sundial, designed by Hardy, was erected in his memory.

What's on

We don't have any upcoming events planned here, but why not check out what's happening at the nearby Hardy's Cottage, where Hardy was born and brought up. Events include apple pressing and Christmas celebrations.

Writing Places

Max Gate and Hardy’s Cottage are part of a 'Writing Places' project in partnership with Literature Works. With events and activities from summer 2015 to autumn 2016, it explores the links between place and creative inspiration.

You can watch a short film (on Vimeo) featuring Andrew Motion when he visited Max Gate for the project's launch.

Don't miss

  • The pet cemetery where Hardy's dog Wessex is buried
  • Write your own poem at the desk in Hardy's study
  • Admire the architecture of the house Hardy designed
  • Help yourself to tea and cake in the old kitchen
  • Explore the newly restored kitchen garden
  • Take home a souvenir from our small shop
  • Come along to an event to really see the place brought to life

Explore Hardy Country

Explore Hardy Country and the places which inspired the famous writer

Explore Hardy Country and the places which inspired the famous writer

Follow Hardy’s story from his place of birth in Higher Bockhampton to his home at Max Gate, then on to his final resting place at St Michael’s Church in Stinsford. Learn more about his life and work at the Dorset County Museum, get your photo taken next to the Hardy memorial, and round off your trip with a tour of Clouds Hill, home of Lawrence of Arabia, a great friend of Hardy.

Arrive on foot

As parking is limited, you might like to consider walking to Max Gate from Dorchester town centre. It's an easy 20-minute walk of just over one mile. You can pay a visit to the town's Dorset County Museum to see the Hardy collection en route.