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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.
Unfortunately, many of Hardy's possessions were dispersed before we acquired the house, but you can still see the spaces he created and the rooms he shaped in order 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.
Closed for winter
Max Gate is closed for the winter months and will re-open in March 2014. During the closed season we'll be busy doing all the important tasks we can't carry out while the house is open. This includes essential maintenance work, cleaning, and planning for next year. We look forward to your visit next spring.
- 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
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.
*Hardy's Birthplace and Clouds Hill are both closed during the winter season.
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.