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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.

Christmas event

Saturday 20 December

We're opening the house for a festive event again this year. Join us for an afternoon of traditional Christmas carols with local folk musician Tim Laycock (pictured, at Hardy's Cottage). See the events page for full details with timings.

Closed for winter

A rare snow scene at Max Gate

Apart from the Christmas event in December, Max Gate is now closed for the winter months. This allows us to do important maintenance work. It will reopen as usual in March, but in the meantime why not discover the new Hardy's Birthplace Visitor Centre at nearby Hardy's Cottage. The visitor centre is open every day this winter.

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

Follow in the footsteps of Hardy as you explore Hardy Country © Dorset County Museum

Follow in the footsteps of Hardy as you explore Hardy Country

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.

*Currently closed for winter, reopening in March 2015.

Explore Hardy Country

Shedbush would make an idyllic base from which to explore © National Trust Holiday Cottages

Shedbush would make an idyllic base from which to explore

You'll want to take your time exploring the Hardy landscape. Book a break in a National Trust holiday cottage and discover Hardy Country and West Dorset at your leisure. Will you choose a cosy cottage or a majestic Art Deco villa? The no frills campsite is closed during the winter months but there's a basic bunkhouse for 'hardy' types.

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.

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