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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

Throughout the year, regular events and activities bring Max Gate to life. These include poetry, music and theatre in the garden, a Cadbury Easter Egg trail and popular festive celebrations.

Art exhibition

Emma and Thomas Hardy: Identity Love Loss and Bereavement

New for 2014: Visual artist Susan R Hughes has combined images and words to explore ideas of identity, love, loss and bereavement through the early Hardy relationship.

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.

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? There's also a no frills campsite or 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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