Highlights of Max Gate

Want to make the most of your visit? Here are our suggestions for what to see and do at Max Gate, including the house and its lovely garden, and the pet cemetery.

The front of Max Gate with a conservatory on the right side and trees to the left

The house 

This is the house that Hardy, a trained architect, designed for himself. It’s where he wrote some of his greatest novels and poetry, and where he lived until his death in 1928. The original items of furniture were sold off after Hardy’s death by his second wife, Florence, so what you see are recreations of how the rooms might have looked, using items of furniture from the period Hardy lived at Max Gate.

The garden facade of Max Gate

The garden

When Hardy bought the plot of land on which to build his grand house it was almost completely bare. He planted a shelter of trees to screen the house and gradually created a beautiful garden around it. As well as a vegetable garden and flower beds, Max Gate has a croquet lawn and the Nut Walk. Hardy created this walk between the east wall and a hedge. Weather and health permitting, he would walk here every day.

Tombstones in the pet cemetery

The pet cemetery

On the western side of the garden Hardy and his wife Emma created a final resting place for their beloved pets, both cats and dogs. Some of the headstones were carved by Hardy himself. Perhaps the most loved of these pets was Wessex, a terrier who had a tendency to bite visitors. Later occupants of Max Gate carried on the tradition of keeping cats and dogs and burying their pets here.

Two hens being carefully held by a National Trust volunteer at Max Gate

The hens

We've given ten ex-caged hens a happy new home at Max Gate. They are Rhode Island reds which we got from the RSPCA's Taylors Rehoming Centre at Kingston Maurward College. Thomas Hardy kept chickens here. He loved chicken soup and egg custard, but hated the idea of his hens being killed. He would always ensure he was out when the deed took place.