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When Hardy and Emma moved in they
both had reservations. Emma found
it cold and draughty, Hardy worried about the cost of it all. Despite this he
came to love Max Gate and it remained his home until his death.Built as a two
up, two down Victorian villa it was a modest size. The house is not overly
ornate, but this was part of Hardy's intent. But as the years passed and as Hardy's
novels began to gain popular acceptance he was able to afford to expand Max Gate
after complaining about the lack of room. With the success of Jude
The Obscure and now in a strong financial position, he embarked on a building
spree that nearly doubled the space of the house.
Hardys most famous works The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the dUbervilles and Jude the Obscure were written in the study. Later it was to become the writting place for his wealth of over 900 poems in later years. Hardy was able to entertain some of the great and famous of the worlds of literature, art and music at Max Gate. Most of the entertainment was carried out in the music room which was designed to be light, bright and airy. It affords an uninterrupted view of the garden through its unusually large windows.
Hardy's study has been painstakingly reconstructed inside the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester. The contents of the study were largely untouched following Hardy's death. After Florence Hardy's in 1937 her will simply stated that the contents of Max Gate were to be sold. The contents apart from the furniture presented to the Dorset County Museum were sold at auction in Dorchester on 16th February 1938 by Hy. Duke & Sons. The study includes the tables and chairs that he worked at along with many of his writing instruments. The bookcases contain many of his own first editions and his own reference books, about 400 books were presented to the museum..
Some of his guests included Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Mrs Patrick Campbell, A E Housman, Siegfried Sassoon, H G Wells, Robert Graves, Edmund Blunden, George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf, Gustav Holst, Marie Stopes, Sir James Barrie, the the Prince of Wales and many others.
Thomas Hardy lived in the house from 1885 until his death in 1928.
Max Gate was auctioned on the 6th May 1938 and was purchased by Hardy's sister Kate. She subsequently left it to the National Trust.
Max Gate is currently owned and maintained by the National Trust.
Tel: +44 (0) 1305 262538
2 April 29 September 25 Mondays, Wednesday and Sunday
Notes: Only hall, dining and drawing rooms and garden open. Private
visits, tours and seminars by schools, colleges and literary societies, at other
times, by appointment with the tenants, Mr and Mrs Andrew Leah
£2.40, child £1.30. NT Members Free (Correct at time of editing).
Directions: 1 mile East of Dorchester on the A352 Wareham road. From
Dorchester follow A352 until you reach the roundabout named Max Gate (at the
junction of the A35 Dorchester bypass). Turn left and left again into the cul-de-sac
outside the house Bus: Coach House Travel 4 mile from the town centre Station:
Dorchester South 1ml; Dorchester West (U) 1 mile. Free car park (not NT) 50yds