the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other Dorset writers

Max Gate, Thomas Hardy’s home

on January 15, 2018

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Thomas Hardy designed and lived in Max Gate, situated on the outskirts of Dorchester, from 1885 until his death in 1928. When we first moved to the county town, the house was occupied by tenants and you could only access two of the ground floor rooms. Over time, the National Trust have opened more of the rooms including the attic rooms where Emma, Hardy’s first wife withdrew to.

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Emma’s boudoir in the attic at Max Gate

Emma started to use the rooms as a daytime retreat, but by 1899 she decided to move her bedroom up there, too. She described her space as a ‘sweet refuge and solace’. It’s strange to think of Hardy working at this desk directly beneath Emma’s rooms.

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Thomas Hardy’s first floor study

In his study at the house, Hardy wrote Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure and The Mayor of Casterbridge and much of his poetry.

Very little of the furniture in the house belonged to Hardy because his second wife, Florence, sold everything upon his death. Therefore, the contents of each room is there to recreate the atmosphere that might have existed. As such, this is one of the few National Trust properties I’ve been to where visitors are encouraged to take a seat and enjoy the warmth of the fire in the lounge.

Use of the toilet, however, is not allowed (although there are loos for public use).

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Max Gate is well worth visiting for anyone staying in or passing through Dorchester.


8 responses to “Max Gate, Thomas Hardy’s home

  1. I think there’s a re-creation of one of Hardy’s three Max Gate studies with the real furniture in Dorchester Musuem – at least that’s what one of the guides told me (I haven’t looked). When we went the volunteers said things like: ‘Sit at Hardy’s desk and write with his pen – but it’s not really his desk or his pen.’ Really helped to get the atmosphere of the place though – and it’s very interesting in contrast to the house in Bockhampton where Hardy was born.

    • gailaldwin says:

      I’ve seen Hardy’s study in the museum but it’s all behind glass – you can’t get close to anything! That’s one of the reasons I find Max Gate such a delight. And the contrast to Hardy’s cottage underlines the difference in social standing between Hardy’s upbringing and Emma’s family connections.

  2. Suzanne Goldring says:

    I’d love to visit next time I’m in Dorchester.

  3. I’ve been and agree it’s well worth a visit. The nearby cottage where he grew up is also interesting and the garden is wonderful.

  4. kathysharp2013 says:

    When we were there for the DWN writing competition, Gail, I was so spooked by the peculiar atmosphere that I couldn’t get up to the top floor.

  5. Max gate is on our list to visit. Thank you for sharing..

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