Visiting Thomas Hardy’s Houses, Dorchester

Visiting Thomas Hardy’s Houses, Dorchester

One of the UK’s most celebrated poets and authors, Thomas Hardy wrote many hugely influential poems and novels, including Tess of the D´Urbervilles, Far from the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge.


Few other British authors have such deep-rooted associations with the natural landscapes and cultural heritage of their hometowns as Thomas Hardy. Born in Higher Bockhampton near Dorchester in 1840, Hardy gravitated back to Dorset throughout his life before settling back in the county permanently. Today, you can still visit both his childhood home and the townhouse he designed himself, both near Dorchester. 

Hardy’s Cottage

The picturesque cob thatch cottage near Stinsford, now known as Hardy’s Cottage, is the birthplace of Thomas Hardy. The place where he spent his early years, the cottage was originally built by his great-grandfather and hasn’t much changed since the family left years ago. Outside, the romantic feel of the cottage is enhanced by the trail of roses around the door and the sound of birdsong in the garden. Meanwhile, the cottage’s interiors with their open hearths, small windows and flagstone floors give you a glimpse into the setting in which Hardy penned his first works, including Under the Greenwood Tree and Far from the Madding Crowd.

If you would like to visit the cottage, you can book onto cottage tours on select days throughout the week which comprise a 15-minute introductory talk in the garden and then free-time to explore the National Trust-run cottage and gardens at your own leisure. Next door to the cottage is Thorncombe Woods, which are managed by Dorset Council. An area of ancient woodland and nature reserve that merges with heathland (fictitiously called Egdon Heath in Hardy’s writings), it’s great for walks. Next to the Thorncombe Wood car park, you’ll also find Hardy's Birthplace Visitor Centre which has display boards, a shop, café and more, and close by you can also pick up The Hardy Way.

Higher Bockhampton, near Dorchester, Dorset, DT2 8QJ | 01305 262 366

Max Gate

Upon his return permanent return to Dorset after years toing and froing to London, Thomas Hardy put his mind to creating a new home – Max Gate – named after a local tollgate keeper. Having trained as an architect after his formal schooling ended, Hardy designed and built Max Gate himself and lived there from 1885 until his death in 1928. Austere but sophisticated, the house was in some ways intended to seal his entry into the wealthy middle classes of the area. Interestingly though, Hardy must have become more reflective in his later years as his last novels, Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, reflected a greater consciousness of the hardships of working-class people.

After his death, many of Hardy's possessions were dispersed and so not many of the furnishings in the house are original. That said, the National Trust have sympathetically refurnished the rooms of this unique Dorset attraction to reflect the spaces in which Hard lived and wrote. As well as the house’s interiors, visits to the property should also include time wandering the gardens. Much as it was originally designed, the garden still features the high walls and large trees that were intended to preserve privacy. There is also a sundial in the garden that was designed by Hardy and erected in his memory.

Alington Avenue, Dorchester, Dorset, DT1 2FN | 01305 262 538

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our luxury cottages in Dorset here.


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