Hardy’s Dorset

Discover the life and work of Dorset’s famous novelist and poet Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) and dive into key themes of his personal and professional life.

A recreation of Hardy’s study includes his desk and personal belongings from his home at Max Gate on Dorchester’s outskirts. The Hardy’s Life room has childhood toys, family portraits, musical instruments – and music from the Hardy family’s music books. Hardy’s Writing features original manuscripts and touchscreens for browsing digital manuscripts and personal letters. In Hardy’s Wessex, you can explore his inspirations for locations on a touchscreen map, and see paintings that bring them alive.

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What's Inside



Thomas Hardy’s scarf

This scarf is one of the few pieces of Hardy’s clothing that survive. When Hardy died, his wife Florence asked their gardener Bertie Stephens to…


Katharine Hardy’s red dress      

Hardy’s younger sister Katharine (1856-1940) was a schoolteacher and had this dress made in Dorchester. With its luxurious red silk and bustle, it is reminiscent…

Late 19th century

Watercolours of Dorset landscapes   

Henry Joseph Moule The first curator of Dorset Museum and a friend of Thomas Hardy, Henry Moule regularly went out into the countryside surrounding Dorchester…


Maquette of the Statue of Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) at the Top ‘o Town 

Thomas Hardy Eric Kennington Bronze…


Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)     

Maggie Richardson Mitchell Bronze…


Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)     

Reginald Grenville Eves Oil on canvas…


Perpetual calendar   

After Hardy’s first wife Emma died in 1912, Hardy kept his desk calendar set to the date he met her – ‘That never to be…


Thomas Hardy’s writing pens   

Hardy wrote Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure with these pens, dipping the nibs repeatedly into the inkwell on his desk. He engraved…


Original manuscript of The Woodlanders   

The Woodlanders is the first novel Hardy worked on in his new study at Max Gate and was partly inspired by the village of Melbury…


Original manuscript of Under the Greenwood Tree  

Hardy wrote Under the Greenwood Tree in 1871 when he was living at Weymouth and Higher Bockhampton. He set the story in Mellstock, a village…


Juno I watercolour by Thomas Hardy

Thomas painted his pet rabbit when he was 16. He was interested in art and nature, knew many plants and animals by their country names…


Childhood mug belonging to Thomas Hardy

The mug Hardy drank from as a boy shows pictures of rural workers – a shepherd and shepherdess.