Thomas Hardy's Max Gate opens to public as work continues at the NT house
VISITORS to Thomas Hardy's Dorchester home Max Gate will find scaffolding in place as workmen carry out repairs and changes at the National Trust property.
The house that author and architect Hardy built in 1885 re-opened on Wednesday, along with his Birthplace Cottage at Higher Bockhampton.
When work at Max Gate finishes there will be two more of Hardy's rooms open to the public.
But it is business as usual according to National Trust visitor services manager Jennifer Davis.
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She said: "We are working hard at Max Gate to carry out much-needed repair work and to refurbish the kitchens and attic space.
"Although we are clad in scaffolding, we are very much open to the public and look forward to welcoming people to look round the house as normal and to see the important conservation and building work going on.
"The chimneys will be repointed using a mortar that has been specially created for Max Gate to match the original used when Hardy built the house in 1885.
"Behind the scenes we are fitting a new kitchen which will allow us to provide catering for special events.
"In addition we are turning unused attic space into staff and volunteer accommodation.
"When this work is completed in early summer we will be able to open up two new rooms to the public - Hardy's bedroom and his first study."
Repairs under way include repairs to the roof, which developed a leak during last year's heavy rain.
Hardy lived at Max Gate until his death in 1928.
He wrote the novels Tess of the D'Urbervilles, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Jude the Obscure there along with poetry.
The house was empty when Max Gate was given to the National Trust in 1940 with many of Hardy's belongings including his desk now on display at the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester.
A small collection of furniture put together for the full opening of the house in 2011 was boosted last year when Shell UK donated antique items of the right period including bookcases, chairs, writing desks, lamps and ceramics.
Max Gate and Hardy's Birthplace and now open five days a week for the new season, from 11am to 5pm every Wednesday to Sunday.
Also open at the same time and days is Clouds Hill near Bovington, the rural retreat of T.E. Lawrence who was a frequent visitor to Hardy at Max Gate.