Words on Wednesday: Katherine Mansfield House

On Sunday, we finally got to see the Katherine Mansfield House and Garden in Thorndon, Wellington. The author, Katherine Mansfield, was born here in 1888. The house itself was returned to its original layout and design during the 1980s and has recently been reopened after being closed for restoration and maintenance. This included a new roof and an interior redevelopment.

Entering the kitchen
The range

Prior to the 1980s renovation, the house had been created into two flats. Thankfully some original features (such as the bamboo style banisters) remained largely intact, and scraps of wallpaper were found that enabled their reproduction

The dining room

The day we visited coincided with the annual plant sale, and free entry to the house (or rather, by donation rather than entrance fees). I am so glad we went as it gave us an opportunity to see the house and collection of artefacts of the period. Some things were (scarily) familiar from my childhood, such as the pottery bed warmer and the Willow Pattern china that my mother loved, but it was also wonderful to see the house so lovingly restored and cared for. The three pictures below are from the nursery.

One room of the house contained a timeline of Mansfield’s life, and also related aspects to places around the city (such as the setting of her short story The Garden Party (the current 133 Tinakori Road, originally numbered 75). This was really interesting and a great resource as well.

All set for afternoon tea

One of Mansfield’s most famous short stories is The Doll’s House, first published in 1922. It has recently been translated into te reo Māori (Te Whare Tāre translated by Karena Kelly). A temporary exhibition of a wide variety of miniatures and dolls’ houses is on display at the moment. With my love and fascination of all things small, I loved this particular exhibit.

A miniature dining room
Walking down the stairs…note the wallpaper

The small garden is definitely worth a visit, and is listed with the New Zealand Gardens Trust. There were some really lovely pansies dotted around, hebes and other flowers to admire.

So, should you ever happen to be in Wellington, don’t forget this little gem. Thorndon in itself is interesting, being one of the oldest parts of the city, and not on the typical tourist trail, so visit if you get a chance.

In the garden

You can find Thistles and Kiwis on Facebook, and also on Instagram@thistleandkiwis.  As for Twitter….am totally inactive these days.  If you want to get in touch, email me on thistlesandkiwis@gmail.com

15 Comments

  1. Wonderful post! I so enjoyed touring the house. As I mentioned in a previous comment, I’ve never read Katherine Mansfield. Do you have a recommendation?

  2. What a beautiful house! Such lovely patterns, colors and vintage things. I love visiting these kinds of places.

  3. Serendipity & Connections – read this post when it came out and yesterday had some emails with connections to Katherine Mansfield.
    I am part of a group Red House Heritage Group which has been trying to “save” Red House.
    Red House is just 3-5 minutes walk from where I live in West Yorkshire.
    It was the home of Mary Taylor who moved to New Zealand for many years and then returned.
    Mary was a friend of Charlotte Bronte (author of Jane Eyre & Shirley). Shirley is about the Luddites and the area around here has many connections to them. Charlotte visited the house and descriptions are in her book.
    Red Houses was museum but 3 years ago the local council “mothballed” it and closed it due to financial cuts & they wanted to sell it!
    The secretary of the group has been “fighting” for it to remain for local use with petitions etc.
    Suddenly last week the council agreed that we can put in a bid for Community Asset Transfer and we have 6 months to put in a bid with a business plan.
    She has been corresponding with a lady in NZ ( who has been to Red House recently) and we have had advise about how the Katherine Mansfield house is run. I have just been reading these emails!
    Small, small world.

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