Literary Houses

Ngaio Marsh's houseI’ve always been a fan of visiting writers’ and artists’  houses. In New Zealand we don’t have a big number of such places but some  are easily reachable for Christchurch residents.

The first is the Ngaio Marsh House in Lower Cashmere. It has fortunately survived the earthquakes and is able to be visited. A couple of years ago I went to an open day and was allowed to have a quick trip around taking photographs.

In Oamaru there is  Janet Frame’s old family home. I can really recommend a visit. Although the house has changed a lot since Janet’s life there, the back garden still runs down to the reserve and you can see the pine trees of “the Plannies”. Each room has some well chosen pieces of Janet’s writing and some memorabilia. It is an opportunity to focus on her writing skills and just how fine a wordsmith she was. The curator is very welcoming. For the energetic there is also a walking trail to various landmarks around Oamaru.

I’ve also visited Katherine Mansfield’s family home in Tinakori Road. Still to come is Frank Sargeson’s House on Esmonde Road, Takapuna, the Dan Davin House in Invercargill and the Colin McCahon house in Titirangi. Some Kiwi writers might be more challenging – James K Baxter could be a student squat in Dunedin, Jerusalem on the Wanganui River, a postie’s route in Wellington with a few pubs thrown in…?

On overseas trips I have enjoyed museums in houses where musicians, artists and writers lived – Wordsworth, Elgar, Handel, Rodin, Monet, Jane Austen  and Hans Heysen in Adelaide. Guardian readers recently suggested a few of their favourites.

Have you visited any of these New Zealand literary and artistic haunts? Or some overseas ones? What did you think?