Walk in the gate and up the front path and you can feel the decades slipping from grasp. Herbaceous perennials line the front garden, spilling with bright flowers and green leaves over summer.
The main entry to the house in Tinakori Road where writer, Katherine Mansfield, was born in 1888 and lived her early childhood, is through a simple Victorian porch. Once inside you’ll find the house as authentic as a Victorian New Zealand villa can be. Rooms and hallways echo to the clatter of shoes on varnished floors, eastern-inspired replicated wallpapers line the dark walls and the windows are covered with widowy lace and darkening curtains. The feeling is subdued, almost austere, and the mind stretches in vain to find familiar technology, appliances and luxuries.
Katherine Mansfield is still New Zealand’s best known writer and although she lived much of her adult life in Europe, dying in her mid-30s before she had reached her writing prime, she left a fantastic collection of short stories and poems that pulsated with the life of the time she wrote in. Many of her stories were set in the New Zealand of her childhood; others in Europe. She moved in head-spinning literary circles, spending long periods of time with Virginia Woolf, DH Lawrence and TS Eliot. Her work was credited with redefining the way the short story was composed; she wrote without a plot, creating vivid vignettes of life around everyday events. She died at 35 of tuberculosis, never returning to New Zealand.
A visit to her childhood home in Wellington brings many of her stories to life. Bedrooms with their simple handmade eiderdowns, dark hallway corners and ever-busy kitchen come to life. Walls lined with varnished boards complete a look that has now all but disappeared. A DVD replays accounts of her life, and there are large scrapbooks and photo albums to leaf through. Her typewriter sits on a desk. If you’re a fan of Katherine Mansfield’s writing you’ll find this a full immersion experience and well worth the trip.
Driving round Wellington in a rental car you’ll find the house at 25 Tinakori Road behind the central city above the Terrace. There is easy parking in the street outside.