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Nutcote The Home of May Gibbs

Address: 5 Wallaringa Avenue Neutral Bay NSW 2089
Phone: 02 9953 4453
Email: admin@maygibbs.com.au

Tags: culture, museum, historical

Many countries throughout the world have made museums of the houses of their famous authors for the particular enjoyment of children. For example there is the home of Beatrix Potter in England, two of Hans Christian Andersen's homes in Denmark and, in Canada, Green Gables, the home of L. M. Montgomery, author of the Anne books.

Australia also has May Gibbs - an author worthy of such a tribute. She was the first to give Australian children a fantasy world of their own. Her bush babies and Bad Banksia men brought, and still bring, a rich fairyland as close as the bush is to their back doors.

May's story Snugglepot and Cuddlepie was published in 1918, before she moved into Nutcote in 1925. Nutcote was the house which was specially designed for May Gibbs by the well-known architect B. J. Waterhouse and she lived there for 45 years. From her lovely studio overlooking the harbour at Neutral Bay she wrote and illustrated most of her wonderful books and the long-running cartoon strip Bib and Bub.

In her will May Gibbs left Nutcote to Unicef, which at the time could not own property, so the house and contents were auctioned in 1970. Later owners were interested in demolishing the house and developing the site. In 1987, concerned relatives and friends formed the May Gibbs Foundation and succeeded in having the house of Nutcote protected by a Permanent Conservation Order. It was also placed on the Register of the National Estate. Convinced by the widespread support generated by the Foundation, North Sydney Municipal Council purchased the property in 1990. It was leased to the Nutcote Trust, who then set up May's home as a House Museum.

Architect, B. J. Waterhouse, built Nutcote in 1925 with 'Mediterranean' features, a departure from his signature style. With stuccoed yellow walls, arched windows and blue/green shutters the house looks across a magnificent garden (containing native trees and English flowers that May planted) onto Neutral Bay. Pictorial evidence of the house at this time shows it to be sparsely furnished.

Furniture and objects on display now are either originals, reproductions or reconstructions based on research. The interior has an Early English/Baronial character favoured by Waterhouse with the generous use of dark stained timber joinery and built-ins of either Californian redwood or cedar. The flooring is the original jarrah.

The interior of the house is being re-created in the 1930's manner because of the evidence available for this time. Some background sources include her husband's diaries and letters, photographs of the house by the occupants, photographs taken by Harold Cazneaux for an article on Nutcote that appeared in the Australian Home Beautiful- 1926 and oral histories from family and friends.

The garden was a constant source of pleasure to May Gibbs. She enjoyed working there, taking notes and creating stories. Letters and diaries written by May Gibbs and her husband, who died in 1939, often included references to flowering blooms, the condition of the lawn and new plants. Her husband wrote "Mamie could spend her whole life pottering, fairly strenuously I must say, around her garden, varied by a good long camping tour in country".

See also

Objects in Australia Objects in Australia

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