One of the more surprising attractions of Wellington, New Zealand’s small but perfectly formed capital city, is what might be described as England’s farthest-flung literary shrine — the Katherine Mansfield House. The author’s birthplace and childhood home, this modest house in the relatively plush suburb of Thorndon is open to the public — and who could resist the allure of a building described by Mansfield as ‘that awful cubbyhole’, ‘the wretched letter box in town’ and ‘that horrid little piggy house which was really dreadful’?
She also described the place as ‘dark and crowded’. Dark it still is, and horribly crowded it must have been. In the five years the family occupied it, three generations lived together in this two-storey Victorian mini--villa — Katherine (née Kathleen Beauchamp) and her two sisters (more siblings were to come), her banker father, her mother, her maternal grandmother and two young aunts.