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The Ravenscar story

“Our hope is to see Ravenscar House become, like its location, something between a museum and an art gallery, but with its own special atmosphere, and above all, a living place.” Susan Wakefield, September 2015

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Ravenscar That Was

Jim and Susan Wakefield began acquiring paintings and decorative arts while living in Auckland in the late 1980s. Their first significant purchase was from the colonial era of New Zealand painting, Thomas Attwood’s 1890 work Smith Sound.

In 1995, they started work on a spectacular home on Whitewash Head, in the coastal Christchurch suburb of Scarborough. The building, named Ravenscar House after an English village where Susan's family holidayed, housed their growing collection of contemporary and historic New Zealand paintings, sculpture, decorative glass, antiquities and designer furniture.

Living alongside beautiful artworks brought Jim and Susan great delight, and they were keen to share this with others. The couple planned to gift their house and its contents to the people of Christchurch, but it was damaged beyond repair in the February 2011 earthquake.

Image: Stuff Limited

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A New Home

In 2013, the Wakefields started searching for a new home for Ravenscar House, settling eventually on a site used for car parking at 52 Rolleston Avenue. The site was gifted to the project by the Christchurch City Council following public consultation in 2015.

The Wakefields’ vision for the new Ravenscar House Museum was inspired by house museums around the world, in particular Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, United Kingdom, founded by Jim and Helen Eade.

To realise this vision, the couple approached Patterson Associates, one of New Zealand’s leading architectural firms. Pattersons designed the building to evoke the original Ravenscar House and to synergise with the heritage buildings surrounding the new site.

Work began on the new Ravenscar House in 2019 and in 2021, with construction complete, the building was handed over to Canterbury Museum to own and operate on behalf of the people of Christchurch. Ravenscar House Museum opened to the public on 8 November 2021.

Today, visitors can see Susan and Jim’s vision for the new Ravenscar House and enjoy their cherished art collection in a tranquil, contemporary domestic setting.