May Gibbs, author of the much-loved, iconic story The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot & Cuddlepie lived at ‘Nutcote’ on Neutral Bay’s foreshore from when it was completed in 1925 for 44 years. With an innate talent for drawing, and bringing her characters to life, May’s entire life was devoted to her art. We visited Nutcote on the weekend. What a precious little pocket of Australia’s cultural history.
Nutcote, a Mediterranean/Neo Georgian style cottage was designed for May and her husband James Ossili Kelly by architect BJ Waterhouse. Her brief was for it to have ‘compactness, convenience and charm’. Inside its influence is Early English/Baronial, with beautiful arched windows and all door trims, and floors, made from Western Australian jarra.
May loved her Scottish Terriers and when we visited about twenty, plus a handful of Westies, (and all their owners!) were socialising in the garden. It was 138 years after May’s birthday.
The gardens at Nutcote have been brought back and are a delightful place for visitors to relax, picnic, or enjoy tea and scones from the tea house. Nothing could be further away from all the woes of the world…
Luckily Nutcote was saved from demolition by developers and is now owned, and cared for, by North Sydney Council. The property also benefits from donations and entry fees from the public. It’s a great asset – and a must-visit when you’re next in Sydney. From Nutcote’s website:
The importance of the Gardens to May’s work is indicated in an interview for the National Library in 1968 when she reflected, “Nutcote’ is a dear little place with a long, long garden. I used to walk around the Gardens, weeding it and loving it, and with a book in my pocket and a pencil and that’s where I got my best ideas, out in the open, gardening.”