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CUP book

Ravenscar House: A biography

16 November 2023

By Sally Blundell


February 2022
224pp, Hardback
250mm x 190mm
ISBN 978-1-98-850322-6

Many exciting new buildings have arisen from the rubble of post-earthquake Christchurch but none, perhaps, is as remarkable as Ravenscar House in the heart of the city’s heritage precinct. Ravenscar House: A biography explores the story of this unique, purpose-built house museum as the realisation of a long-held dream and the expression of a heart-warming act of public philanthropy.

Ravenscar cover

Christchurch journalist and writer Sally Blundell tells the compelling story of Jim and Susan Wakefield, whose vision was to share with their community the eclectic and impressive collection of art and artefacts that they had endowed to the charitable Ravenscar Trust. After their house on Scarborough Hill was demolished following the Canterbury earthquakes, the couple were determined to commission a new house museum, filled with a wide range of works by leading New Zealand artists such as Frances Hodgkins, Colin McCahon and Bill Sutton – and many more. Designed by renowned architects Patterson Associates, the Wakefields’ bold but elegant addition to the city was opened in 2021.

Sally Blundell’s engaging and well-informed text is enhanced by family photographs, and stunning images of Ravenscar House itself, the garden it enfolds and the works within its walls. This is a unique story of resilience, architectural ingenuity and, above all, extraordinary generosity.

Sally Blundell, a journalist and writer in Ōtautahi Christchurch, has a PhD in English literature from the University of Canterbury. She has been books and culture editor for the New Zealand Listener and was a fiction judge for the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. Her essay contributions include ‘Not Listening: Changing Conversations in the Wake of the Mosque Shootings’ (Public Knowledge, ed. Emma Johnson, 2019), ‘Amending the Map’ (Griffith Review 43, ed. Julianne Schultz and Lloyd Jones, 2014) and ‘Reoccupying Christchurch’ (Extraordinary Anywhere, ed. Ingrid Horrocks and Cherie Lacey, 2016). Her 2007 book, Look This Way: New Zealand Writers on New Zealand Artists, was a finalist in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards.

Listen to Sally being interviewed by Kathryn Ryan on Nine To Noon.

Watch the online launch of Ravenscar House: A biography.

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