A literary-enthusiast’s dream, the Mansfield Garden is one of the main highlights for visitors to Hamilton Gardens.

You have arrived in Edwardian Wellington on the morning of Katherine Mansfield’s famous short story 'The Garden Party'. The food is on the table, the band is soon to play, and you can almost hear the first guests’ feet crunching up the gravel path.

Inspired by New Zealand’s great modernist writer Katherine Mansfield, this garden recreates the world described in her famous short story ‘The Garden Party’. The scene is Wellington in the 1900s at the home of a wealthy colonial family. A party is about to take place on the grounds of a house surrounded by Wellington bush. Food is on the table, musical instruments wait on the tennis court, and the guests are about to arrive.



Free entry

Best viewed: Sep – Feb (Spring, Summer)

9.00am - 5.00pm, last entry 4.30pm

Easily accessible

NZ native flora

Colourful blooms

Popular with kids

What you'll find in the Mansfield Garden

  • A garden party scene with tantalising treats
  • A replica of Mansfield House
  • A visual display of a book come to life.

Background of the Mansfield Garden

The Mansfield Garden represents the early 20th century New Zealand garden described in Katherine Mansfield’s short story ‘The Garden Party’. The Mansfield Garden must be seen to be believed.

A New Zealand-born author, recognised internationally as one of the foremost pioneers in modern literature, Katherine Mansfield’s 'The Garden Party' is one of her best-known works.

Inspired by an event that took place in 1907 in a Wellington garden, the Mansfield Garden takes inspiration from plants, design detail, food, and architecture appropriate to the Edwardian period in New Zealand.

Gardens developed in the early 1900s were diverse, yet with many common elements like sweeping, looping or circular gravel driveways leading up to the front door. They often featured large lawns and a lawn tennis court or ornamental ponds with a fountain located in the centre of the entry driveway.

Roses were always a popular choice, and their fragrance can be enjoyed at the Mansfield Garden. Ornamental plants such as maples, cherries, wisteria, camellia, rhododendrons, and bamboo were frequently incorporated. New Zealand natives started to be used, such as the karaka hedge on the far side of the tennis court. 

While the central portions of this garden are filled with traditional roses and other exotic plants popular at the time, the hills beyond were planted with New Zealand plants that were common on the hills in Wellington. Gardens of the Edwardian period were often set against clearings in the bush so these hills of native bush have been used to frame this garden. 

Architectural details like the bench seats and pergola were selected to match the period. The house façade was designed, not of the Mansfield family home, but to that of a design appropriate to this period similar to her parents’ house in Tinakori Road, Wellington. 

Mansfield’s ‘The Garden Party’ references include the marquee set up against the karaka hedge on the tennis court and a “very small band” in another corner of the court. Laura’s mother is having a meltdown in the upstairs bedroom, the sun is (hopefully) shining and everything is ready for the party to begin. 

Ford Model T Car

Owning a car in New Zealand’s 1900s meant you had “arrived”. The motor car and ‘motoring’ quickly became an addition to the fashion of taking rural outings to enjoy the fresh air.

The Edwardian era Ford Model T was chosen for the Mansfield Garden to reflect the era, with the car’s construction the result of a community project facilitated by the Waikato Veteran & Vintage Car Club Inc and the Friends of Hamilton Gardens, and convened by Reece Burnett.

More than 30 individuals and Waikato companies were involved in providing time, expertise, materials, and funding for its construction.

The Banquet

Mansfield describes the 15 kinds of sandwiches with the crusts cut off and ‘Godber’s famous cream puffs’ in 'The Garden Party'. While names were changed before incorporating them into story, Mansfield made no effort to disguise the identity of the most successful baker, confectioner, and caterer in Wellington at the turn of the 20th century, whose name was James Godber.

According to the New Zealand Times, he had “a very fine delivery van…kept to deliver stock to order” and was well known for his “pastry, buns, fancy cakes, scones, cream puffs, girdle scones”.

While only two of the 15 kinds of sandwiches created by Sheridan’s cook were specified - cream cheese with lemon curd, and egg and olive - our food was researched by Emeritus Professor Helen Leach (University of Otago) and Hamilton caterer Lizzie Dickson, and constructed from resin and concrete by artist Sacha Lauchlan. Cups and saucers were created by Tuscany Statues.

A brief history of Katherine Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield was born into a socially prominent family in Wellington, as Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp.

Katherine lived in a small wooden house on Tinakori Road in Thorndon with her two older sisters, a younger sister and brother. In 1893, the Mansfield family moved to the country suburb of Karori where Mansfield spent the happiest years of her childhood. However, she eventually found the confines of colonial Edwardian life stifling and sought inspiration for a new way of living in the writings of Oscar Wilde and other ‘decadents’.

At 19, Mansfield left for London without her family to pursue a career as a professional cello player. She never returned. She had many voyages, several lovers and counted among her friends Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Francis Carco and the American artist Anne Estelle Rice.

In 1911, Katherine Mansfield’s first published collection of short stories 'In a German Pension' was received with success. Reviews spoke of ‘acute insight’ and ‘unquenchable humour’. She then contributed to the avant-garde publication 'Rhythm', with her partner and husband-to-be, literary critic John Middleton Murry.

The death of her young brother, Leslie, in the First World War devastated her and she found solace in her remembrance of the country of their childhood. These remembrances were transformed into some of her finest writing such as 'At the Bay', 'The Garden Party' and 'Prelude'.

In 1917, she was diagnosed with extrapulmonary tuberculosis, which led to her death at age 34.

Be transported into the pages of 'The Garden Party' at the Mansfield Garden.

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