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May Gibbs' Nutcote
(1) Nutcote2.jpg
Established 1924
Location Kurraba Point, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Coordinates 33°50′32″S 151°13′17″E / 33.8421°S 151.2213°E / -33.8421; 151.2213
Curator The Nutcote Trust Pty Ltd & North Sydney Council

Nutcote is the name of the house which the renowned Australian children’s author and illustrator May Gibbs lived in for 44 years. May Gibbs' Nutcote is now a visitable house museum located in Kurraba Point, Sydney. It has a New South Wales heritage listing.[1]


The May Gibbs studio in Nutcote

The plot of land for Nutcote was found for May Gibbs by her mother, Mrs Cecilia Gibbs, in 1922 on the foreshore of Sydney Harbour. May’s instructions to architect B. J. Waterhouse were to design and build a house which would have compactness, convenience and charm. It was purchased for 1,365 pounds with a 500-pound deposit.

The final design, completed in 1924, was one of the smallest residences ever designed by Waterhouse, who later suggested that Gibbs name the house Nutcote. Construction was completed by the builder F E Gray, in 1925, when May was 48 years old and the total investment in the site and house by then was 5,000 pounds, with the property being mortgaged until 1953. The house was specifically designed to accommodate May’s studio and reflected her lifestyle, needs and priorities.

In 1928, a double garage was built towards the front of the property. This too was designed by B.J. Waterhouse and sat sympathetically with the main house on the site. The garage, built for the sum of 400 pounds, housed Gibbs' motor car, a Dodge in which she would make trips to the Blue Mountains and other areas.

Gibbs lived at Nutcote for 44 years, creating the Bib and Bub comic strip from 1924 to 1967. Inspiration for her work was taken from the bush in Western Australia which she knew as a child, and from around Sydney and the Blue Mountains. From the 1950s her own garden increasingly provided the stimulus for her work. The death of her husband in 1939, her father in 1940 and many of her close friends during the post-war years gradually led Gibbs into the life of a recluse. It is probable that unsympathetic reprints of her work and increasing poverty increased her desire for isolation. Three new works were to appear in later years: Scotty in Gumnut Land (1941), Mr and Mrs Bear and Friends (1943) and Prince Dandelion (1953). Gibbs lived at Nutcote until close to her death on 27 November 1969.

On her death, Gibbs left her home to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) which, under its charter, was unable to hold property. The house and contents were sold at public auction in 1970. Later owners were interested in demolishing and developing the site. In 1987, concerned relatives and friends formed the May Gibbs Foundation and the community battle to save it began, becoming a nationwide campaign to Save Nutcote for the Nation. The May Gibbs Foundation succeeded in saving the house, which had remained largely unaltered, protected by a Permanent Conservation Order and were also successful in having it placed on the Register of the National Estate.

Convinced by the widespread support for the campaign, North Sydney Council purchased Nutcote for $2.86m in 1990. Nutcote was restored and shows the house as it would have looked in the late 1920s and early 1930s. This period was chosen due to the evidence available. Some background sources included her husband’s diaries and letters, photographs of the house by the occupants, photographs taken by Harold Cazneaux for an article about Nutcote for the magazine, Australian Home Beautiful in 1926 and oral histories from family and friends. It opened to the public in 1994.



Further reading[edit]

  • Sharkey, Chris and Pendal, Phillip (2000). May and Herbert Gibbs: The People, the Places, South Perth, W.A. The May Gibbs Trust. ISBN 0-646-38811-8
  • Walsh, Maureen (2007). May Gibbs: Mother of the Gumnuts, Sydney: Sydney University Press. ISBN 978-1-920898-49-6, [1]

External links[edit]