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Arts Organisation

Sutton House Recognised as Category 1 Historic Place

Architecture, Visual Arts
image Bill Sutton House – Courtesy CCC

The house and garden that once belonged to celebrated Christchurch artist Bill Sutton have been nationally recognised for their heritage value.

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga has listed Bill Sutton House and Garden, at 20 Templar Street, Richmond, as a Category 1 property on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero.

It is the first listed artist’s home in Christchurch.

Sutton, who was renowned for his large abstract landscapes, lived in the Templar Street house from 1963 until his death in 2000.

He had the house designed by his friend and colleague at the Canterbury College School of Art, Tom Taylor, who also designed houses for author Margaret Mahy and artist Doris Lusk.

About a third of the floor space in the house is taken up by a large studio/living room where Sutton worked on his paintings.

After Sutton’s death in 2000, the property was sold to former Christchurch Art Gallery curator Neil Roberts, who had long-dreamt of creating an artist-in-residence facility in Christchurch.

Mr Roberts lobbied to have Christchurch City Council place a protective conservation covenant on the property, which he intended to eventually gift to the city.

However, after the Canterbury earthquakes the property was red-zoned because of the extent of the damage to the surrounding land. Mr Roberts reluctantly sold it to the Crown but he and other heritage supporters successfully campaigned to save the house from demolition.

Land Information New Zealand oversaw the restoration of the house before transferring ownership of the property to Christchurch City Council in September 2020.

The Council still owns the property but leases it to Sutton Heritage House and Garden Charitable Trust who run it as an artist-in-residence facility and also open it to the public.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel is delighted the significance of Sutton House has been formally recognised by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

“Sutton House holds a special place in Christchurch’s art history and deserves its Category 1 listing.  Bill Sutton was an extraordinary artist and a proud Cantabrian and you can still feel his presence at the property, even after all these years. It is great the property is now accessible to the public and able to be used by visiting artists,’’ the Mayor says.

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