Narryna is an 1830s merchant’s house and collection that tells the story of early colonial life in Hobart. The fine Georgian town house was built by seafarer, Captain Andrew Haig who built warehouses facing Salamanca Place in 1834. Narryna has had an adventurous life as a home to large families, boarding house, hospital and museum.
Step into Narryna for a rich experience of Tasmania’s social history, art and design traditions.
Originally published on 28 October 2019.
If you are a history buff, have a passion for Georgian architecture, or are simply looking for something interesting to do, then take a short walk from the city to Narryna, a house museum in Battery Point.
Hello Hobart went along to meet up with Karyn, House Museums Coordinator, to discuss the history of this beautiful house and the rumours of a resident ghost in preparation for Halloween.
Karyn tells us that Captain Andrew Haig commissioned the build of Narryna after purchasing the land in 1824. Haig was a merchant for the British East-India Company and also built two warehouses, now known as Cargo and Jack Greene, along Salamanca.
“We have transcribed some of Captain Haig’s journals and they are great because he mentions life in the house every now and then. There are parts where he talks about a birth of a child or something about the builder or one of his daughters running in the garden,” tells Karyn.
Haig was close to bankruptcy just eighteen months after the completion of Narryna forcing him to sell his home and the warehouses. The house then became home to numerous wealthy people in Hobart, including a Hobart Mayor.
In 1957, Narryna became Australia’s first folk museum. Today it is managed by Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) and you have the opportunity to head through the house to explore. You will find rooms set up in their original dressings to give you an idea of how they would have looked in 1840. The top floor hosts exhibitions on a regular basis.
The tours are self-guided with plenty of notes to ensure you get the most from the experience. Narryna is also home to a nationally significant costume collection, most of which have been kindly donated over the years.
The gardens are also not to be skipped, and the team are currently putting in kitchen garden to reinstate what it may have looked like back in the 1800s.
Narryna credits its success and operation to the volunteers. When we were there Kiah was helping to catalogue a number of old books, whilst Felicity was helping a member of the public with questions. These volunteers have a background in teaching or history and often feel a connection with the house.
“Our volunteers are passionate about history. They love history, they love this house and they enjoy coming here. We wouldn’t be able to stay open without the volunteers, we are so lucky,” says Karyn.
We couldn’t leave without asking about the ghost. After all, when you google ‘ghosts’ in Hobart, Narryna does come up as having a ghost or two. We ask Karyn if there was any truth to these stories.
“There is a story of a maid who fell down the stairs to her death and a stable hand who also died here. Some people have felt things, but I have been here by myself late at night and I don’t feel scared. I would love there to be a ghost, I would love to talk to Captain Haig, I have so many questions,” laughs Karyn.
Karyn tells us that she just adores her job here. She does a bit of everything from cooking, gardening, greeting the public and everything in between.
“It’s such a great job because I am never doing the same thing. I am always doing something different every day and lucky to call this my office,” says Karyn.