30 Apr Collection Focus: Liffiton Castle, 26 Liffiton Street, Whanganui – Richard Wotton
This series looks closer at some lesser known works in the Sarjeant’s collection. Assistant Curator James Hope discusses a photograph by Richard Wotton.
I have a fascination for what is known as “roadside” or “novelty” architecture. During primary school years spent in Brisbane I enjoyed my family’s visit to The Big Pineapple and its neighbour The Big Macadamia Nut on the Sunshine Coast. In my hometown of Christchurch, along Main South Road that runs through the industrial suburb of Hornby, is a rounded concrete building that used to be a takeaway painted to resemble a giant hamburger.
Liffiton Castle is a perfect example of this type of architecture – a medieval castle shrunk to domestic proportions. Being relatively new to Whanganui, it has been pointed out to me on numerous occasions and I have driven past it many times. It seems to have cult-like status in the town’s lore. Richard Wotton’s photograph of the restaurant depicts the facade of the building – perhaps in the early evening light – with windows showing its interior lit, open for business.
It’s stage-set kitsch is intensified by the unassuming suburban houses that flank the Castle on either side, their roofs topped with a TV aerial and a satellite dish respectively. Its symmetry is unbalanced by the curious placement of the white sign advertising it as a restaurant on the left tower. I bet those stocks in the front garden have provided countless Instagram opportunities. When lockdown ends and we can move and dine out freely again, Liffiton Castle is definitely on my Whanganui Bucket list.