When Narryna was built in 1836, there was no electricity or plumbing. All lighting was first provided by candles and lanterns. The front rooms are surprisingly well lit through natural light, mainly because of the two windows in each room. The study and morning room would have received sun from the morning in the morning room and sun in the study at sunset. These rooms would have however still been fairly dark. The upstairs rooms are well lit due to the size of the rooms as well as having more than one window to let in natural light. The stairway would have been fairly dark without the aid of candle or lantern light.
There are no toilets in Narryna. In the early days the toilet was outside, commonly called an "out house". The toilet "bowl" was collected once a week, and replaced with a fresh bucket by men called "Night Men". At night, chamber pots were used. These are large decorated bowls that usually lived under the bed and were emptied in the morning by the maid and cleaned for use that night.
In 1836 there were no automobiles. All transport was carried out by horse and buggy. These were usually reserved for long trips, or when one needed to collect something large from the city. Otherwise, walking was a good form of transport at Narryna as it was close to the centre of Hobart Town and the docks. Most homes of Narryna's style would have had a couple of cows to provide milk for drinking or to be made into butter. Chickens too would have been kept for eating as well as for their production of eggs. Large houses of this type also had a substantial vegetable garden.
As mentioned above, there is no plumbing at Narryna, so there is no bathroom. In 1836 most families only bathed on a Sunday night with good washes by hand in between Sundays. This process was also carried out because there was a lack of water in the area. In country areas buckets of water would have to be carried back to the house until the bath was full. In most cases the water was heated over the fire and then poured into a small bathing tub, where one would carry out their cleaning and throw the water outside when finished.
Security was very important at Narryna and in Hobart in its early days. All the windows at Narryna had shutters, and these would be locked at night to stop break-ins, or prevent the house being raided by bushrangers. They were also useful for keeping the heat in at night when the fires were lit. There are trapdoors in every room down stairs. These were put in place so that if there was a need to escape, the occupants could be lowered into the hole and escape through a side exit.
Unfortunately, Captain Haig did not prosper in the colony. In 1842 Captain Haig was forced to sell his property, including his warehouse and Narryna. At the time Narryna was very close to being finished, but Captain Haig did not have a lot of time in his new house before it was sold during the economic depression of the time. Over the next 100 years it became the residence of many notable Tasmanian personalities. In 1842 a wealthy landowner by the name of Michael Lackey purchased Narryna, and was later left to his daughter Maria Orr in 1847. Maria later re-married and rented the house until 1857.
There were a number of tenants housed in Narryna. Hyram L. Moses was a member of the Jewish community who rented the property for a while, until George Washington Walker followed. George Washington Walker was a Quaker missionary who came to Australia in 1831 as a missionary. He is best remembered for founding the Hobart Savings Bank. In 1855 Major Hugh Calveley Cotton moved into Narryna after twenty five years service as an engineer involved in irrigation projects in India. He became the Deputy Surveyor-General of Van Diemen's Land. Charles Butler took up residence between 1856-57. In 1858 Maria and her new husband Charles Lempriere lived at Narryna for a short period before moving to Melbourne. They decided to keep Narryna because of a drop in housing prices, and continued to rent out the residence.
In 1863 David Lewis and his family resided at Narryna until 1881. Lewis was Mayor of Hobart Town in 1858-59 and was a Member of the House of Assembly for Clarence and then Hobart from 1864-1882. Edward Hurst Pearce and his family then resided in Narryna from 1885 to 1926, the longest period of occupancy for the house. After the death of the family, the estate went into the hands of Martha Peate where it was turned into a boarding house. In 1940 Peate apparently had twenty people boarding in the house for two pounds, fifteen shillings a week.
In 1944 the boarding house was closed and Narryna was let to Mrs Beatrice A. Seccombe before being acquired by the State Government in August 1946. The house then became an after-care hostel for female tuberculosis patients, where 14 people were accommodated at a time. In 1954 Narryna was closed as a hostel. There were suggestions to make Narryna into an aged care facility, but due to the stairs and lack of natural light, this was rejected. Representatives of the Tasmanian Historical Research Association, the Shiplover's Society of Tasmania, and the Battery Point Progress Association requested that Narryna be preserved as a museum. The request was granted and Narryna was established in 1955 as Australia's first heritage museum.