Auckland's Cotter House boasts at least two in-house chefs, but neither would have been stretched satisfying the tastes of its latest famous guest.

Rocker Keith Richards and family spent a number of days in the Remuera mansion, in the weeks after his fall from a Fijian coconut palm.

According to owner Gloria Poupard-Walbridge, he is a man of simple tastes. "He's an Englishman. He likes his sausage and mash, but that is all I can tell you."

Mrs Poupard-Walbridge was reluctant to discuss the Rolling Stones' guitarist, having signed a confidentiality agreement. "They will bloody well take me to the cleaners."

But now and on previous occasions, she has discussed the house's other secret - it was haunted when she first bought it in 1995.

One of her top priorities was getting rid of unwanted "presences" haunting the house.

"We had been here for two days when we were woken at 2.30am by the sound of loud piano music," she recalled earlier. "We walked around trying to find out where it was coming from but couldn't find anything. Fortunately, after 15 minutes it stopped."

The first time Mrs Poupard-Walbridge ventured down to the cellar, where prisoners had been kept, she had terrible chest pain. After a while her husband refused to go down there. Renovation work that should have been simple to carry out became dogged by problems. "Everything was going wrong. This house would not let me decorate it," she said.

"Some not so good things have happened to people who've lived here. There have been deaths, one owner went bankrupt, my marriage broke up. I felt the house needed cleansing." She believes that two of the deaths were suicides.

Mrs Poupard-Walbridge has had to carry out three exorcisms after a medium visited the house and claimed to have been told by a ghostly presence that they (the entities) would leave, but only if Mrs Poupard-Walbridge would please die first.

"I thought it was bullshit, but did it [the exorcism] anyway - just in case."

Any spirits still in the house by the time of Richards' arrival would likely have been of a duty-free type, or tucked away in the cellar, which used to double as a prison in the home's early days.

Nowadays, Cotter House resembles one of those English stately homes that rock stars have been known to buy, then install a pinball machine and island-theme bar.

But, there are no such vulgarities in this 160-year-old, $4550-a-night pile. It was built in 1847 for English migrant Joseph Newman.

Newman converted the cellar into cells to temporarily house prisoners being sent to the Fencibles Prison in Howick.

In 1882 he sold the house to the Cotter family who subdivided and developed much of the 24ha around the property into what is now Remuera. One of the major changes they made to the house was to add a ballroom.

Located just a coconut's-throw from Ascot Hospital, where Richards received treatment, the home boasts original paintings by Bolivian masters, centuries-old religious iconography and a magnificent ballroom.

The house, described by Mrs Poupard-Walbridge as "built like a proper brick shithouse", also boasts a swag of those.

It sounds like Richards and co had the run of the place during their stay, taking every opportunity to sample a few New Zealand wines.

"My cellar has been very seriously depleted, I can tell you that," she says in a candid admission that could raise a publicist's eyebrow.

The Remuera community also helped safeguard the former hellraiser's privacy, forming a Neighbourhood Watch system to shield Richards from the prying eyes of the media.

Richards and family left the country last week and Cotter House is back to catering to its usual corporate clients, honeymooners and well-heeled tourists.

But Keef took a little piece of New Zealand with him, she says, and will likely be back this way.