On a recent visit to the Melville Visitors Center, I noticed a small brochure for a place called Lindfield House and was immediately captivated. It’s a Victorian home in Auckland Park, a suburb adjacent to Melville, which has been furnished as an authentic 19th-century English estate. The owner, Katharine Love, has lived there for half a century and spent her entire life restoring the house.
In addition to being Katharine’s home, Lindfield House is also a museum. Katharine does personalized tours of the house, while explaining what life was like among the upper classes in Victorian England. Katharine also serves one of the best afternoon teas in town. There is no finer illustration of quirky Johannesburg than Lindfield House, and no better way for Joe and I to spend a couple hours of quality time with my mom.
Lindfield House is a difficult place to describe in words, and Katharine herself is equally difficult to describe. So I’ll just share the photos and say that my visit to Lindfield is one of the most interesting things I’ve done since moving to South Africa. I would recommend the tour even if you have no interest whatsoever in Victorian culture. After this visit, you will.
Katharine shows us the dining room and explains the intricacies involved in a formal Victorian dinner. The most interesting tidbit I learned: When a Victorian lady went out to dinner, it was considered inappropriate for her to use the hostess’ chamber pot or to go to the outdoor toilet. So if she had to go to the bathroom, she would say she felt faint and call for her carriage to take her home. Men, on the other hand, were welcome to use the chamber pot or go outside. (Photo courtesy of Joe.)
The Lindfield House library. The library was the man’s domain. Women were not allowed in unless invited, although men would sometimes ask their wives and daughters to sit with them in the library. Books inappropriate for female eyes were put out of reach on the top shelves.
Lindfield House has a small nature room, which Victorian children of the house would have used for studying science. It’s filled with curious objects like exotic shells, skeletons, and pieces of taxidermy. It also includes this human foetus preserved in formaldehyde. Seriously!
Mom and I love afternoon tea – it’s one of our favorite things to do together on vacation. The Lindfield tea was spectacular – mini sausage and meat pastries, fluffy scones with jam and cream, and some scrumptious cakey-custardy things. The tea itself was also delicious but I unfortunately forgot to ask what kind it was. We did our best to eat everything, but failed. Lucky enjoyed the leftovers. (Photo courtesy of Joe.)
Mom and I are in Cape Town for the weekend. We get back to Joburg on Monday and then leave Tuesday for two days on safari. So I might get a little behind on my blogging but rest assured — I am stock-piling great material.