My quest to visit all the places in the Hidden Johannesburg book — which began with my pilgrimage to the Lemon Squeezer Church and then a visit to the Lions Shul — continues. I recently went to Glenshiel, a historic mansion designed by renowned architect Herbert Baker, on a tour with the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation. This brings my total number of Hidden Joburg places to 17, with 11 left to go.
While walking around Glenshiel I suddenly remembered my 2019 visit to another Herbert Baker mansion, Villa Arcadia, about which I never blogged. I decided now is a good time to remedy that omission as Villa Arcadia is also profiled in Hidden Joburg.
Glenshiel and Villa Arcadia are both classic “Randlord” mansions, built for rich, British-colonial mining magnates and their glamorous wives. (The same goes for Northwards, another Herbert Baker mansion featured in Hidden Joburg, which I blogged about briefly several years ago.) Both homes went on to become charitable institutions of different sorts. I won’t go into lots of detail about their histories but here’s a quick recap and some pictures/drawings.
A Visit to Glenshiel
We toured Glenshiel with David Gurney, one of of my favorite Heritage Foundation guides. David is the one who tipped me off to Herbert Baker’s fancy chimneys, which I will always pay attention to from now on. The house is in Westcliff, one of Joburg’s first wealthy neighborhoods, which continues to be an extremely wealthy neighborhood today.
Glenshiel was built for Lady Isabel Dalrymple, a former actress and well-loved socialite, and her husband Sir William Dalrymple, who wins the prize for most colonial-sounding name. The estate is known, among other things, for having the oldest private swimming pool in Joburg.
The Dalrymples died in the late 1930s/early 40s. The house was then purchased in 1943 by Major Gordon Haggie, who loaned it to the Order of St. John, who used the mansion as a military hospital and convalescent home for injured World War II soldiers. (The Haggie family converted the stables into their own home and Haggie descendents continue to live there today.)
The Order of St. John is a British charitable health organization that has been around since medieval times, with a history involving monks and knights and the Crusades and such. Today Glenshiel still serves as “the Priory for South Africa of the Order of St. John”, which is fitting because the place has a very medieval feel inside.
St. John, which is not affiliated with St. John’s College (another Baker-designed Hidden Joburg spot), as far as I can tell, supports extensive health services in South Africa, including the well-known Baragwanath Eye Clinic in Soweto.
A Visit to Villa Arcadia
Herbert Baker built Villa Arcadia at the same time he was building Glenshiel, just a couple of miles away in Parktown, for Sir Lionel Philips and his wife Florence Philips — a well-known philanthropist and art collector who founded the Johannesburg Art Gallery. The Philipses only lived at Villa Arcadia for 13 years before relocating to the Cape. The mansion then became home to the South African Jewish Orphanage, referred to as “the Arc”, housing about 400 children. Hollard, one of South Africa’s largest insurance companies, bought Villa Arcadia in 2003.
Villa Arcadia now houses Hollard’s extensive art collection and is occasionally open to the public as an exhibition space, like it was on the day I visited with Fiver in November 2019.
Fiver and I were the only visitors in the house, as I remember, and we had a great time exploring while also enjoying the art.
If I had to choose one of these mansions to live in, I would definitely pick Villa Arcadia. Glenshiel is a bit too King-Arthur-y for my taste. Which one would you choose?
Stay tuned for another Hidden Joburg post in the relatively near future.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column] [/et_pb_row] [/et_pb_section]