Things to do in Johannesburg – Lindfield House

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I first heard about Lindfield house, when in a temporary bout of boredom, I went onto the Tripadvisor app and searched for “Things to Do Near Me”. I was surprised to find a Victorian house listed as one of the top attractions in Johannesburg, within 10 km from my house. I mentally filed it in my list of things to do, yet it was months before I finally got there. Then too, it was an impulsive decision and I emailed Katharine Love the night before to ask if she would be having a tour the following day. She replied early the next morning, in the affirmative. However, one is advised to book a week in advance, especially if you require tea.

Lindfield House Wedding Exhibition

Part of the Wedding Exhibition on display

A brief history of Lindfield House

Lindfield House is a Provincial Heritage Site. The original small cottage (built in 1910) was designed by Herbert Baker who dominated the architectural scene in South Africa between 1892 and 1912. Katharine’s grandmother originally bought the house and Katharine and her mother, moved in during 1967. When her mother passed away in 1996, Katharine opened the house as a Victorian museum displaying a vast collection of 19th and 20th century items representative of the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Katharine still lives in the 22-roomed house alone.

Katharine greeted us at the gate in a Victorian parlour maid’s outfit and we began the tour with the rest of the group. Groups are deliberately kept small as there isn’t much space for large groups in the house.

Katharine Love Lindfield House

Katharine Love

Walking into the house was like entering a bygone era. The rooms were laid out as they would have been in Victorian times. Each room was filled with a treasure trove of Victoriana. Each item had its own story and Katharine shared many of these stories and anecdotes with us. They were so far removed from the lives we now live that we were utterly fascinated. The soft-spoken Katharine herself, was like a walking encyclopaedia and answered our many questions precisely and in detail. I was accompanied by my teenage daughter – who doesn’t normally enjoy museums – but even she was captivated here.

Lindfield House bedroom

The main bedroom – where Katherine still sleeps

Here are ten things I learnt about affluent Victorian households

  1. Houses were kept cluttered and dark. Clutter represented class. The home was often “over-dressed” with plush fabrics and heavy curtains to provide a cocoon from the world outside. Curtains were kept drawn as sunlight would damage the delicate, expensive interiors.
  1. There were special times for visiting people. This was printed on their calling cards. Unmarried women were included on their mothers’ cards.
    Calling Cards Lindfield House

    Calling Cards

3. Visitors were not expected to say for a longer period than it took to drink a shallow cup of tea.

Lindfield House tea house

Beautiful shallow tea cups

  1. The drawing room was originally called a withdrawing room. It was a room to which the owners of the house could “withdraw” for more privacy. Guests were received here too.
    The Drawing Room Lindfield House

    The Drawing Room

  1. Victorians were very formal people. They wouldn’t dream of going to dinner without dressing up first. Children were not allowed in the main dining room and had their own dining room.
  1. Children were only allowed in the drawing room for an hour or two each day, accompanied by their nannies. They were expected to shake hands with their fathers and call them Sir. If they misbehaved, they were taken back to the children’s quarters.
    Lindfield House children's quarters

    The children’s quarters

  1. The library was primarily a man’s domain. Women were only allowed in there with permission from the men. If a book wasn’t meant for a woman’s eyes, it would be placed high above her reach. Women had to be educated only to the level that they were entertaining companions to their husbands. (Yes, seriously!) My daughter, a certified bookworm was shocked to hear this.
    Lindfield House library

    The dark-wood panelled library

  1. “Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management” was an extensive guide to running a household in Victorian Britain. Mrs Beeton was considered the Martha Stewart of Victorian times.
    Lindfield House kitchen

    The gas stove – which Katharine still uses

  1. The lady of the house was not allowed in the kitchen. Only servants went there. Households with a lot of silver had a footman to protect the silver at night – with a gun.
    Victorian Coffee Grinder

    Coffee Grinder

  1. Victorian women wore extravagant clothes with a cage construction made of hoops which would fill out their dresses. Many women were injured when they sat down a tad too abruptly and the hoops would spring up and bang their faces.

See more Victorian trivia here.

Victorian bathtub

Bathtub – Ladies bathed with their legs out of the bathtub

Lindfield House is a national treasure, and it is run on a shoestring budget. Do yourself a favour and visit it, as you are not likely to see such a comprehensive and well-maintained depiction of Victorian life anywhere else in South Africa.

Don’t miss the amazing doll’s house which Katharine and her late mother spent years decorating and furnishing, making many of the beautiful pieces themselves.

Lindfield House

Part of the amazing doll’s house

Entrance is R50 for the tour alone, R70 with tea and cake and R120 including high tea. Well-behaved children are allowed as there are many breakable antiques in the house.

For more information, go to Lindfield House or follow on Facebook .

Lindfield House doll house

More rooms in the doll house

 

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13 comments
Jade

There are so many fun and interesting things to do in and around Johannesburg for example, golfing, eating out and visiting heritage sites like the Melville Koppies or museums.
Johannesburg is culturally beautiful. Another great advantage of partaking in all these adventurous activities is that there is a host of guest houses and bed & breakfasts available to rest.

Reply
silvia.poidevin

Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning this
post and also the rest of the website is really
good.

Reply
dino_edman

Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful article. Thanks for providing this info.

Reply
geifuloxp

I always spent my half an hour to read this weblog’s articles or reviews all the time along with a mug of coffee.

Reply
Tae

Oh I love how these types of places are perfect for stoking our imaginations and letting us step back in time. What a wonderful experience seeing Katherine and experiencing life as it was back then — I can definitely see why they require a week in advance booking!!

Reply
Brianne

I really enjoyed this post, Sara! It sounds like a fascinating place, and what a unique experience to get a tour from a family member. It was interesting to learn that proper Victorian homes were cluttered and dark – one of my favorite museums is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum here in Boston, which features the private collection of a wealthy Victorian woman. It is extremely cluttered and dark!

Reply
Gabriela

Looks like a cool place to visit! I’m traveling in South Africa right now and I will be in Johannesburg in a few weeks!

Reply
    Sara

    Hey Gabriela, I hope that you’re enjoying your visit to South Africa. If you get a chance when you’re in Joburg, then do visit Lindfield House. If you need any info on Joburg, then drop me an email.

    Reply
Roxanne Reid

What a fascinating place, Sara. I lived in Johannesburg for years and didn’t know about it. Thanks for sharing all your lovely photos.

Reply
    Sara

    Thanks Roxanne. I’ve lived in Johannesburg for most of my life and I only found out about it recently too.

    Reply
Karen at MomAgsin@40

Never knew about this! Next on our list as well!

Reply
    Sara

    It doesn’t seem to be very well-known Karen. But do go and visit. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it 🙂

    Reply
    Sara

    It doesn’t seem to be very well-known Karen. But do go and visit. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it 🙂

    Reply
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