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Westcliff Heritage Trust - Johannesburg

westcliff heritage trust johannesburgWalking the roads of Westcliff you get a feeling for the history of Johannesburg through its old homes dating back to the Johannesburg Gold Rush. The homes built along the ridge are often elevated to take advantage of stunning views. You will see grand estates which include the unique styles of one of South Africa's most famous architects, Sir Herbert Baker.

Westcliff is one of the oldest suburbs of Johannesburg and home to the mining magnates from 1892 till today. The concentration of power and money, combined with the exuberant and extravagant taste of these pioneers, is reflected in the homes they built on the prominent ridges which lie north of the city centre. Westcliff forms the West end of the Parktown ridge, which is shaped like an amphitheatre and affords glorious views across the sylvan Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg all the way to the Magaliesberg Mountains on the horizon. The Gold reef, it was soon discovered, ended along the southern flank of the present CBD, so the natural advantages of the ridge were soon exploited as being residential land of great value.

The residents of present day Westcliff still have much pride in their suburb, and by and large still include many of the well to do, but the days of the mega rich Randlords and the Empire builders who first settled there are long gone. The first Randlord to settle in Westcliff was important in Rand Mines Ltd. known as the Corner House Group of companies. This was Raymond Schumacher, for whom the still magnificent ‘Pallinghurst’ was built. This mansion can be seen to special advantage from the Zoo Lake grounds far below, because it forms an almost natural quartzite rampart to the ridge. Naturalness of materials, in accordance with the Arts and Crafts movement, such as the use of materials to be found on site, was one of the hallmarks of the great architect, Herbert Baker.

The Westcliff Heritage Trust organises tours of the houses and gardens since most are not accessible to the public. In recent years the Trust has expanded its historical tours to include other parts of this City of Gold and of Struggle

 


 

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