Passing through this beautiful suburb one would not realise that this suburb is one of Johannesburg’s biggest residential suburbs with approximately 5500 stands not including South Kensington, which was originally zoned to be a race course hence the reason why Malvern has so many streets named after race horses.

I have always been drawn to Kensington and the charm of the beautiful old buildings and stone work. They exude character and just looking at the style of the structures you can only imagine what it was like living in the colonial times with women wearing long sweeping dresses and bonnets and men wearing suites and top hats. The Randlords of the era enjoyed their stately life style in large houses built with Oregon pine flooring, cast iron fire places lead stained glass windows, steel pressed ceilings and Victorian claw and ball baths.

A tram ran through Kensington which began in 1910, it had right of way and it was forbidden for a motorist to overtake it. The ticket office for the tram still stands in Malvern on Jules street. In some parts of the main road the old tram line shows a bit through the tar.

In 1886 Max Langerman, who was born in Bavaria, arrived in Johannesburg ( known as Randjeslaagte ) and ten years later he leased a portion of the farm Doornfontein from its owners, the Bezuidenhouts, Langermann picked the area as it was about two miles from the Market square, with attractive koppies and an abundance of water from a spring ( what we know as Rhodes Park today ), in the centre of the valley which reminded him of his home town in Germany.

The outbreak of the 2nd Anglo Boer War in 1899 delayed the laying out of the Kensington Township. The Bezuidenhouts farm covered the whole of today’s Eastern and Southern Suburbs from Fordsburg to Booysens, a radius of 50km.

When Max Langerman sold his his rights in 1902 to the Kensington Estate Co Ltd, William and Stanley Nelson got the contract to plant 109 km of Oak, Jacaranda, Elm and pine trees along all the main streets and side streets. This took 9 months. Grass, mud huts, cattle, pigs and unsightly fences as well as alcohol was forbidden in Kensington.

The beautiful Kensington Castle, built by Samuel Scott Wilson in 1911, is a replica of Rothesay -on – Bute Castle in Scotland. The best view is from the side of Jeppe Girls school. It has sadly been taken over by its caretaker and nobody can gain access.

Two of the Bezuidenhout family homesteads can be found in Bez park. The first house is situated next to the second house that they lived in. Rotary now cares for the second home. The cemetery can also be found in the park but has been vandalised over the years. The family donated the park to the city so the ground could never be used for development.

The foster gang cave is found in a property on Juno street near Darras centre. They operated until 1914 when one of them was followed from the Jumbo bottle store and their two weeks of hiding came to an end when they committed suicide in the cave. Darras centre has the first Pick n Pay that was ever built in Johannesburg.
On the same road you will find a blue geographical plaque next to the steps going up Langermans Koppie. Thousands of years ago the sea came this far inland and the rock formation proves it with all the small pebbles. The rocks that appear to be spilt have their matching half in Mondeor.

On Commissioner street just past Jeppe Boys school, another historical site that was built in 1909 and named after Julius Jeppe you will find the Lion House. It was built between 1907 and 1909 by George Wollacott, who was a master decorator of stucco work

We take for granted our solid structure homes but back in the early 1900’s they were rare and interestingly the first concrete home in South Africa, The Scott House built by Robert William Scott was done so in Kensington near King Edward Street.

Interesting Facts

  • In 1947 The Queen passed through Kensington on the way to the Johannesburg City Hall
  • In the 1930’s the bucket system was done away.
  • 5 Johannesburg mayors lived in Kensington
  • 8 Churches as well as a Synagogue ( now an Ethiopian Church ) can be be found
  • 3 War Memorials
  • There are 117 suburban streets all in alphabetical order
  • The Kensington Sanatorium ( Pink Fairy Castle) is the oldest building in Kensington, built in 1897
  • Rhodes Park has the first municipal library which opened in 1947.
  • Ghandi’s House can be found on the border of the suburb with its blue plaque on the wall he lived here from 1904 to 1906.
  • Approximately 10 schools in the area.
  • The Kensington Bowls Club is the oldest bowling club in Johannesburg, established in 1914.
  • Langerman Kop and Gunnion pass is named after the journalist and resident Dugald Gunnion.
  • Rhodes Park was named after Cecil John Rhodes ( 1853 to 1902 )

Kensington is rich in history and heritage. Walks are offered on various Sundays of the month, contact Isabella Pingle 083 658 3990 to book.