Kensington is full of grand homes, some mediocre in size others opulent. Whatever their appearance they have become famous either for their once famous residents, or their architecture or maybe just the fact that they have stood their test of time and graciously made it past 100 years.

The Lion House on Roberts Avenue is no exception to this list. It’s a showy place, once filled with lion statues who over the years seem to have diminished in numbers. This architectural beauty features some spectacular interior plasterwork. Walking inside took my breath away, i didn’t know where to look first. The beautiful front door with its stained glass designs and then the strong pillars that run your eyes heaven wards to admire the beautiful art work, it evoked a moment of deja vu as my mind drifted off to my travels in Italy where I got to appreciate the beautiful ceiling art in various churches around the country.

The Lion House was built in 1906 by decorative plaster Mr George Walacott. Mr Walacott worked for Sir Herbet Baker at the time, and was known for some of the best decorative plaster work in South Africa and most notably the Durban City Hall. For the benefit of his clients he decorated each of the 12 rooms in the house in a different style, this was his own show piece to demonstrate his talents. Each room had a different name given to it. The Entrance hall and main lounge were done in Rocco Style, the smaller lounge the Parktown Lounge because of its distinctive Parktown – type window and art nouveau fireplace.

The main bedroom he called the Houghton Room because of its subdued and large flat bay window. Sir Herbet Baker is rumoured to have had some say in its design.

The house was constructed of imported materials throughout, English Oak and Pringle Pine floors, glass from Italy, Bavarian floor tiles, champagne oak , Burmese teak and the fireplaces came from Mac Farlane in Glasgow.

Many people have wondered why the name lion House? it is believed to have come from the lion motifs on the front wall and gate . This was also the first precast wall to be erected in Johannesburg. The boundary wall has elaborate medallions which he modelled all the motifs for which he made the moulds. The workshop and studio could be found behind the house.

Denise McBride, a former owner was responsible for nurturing it back laboriously to its original splendour. Now the house with its Italian frescoes, stained glass doors and windows, grand old hearth, chandelier lighting, beautiful artwork on the ceiling and accentuating cornices and mouldings stands proudly once again.

Dr van der Waal recommended that the house be declared a National Monument and on the 23 March 1990 the Lion House was declared a National Monument with the persistence of Mrs McBride the previous owner. The plaque declaring it status is found at the double sized front door.

In January 2009 it was named a National Heritage site.

The house has had various owners over the years with the last few giving it a lot of love and attention to help transform it back to its original state. Meg Bratby started to restore it, previous owners had wrenched out the plastered lions onto either side of the fireplace and painted over the mouldings so you couldn’t properly distinguish them.Worst of all was a previous owner who painted over the original oil frescoes in the main lounge – the panels on the walls acted as frames.

Denes Mcbride bought the house in 1983, various changes where made which included electrical modifications to the dinning room as there were no power points and it was lit by candles.

Then on the 25 February 1991 the house was bought by a Mr P Nardini, his main aim was to preserve the historical ambience of the house and at the same time making it a modern day work space.

In 2006 it was purchased by Tech Tensile PTY Ltd. and then in March 2009 Education Training and Counselling purchased the property as their offices where they run life skills training. The other offices are rented out to a doctor and other tenants.

You too can visit this this beautiful house by embarking on guided tour of the house by participating in the Kensington Heritage Walk

For more information contact Isabella 071 329 5253 to find out about the monthly dates.