Melrose House (Pretoria)
History of Melrose House
Melrose House is a stately mansion located in Pretoria. Melrose House was built in 1886 by the rich Pretoria businessman, George Jesse Heys, and named after the famous Melrose Abbey in Scotland.
During the Second Boer War of 1899 - 1902, Melrose House gained significant fame when Lord Robert requisitioned it as the headquarters of the British forces after they invaded Pretoria in 1900. For the next 18 months, instructions for the British forces in the field were issued from Melrose House.
When the Peace Treaty of Vereeniging was finally negotiated and signed at Melrose House on 31 May 1902, the use of the mansion as a military headquarters was ended.
Today, the elegant Melrose House mansion is a preserved historic house museum, and a good example of the transition from Victorian to Edwardian architectural styles and interiors. The interior of the mansion is characterized by colorful stained glass windows, paintings by English artists, valuable porcelain ornaments, and ornate ceilings and fireplaces and richly colored carpets. The majority of these items are original, and once belonged to the Heys family itself.
Melrose House Facilities
Melrose House offers visitors guided tours (strictly by appointment only), a clay tennis court, reference library and tea garden. Antique Fairs are held occasionally. The Stables at Melrose House is housed in the stable complex, and serves light meals, a variety of teas, coffee and cold drinks. Sadly, photographs are not allowed to be taken inside the mansion.
Review of Melrose House
We visited Melrose House on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Initially unable to locate Scheiding street for the free parking, we opted to park in front of the Melrose House mansion. The free parking, we eventually found out, was located just around the block, to the south of Melrose House! Although nothing happened to our vehicle being parked on the sidewalk, I would seriously recommend that you park in the official parking area. You will feel much more comfortable than leaving your vehicle unattended in the streets of the Pretoria!
Melrose House is huge! With three storeys, you are in for a treat. It would seem that the attic is not always open to the public, and if it is not, you are not really missing that much. The Heys family's nannies used to lived in the attic area with its low ceilings and narrow staircase.
The rest of the house is stunningly decorated, with antiques and little touches of superb interior decorating skills. Melrose House is much bigger inside than it would seem from the outside, and you can happily spend an hour or two completely engrossed in the detail of the many beautifully decorated rooms.
We did not opt for a guided tour and decided to roam around on our own. Although informative enough that way, I think one would do better by purchasing a "guide yourself" book, since it contains more information than the display descriptions, especially if you are very interested in learning more about the history of each room.
Unfortunately the Stables at Melrose House tea garden was not open, so I can't provide you with any information on that... But that aside, at the end of the day, Melrose House is a relaxing historic house museum to visit and very good value for money.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, Melrose House has its own ghost... Remember to ask the front desk attendant for more information...