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Stonehouse (House Baker)
Parktown, Johannesburg, Gauteng

Sir Herbert BAKER: Architect

Client:H Baker
Street:5 Rock Ridge Rd


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26°10'42.51" S 28°01'54.79" E Alt: 1751m

Also called House L Curtis.

(Greig 1970:122-6; Van der Waal 1975: 31a, b)



Lionel Curtis was born on 7 March 1872, in Derbyshire and was educated at Haileybury College and New College, Oxford. He came out to South Africa and was on active service in the Boer War as a member of the City Imperial Volunteers, right through till the surrender of Pretoria.

Curtis travelled back to England to settle his brother's affairs, returned to Cape Town and was invited to join Sir Alfred Milner's so called 'Kindergarten' – a group of Oxford graduates who held the main positions in the administration of the South African High Commissioner. This brought him to Johannesburg in October 1900.

Selected extracts from his diary record those events that have a bearing on his meeting with BAKER, the purchase of the land and the commission for the design of Stonehouse:

13th April 1901

I am to act as Town Clerk [in Johannesburg] until one can be got from England

8th May 1901 Cape Town

Kitson asked me to take pot luck at his house among the tall woods. I confessed I was astonished as I got inside. It might have been a house inhabited by Ma or Flamingo. Beautiful oak furniture, old blue Dutch china and watercolors on the wall. I asked who was responsible and learnt that the house was really Baker's, the architect who built Rhodes House and the Nelson Hotel.

25th August 1901

Lunched with Baker at Rondebosch. He took us to see a house he had designed built by RHODES for Kipling. It is better even than the Government House cottage and in the most perfect situation overlooking the isthmus to the Hex Mountains. It has an internal verandah in the centre supported on pillars around a little courtyard. The bath is lined with Dutch tiles and you descend into it by steps and the furniture is a piece with the rest. Rhodes' idea was that Kipling would do his work best in such a place instead of living in an hotel.

5th December 1901

Baker, Rhodes architect, is staying with us.

13th December 1901

Baker however has been with me and we have just got today a most beautiful site, the last left on the great northern ridge looking forty miles to the Magaliesberg. We are going to build together with a studio which Max can use and start at once if possible. All Baker wants is a pied de terre when he comes to Johannesburg. I must not write more as I have to go up with him and look at the ground. Karri Davis will be our neighbor. He is rather a romantic and interesting person who languished for months in prison sooner than apologise to Kruger.

22nd December 1901

Duncan came over.

25th December 1901

A quiet Christmas. Perry rather ill too. Rode in afternoon with Robin and Blackwood. I have forgotten to say that on Sunday Duncan came up and sat with us on the site of our future house, and we watched beautiful lizards painted orange and blue to match the lichens. Duncan who has eyes like a hawk pointed out what looked just like the flower of a dead grass on the rocks was walking. We examined it and discovered that a deceitful insect had counterfeited a grasshead most beautifully making a house like a caddisworm and walking along with it when he thought we could not see him.

Curtis bought the two acres of ground, but in 1902 Milner appointed Curtis Assistant Colonial Secretary in Pretoria to organize municipal government in the Transvaal. Curtis then agreed that Baker could take over the land and build a house 'in which he and I and other friends could live together.'

Baker designed a house for Curtis in Pretoria, The White House, and Baker took over Stonehouse for himself.

In 1906 Curtis resigned to devote himself fulltime to achieving the union of the four South African colonies – the Cape, Transvaal, Natal and Orange River Colony. He usually stayed in another Baker house, Moothouse, home of his successor as Town Clerk, Richard Feetham.

HERBERT BAKER: 1902-1912

Baker's design for Stonehouse was completed at his Cape Town office in March 1902 and shortly after he was seeking a building contractor. He duly signed a contract with John Barrow (Sen) and Albert (Bert) Barrow to construct the house. During 1902, Stonehouse duly grew out of the rocky ridge between what is now Rock Ridge Road and The Valley Road.

The house was in Baker's own words, 'planned round a long-windowed hall with two-storied wings of small rooms on either side; and to the north, facing the kopje-terrace, the sun, and the distant view, there is an arched stoep, and forming the entrance to the south a white-columned atrium under and through which steps lead up from the front door in the rock wall below.'

A small stable block and a separate Staff Quarters was constructed simultaneously with the house, but far removed in the southwest corner of the property. At an early date the stable block was converted for use as a garage.

Baker did not move into Stonehouse until 16 March 1903 when it was finally completed and his furniture was sent up and installed. This was augmented by pieces he had ordered from Mrs. Keightley in London, which he specified to be 'very simple, as cheap as possible, strong for rough wear and carriage and very well seasoned to stand exceptional dry inland climate.'

When the imminent English designer Charles Robert ASHBEE, a prime mover of the Arts and Crafts movement, visited Stonehouse in July 1903, he was moved to write in his journal:

'I wipe out of my mind all the foolish preconceptions as to the ugliness or vulgarity of upstart Johannesburg for I have today seen Baker's buildings, the red sandstone crag sites, the fir and cypress, and the rolling purple hills of the Rand. Baker's own house…springing like a jewel castle from out of the rock, its arcades, and stoeps, its red shingle roof, the open court, the white columns and pergola with the circular garden below…is one of the most exquisite pieces of architecture I have seen. Baker had built an undoubted masterpiece.'

Selected extracts from Baker's autobiography record his memories of Stonehouse and 'The Kindergarten':

... And I felt at first rather restless and unsettled in the haphazardly developed mining town. But then there came to my rescue Lionel, Curtis, a prime mover in all good ventures....

[Curtis] had bought two acres of land on the edge of a virgin kopje north of the town and the mines; then there was nothing on it but a blockhouse and barbed wire. It overlooked a young plantation of firs and gum trees; and beyond the summer green and wintergold of rolling grass-veld and away to the distant faint blue Magaliesberg Mountains, "Rampart of slaughter and peril" where the war still raged. We agreed that I should take over the land and build a house there in which he and I and other friends could live together. I willingly took on the venture; and the Stonehouse, the first "Moot-house" grew out of the rocky ridge....

Those members of the this band of brothers [The Kindergarten] who lived with me at Stonehouse were Curtis, who came to be called the prophet, [Lio]Nel Hichens, Feetham and John Dove, all of them engaged on municipal service.

My wife and I lived very happily at Stonehouse and its kopje garden, and our three sons were born in the house. The Duncan's who lived there when I left for New Delhi and England, had also three sons; so we called it ‘the six-boy kopje.'

PATRICK DUNCAN: 1913 - 1936

Patrick Duncan his wife Alice took over Stonehouse in Johannesburg (and later Sandhills in Muizenberg) as tenants, not owners. Duncan was a Member of Parliament, which is why he needed the house in the Cape as much as the home in Johannesburg.

Duncan was a member of the Kindergarten, a barrister and an expert on finance. He came to South Africa as private secretary to Milner, became Colonial Secretary of the Transvaal 1903-7, accompanied Smuts to the discussions on Union and served in the Union Parliament until his appointment as South Africa's Governor-General nominated by Hertzog in November 1936. This meant moving to another house designed by Baker in Pretoria, Government House.

Duncan was Minister of the Interior, Health and Education in 1921-24 and Minister of Mines 1933-36.

During Duncan's time Stonehouse continued to have many eminent visitors. He wrote on 1st December 1920 from Stone House in Parkton that:

Last night was the feast of St Andrew (Duncan was himself a Scot) which was celebrated by the Scotsmen here in their usual way by a huge dinner and interminable speeches. Smuts was the guest of the evening. He is staying with us and after we got back from the dinner kept us up talking till the early hours of the morning.


George Mackenzie was born in 1884 in Aberdeen, Scotland and was educated there at the Robert Gordon College. He trained as an Accountant and Secretary, fulfilling the conditions to become a Registered Public Accountant (RAP). He arrived in South Africa in 1905 and settled in Johannesburg, setting up the Chartered Accountancy practice of Geo. Mackenzie & Co.

By 1912 George was the Secretary of various Johannesburg companies including the Adair-Usher Process Ltd; Rand Slimes Ltd and Penwith Syndicate Ltd. Mackenzie was at that stage also the Transvaal Manager of the General Life Assurance Co. In 1913 Mackenzie married Vera Hester Smith, daughter of Wallace Smith and they were to have four children.

Mackenzie was elected as the President of the Transvaal Society of Accountants in 1922. His interests included Tennis and Golf and he was a member of the Rand Club, the Johannesburg Country Club and the Johannesburg Light Plane Club.

The Mackenzie family took occupation of Stonehouse in 1937, presumably renting it at first, as the Duncan's had done. It has been assumed – but this remains to be confirmed – that George Mackenzie purchased Stonehouse from Herbert Baker's estate in 1946.

The Mackenzie's commissioned BAKER & FLEMING in the 1950's to design a substantial single storey wing on the east side of the house to accommodate a large Living Room.

The substantial Baker designed stable block at Northwards was demolished in the 1960's, and George Mackenzie purchased the roof structure of the small freestanding dairy (?) building and moved this to Stonehouse. The roof (with weathervane) was installed on four stone columns adjacent to the Tennis Court and still functions today as a tennis pavilion.

In 1962 George Mackenzie was the senior partner of Geo. Mackenzie & Co. By this stage the firm had various branch offices in Malawi, Zambia and the (then) Rhodesia. Mackenzie was also Chairman of various companies including New Kleinfontein Co. Ltd, Northern African Mining and Finance, and The Premier Paper Mills. By this date George and his wife had moved out of Stonehouse and were living at 503 Santa Margherita, in Killarney.

Vera Mackenzie died in 1962, George Mackenzie died the following year and his son Ian presumably inherited the property.

IAN MACKENZIE 1960 – c 1992

Ian Mackenzie was born on 7 September 1914 in Johannesburg and received his initial education there and subsequently in Perthshire, Scotland and at Pembroke College in Oxford where he obtained a Master of Arts degree.

He served with the Royal Scots Fusiliers from 1939 to 1946, rising to the rank of Lt-Col. In 1944 he married Anne McNab Lindsay of Scotland and in 1945 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. He returned to South Africa and in 1950 was appointed Hon. Lt. Col of the Transvaal Scottish and in 1959 was appointed Honorary Commandant of the same Regiment.

By 1962 he was a partner of Geo. Mackenzie & Co, his father’s Chartered Accountancy firm. He was also a director of various companies including The Standard bank of SA, New Kleinfontein Co. Ltd, Crosse & Blackwell, Premier Paper Mills Central S A Lands & Mines and African Oxygen. By this date Ian, his wife and four children (two sons and two daughters) were living at Stonehouse.

Ian Mackenzie agreed to the declaration of the house and property as a National Monument in 1968, as evidenced by the large bronze plaque mounted on the lower wall of the atrium, the wording of which is transcribed below:

National Monuments Council

Raad vir Nasionale Gedenkwardighede

The Mackenzies constructed a large Swimming Pool and Pool house on a lower terrace in the northwest quadrant of the garden.

Ian Mackenzie and his wife moved out of Stonehouse into their son John Mackenzie's house in Forest Town in c 1993. Ian Mackenzie died in 1997.


John Mackenzie was born in 1949 in Johannesburg and received his initial education there and subsequently in Scotland, before reading economics at the University of Edinburgh and accountancy at the University of he Witwatersrand. He was the Chief Executive of the African Finance Corporation.

A few years after taking occupation of Stonehouse, John Mackenzie proposed building a new double garage in the southeast corner of the site. John Mackenzie had acquired for this purpose a large quantity of matching hammer dressed quartzite blocks, salvaged from the demolition of various houses in the Johannesburg area. The proposed garage was a single storied building, with various permutations of the plan and the roof structure. The siting of the garage in close proximity to the house was to facilitate easy and direct access to the kitchen wing and to provide covered parking rather than having cars standing within the open forecourt.

FKH ARCHITECTS and the writer submitted various proposals for the garage and ancillary storage spaces to the (then) National Monuments Council in 1997, but the project was subsequently put on hold.

Megan Mackenzie subsequently proposed the creation of a large open plan kitchen, circa 1999. This was to be achieved by consolidating the original small Kitchen with the Scullery, the Larder, the Boot Room and a Passage. This proposal was submitted to the (then) NMS and was approved and the work duly completed.

Megan Mackenzie took a great interest in the garden at Stonehouse and reinstated them closer to their original Gertrude Jeckyll influenced starting point.

John Mackenzie was tragically killed – with three others - in a light aircraft crash near Rand Airport on 18 July 2004, on their return from a bird hunting expedition to the Eastern Cape. Megan Mackenzie decided to sell Stonehouse six years later in 2010.


Colin Barrow was born in February 1966 in Johannesburg. He is currently (2011) a director of the Johannesburg firm of Barrow Construction – the building contractors who originally built Stonehouse. Long interested in purchasing a heritage house in either Westcliff or Parktown, Colin was presented with the opportunity to purchase Stonehouse in 2010, which he did, purchasing the house from Stonehouse Close Corporation.

Colin Barrow and his family took occupation of the house in April 2011, and have pursued the construction of the garage as well as some minor alterations to the interior.

William MARTINSON B.Arch M.Arch
March 2011


Baker, Herbert. Architecture and Personalities. Country Life Limited, 1944.
Bird, Flo. Notes from PWHT Research Centre. 2011. Unpublished.
Curtis, Lionel G. With Milner in South Africa. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1951.
Keath, Michael. Herbert Baker: Architecture and Idealism 1892 – 1913 The South African years. Ashanti Publishing, Gibraltar. No date.
Jubilee Celebration Geo Mackenzie & Co; Johannesburg, 1973: pgs 7 & 37
Lavin, D (Ed) Friendship and Union: The South African letters of Patrick Duncan and Maud Selborne 1907-1943. Van Riebeeck Society, Cape Town, 2010.
National Archives of SA: TAB MHG 2612/63 Estate Papers of George Mackenzie, 1963.
Obituary: John Mackenzie. Arena. Wits University. October 2004
Rondganger, L. Plane in deadly plunge into bus depot. The Star, 19 July 2004: pg 2.
Sander, I A Centenary History of Barrow Construction. Johannesburg. 1997.
South African Who's Who, 1912. Ken Donaldson, Johannesburg. 1912: pg 87.
South African Who's Who, 1941. Ken Donaldson, Johannesburg. 1941: pg 253.
Who's Who of Southern Africa, 1962. Wooten & Gibson, Johannesburg. 1962: pg 499.
Who's Who of Southern Africa, 1964. Wooten & Gibson, Johannesburg. 1964: pg 531/2.

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

Writings about this entry

Baker, Herbert. 1944. Architecture & personalities. London: Country Life. pg b&w photo, 49-50
MacMillan, Allister & Rosenthal, Eric. 1948. Homes of the Golden City. Cape Town: Hortors. pg 74
Viney, Graham with Proust, Alain (Photography). 1987. Colonial houses of South Africa. Cape Town: Struik-Winchester. pg 197-205