Lucy was hiding at the back of the wardrobe. There she found another door, a door that led her into a different and magical world. So we are told, in the Narnia stories, by C. S. Lewis. I felt just the same as I stepped through the front door of Lindfield House.
A very gracious lady, dressed as a Victorian maid, welcomed me. She led me into and through a wonderland of Victorian life and memories. It seemed never to stop, as one fascinating room opened into another. It went on and on, until I seriously began to suspect that there was no end – but that we were in a ‘forever land.’
The house itself, originally designed by Sir Herbert Baker, is arranged, furnished and lived in, as a Victorian home – and has all the appearance and sense of one where the whole family are due back at any moment. The furniture, art, ornaments, personal items, musical instruments and utensils are almost all of the Victorian and Edwardian period – as are the clothes in the cupboards and drawers, the visiting cards in the entrance, the books in the library and the arrangement of the drawing room.
Here the tea things await the guests. The tea–caddy is unlocked and opened [tea at one stage cost a pound a pound – in an age where some staff earned only 8 pounds a year], the silver tea pots are gleaming and ready, and the cups stand neatly on their saucers and plates. These cups are wide-rimmed because, when you called on an ‘at home’ day, you were supposed only to stay for 15 minutes. I felt my little finger beginning to rise!
In the nursery stands a most wonderful, very large doll’s house which, with most of the contents, has been made by ‘the maid.’ It is worth seeing by itself. It opens up both front and back, and is equipped with electric lights.
The bedrooms are complete to the last detail, and include such items as razors, nail sets, hair brushes and hair catchers. In one there is a ladies hoop. It went under her skirts, and was, apparently, a popular fashion as it flattered the figure. The main bedroom includes a hip bath, prayer chair and day couch, besides the large and canopied bed. ‘His’ dressing room includes a cut-throat razor set – one for every day of the week. His son had a more modern implement, that looked like a lip-clamp!
I was particularly taken with the Gentleman’s Library, the Butler’s Pantry, the Drawing Room, the Dining Room, and the Music Room – but there is so much else. There are 18 rooms in all. Throughout, the maid, who is in fact the owner Katherine Love, was a source of the most wonderful detail and information – both about the period itself as well as the items on display. She and her mother started the collection two generations ago – and it is still growing. She is an extremely creative and gifted artist and has made a large number of the items herself, following the patterns of the time. I did so like the gentleman’s foot warmer, which protected him from drafts!
After the tour Katherine served tea on the verandah – with cream scones, cheese puffs and sausage rolls. And I looked at a small pamphlet called, ‘The Language of the Fan.’ I am now able, with a fan, to say, “We are being watched!”
It was a wonderful experience – and one I fully recommend. Viewing is by appointment only.
Cost: R40 per person, includes tea, coffee and light refreshments
‘One stone builds on another – unless we take them down. Build your life. Don’t destroy it.’