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#KnowYourLand: Kensington Castle, Joburg's own Scottish 'dun'

Published Sep 20, 2018


Johannesburg - In the hilly streets of Kensington in Johannesburg lies the Kensington Castle, built as a labour of love by Englishman Samuel Scott Wilson for Kate MacKirdie. She would only agree to marry him on the condition that he build her a castle. 

On arrival in Johannesburg in 1910, Wilson started immediately on the castle and the couple moved in the following year.

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According to historical documents, MacKirdie’s father worked in the Rothsay Castle in Scotland and it is believed the castle’s impressive design is a replica of that castle.

Wilson allegedly used the same stone the castle stands on from the southern edge of the koppie to build the castle. Its walls are one-metre thick, with battlements and two walk-on roofs, and a ship’s cannon in the garden. The castle has 10 rooms on four levels.

The Wilsons lived in the castle for only a few years but were forced to sell it after falling on hard times. Ownership of the castle changed multiple times but in 1973 the Van den Spek family bought the castle. 

Over the years the design of Kensington Castle has changed. The east wing was demolished, a huge dining room with battlements and a second walk-on turret were added. A cottage, garage and a pool were added after some time.

The castle is architecturally striking and was clearly once the home of an affluent family. However, this beautiful castle is slowly falling into neglect.

The castle continues to impose its grand but stony presence on the suburb of Kensington and no doubt still attracts many curious people, hence Van den Spek’s reclusiveness.

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The City of Joburg has recognised the Kensington Castle as one of four castles around the city and acknowledged its heritage value.

The oldest of Joburg's four castles, the Three Castles Building, was built in 1894 for the manufacturers of Three Castles Cigarettes. Situated on the corner of Marshall and Goud Streets in the CBD, it was officially opened in 1898 by President Paul Kruger, who was an enthusiastic smoker.

The Parkview Castle is hidden behind Kilkenny Road’s oak trees and a well-established garden. It’s a large four-bedroomed house built by Major John Wesley O’Hara in 1907.

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The Kyalami Castle located in Kyalami was formerly a tourist attraction and hotel but the castle was purchased by the Church of Scientology in March 2008. 


The Star

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