PO BOX 1050, HOUGHTON
SOUTH AFRICA 2041
TEL: +27(0)11-646 4122
FAX: +27(0)11-646 1529
The estate is a remarkable encapsulation of the history of the Johannesburg
landscape - once open veld and now the largest man-made forest in the world.
The first trees were planted here in 1890 by entrepreneur Edouard Lippert, to meet the huge demand for pit props from the mines as well as building material for the boom town that had sprung up in the treeless veld.
At one time there were two million trees in his plantation, a few of which still survive at Brenthurst. Lippert also saw the residential potential of these sheltered slopes below the ridge and marked out plots on a portion of the land he had acquired as a township, which was to become the elite new suburb of Park Town.
The precipitous site of Brenthurst was one of the last to be sold, bought by Consolidated Goldfields of South Africa, who commissioned Sir Herbert Baker to design a house for their directors. Originally named Marienhof after Lippert's original homestead, the estate has been the home of the Oppenheimer family since 1922. Baker poised the house, with its tall Cape gables, high on the bare rock of the koppie, above a garden plunging with terraces and steep stone steps. Over the next half century, within its rugged setting and burgeoning forest, the garden gradually acquired a more elaborate structure and formality.
1959 brought a major remodelling, commissioned by Harry and Bridget Oppenheimer and undertaken by the remarkable Joane Pim. A pioneer of landscape design in South Africa, the hard landscaping and layout of Brenthurst today in nearly all hers. It was her redesign of the terracing that made the garden easily accessible for the first time in its history. Trained in Britain, she was able to interpret the classic English style to superb effect, but she was also a great innovator and an early advocate of indigenous and waterwise planting, In that, as well as in her structural work, she laid the foundation for the garden as it is today. Dick Scott, head gardener from 1974 to 1999, carried on Joan's work, with assistance from landscaper Beth Still.
When Strilli Oppenheimer became custodian of the garden in 2001, she was determined to respect its unique history. A pioneer of the natural gardening movement, she had restored and remade the estate at her United Kingdom home, Waltham Place, into a model biodynamic farm and garden. She set about applying the same principles at Brenthurst. Since 2001 she and head gardener Dawid Klopper have implemented a gradual evolution towards a more natural, endemic and indigenous planting with great sensitivity - and considerable success.