Retirement village site has a rich history

The old Highwick House will be redeveloped into a clubhouse in Wytham Lifestyle Estate.

The old Wytham Estate in Kenilworth is being developed into a retirement village.

Developer Gus van der Spek, from AVIEW, says it took four years to get approval for the development, which will be known as the Wytham Lifestyle Estate.

Mr Van der Spek says the development will include 49 one- and two-bedroom units and 12 mews homes for tenants wanting more space.

There will also be a small hotel with four rooms for guests who are visiting tenants as well as 100 underground parking bays.

The old Highwick House will be used as the main clubhouse with a gym, restaurant, library, medical suite, members’ lounge and kitchen.

According to heritage practitioner Ashey Lillie, the history of the old Highwick House goes back to 1886 with the subdivision of the Stellenberg farm. Once draped across the slopes of Table Mountain, it would become the suburbs of Claremont and Kenilworth. The Highwick House was built in 1896 and its driveway known as Highwick Drive stretched from near the Arderne Gardens.

The first owner of the house was a Member of Parliament, Henry Beard, who was a distinguished businessman and husband to Ralph Arderne’s daughter, Joanna. Ralph Arderne was a timber merchant and a collector of trees who bought seedlings from passing ships. Many of those trees can be found in his arboretum, Arderne Gardens, which celebrated its 175th anniversary last year.

Soon after Henry Beard’s death in 1926, the property was bought by Judge James Stratford, who made significant changes like removing the turret and it became known as Wytham Estate.

In 1961, Stanley Lewis, the man behind the Foschini Group, bought the Wytham Estate where he lived for 41 years, using the study to work on his retail empire.

When the Lewis family sold the property in 2002, The Foschini Group had already been using the property for a number of years as a headquarters and conference facility.

The last owner before AVIEW purchased the property in 2017 was Micheil Armstrong who stayed there for 15 years.

Friends of the Arderne Gardens (FOTAG) committee member Hank Lith said the development and greater densification of upper Claremont and Kenilworth were inevitable.

“As gardens get smaller the residents will appreciate the Arderne Gardens more,” he said.

Aubrey Keller, 82, who stays on Tennant Road, has shared a boundary with the Wytham Estate for more than 60 years. “I knew the owners very well,” he said. “We would visit one another and it was a beautiful place that also had two tennis courts.”

Ward councillor Ian Iversen said he supported the decision to have underground parking as that would allow the grounds to be landscaped.

“The fact that the site is to be developed as a retirement village means that vehicles won’t be joining the morning or afternoon rush-hour traffic where there are two entry and exit points to the complex.”

Marian Nieuwoudt, mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, said the development proposals received for 8 Wytham Avenue were processed and approved.

Mr Van der Spek said they were committed to preserving the old 100-year old trees on the property.

The development should have started in December last year but had been pushed back to June this year because of Covid and was likely to be completed by the end of next year, he said.

The site for the underground parking.
An artist’s impression of what Wytham Lifestyle Estate will look like when finished.
Gracie Joursan attending a wedding at the old Highwick House in 1906.