George Heys, a young man from Durban, made his fortune in the diamond rush in Kimberley by establishing a successful coach transportation business that operated between Kimberley and Pretoria. With his newfound wealth he commissioned British architect WT Vale to design him a house. In 1886, the three-storey, stately Victorian mansion, complete with turrets and Dutch gables, was erected. The house was named after Melrose Abbey in Scotland, where Heys and his wife had visited on a delayed honeymoon. The grand house remained in the Heys family until 1968, when it was bought by the city council of Tshwane (Pretoria) and turned into a museum. Melrose House still contains most of its original furniture and finishings, including stained glass windows, and exquisite carpets. The house has remained structurally unaltered over the decades. It was restored between 1990 and 1992, and reinstated to its former glory. Some of the original décor is still in place, as are watercolours and bronzes owned by the Heys. The satins and brocade, gilded ceilings and stained-glass windows are reminiscent of genteel days gone by. The coach house in the sprawling – and now overgrown – garden still houses Heys’ car, a Minerva bought in 1920 that he did not ever like.
The house also overlooks the impressive Burger’s Park, which is situated across the street.by