Emoyeni, the ‘Place in the Air’ in Zulu, perches dramatically on Parktown Ridge like an eagle’s eyrie; its red brick gentility in stark contrast to the tumbling cliffs and the spectacular view towards the Magaliesberg range – a blue smudge on the horizon. The grand staircase loggia on the south offers no clue of the spectacular vista that lies ahead.
The house was built in 1905 for Hon Henry Hull who was to become Minister of Finance in the first Union Government. In view of his involvement in the Johannesburg business world it is perhaps not surprising that he eschewed the fashionable Herbert Baker and turned instead to the architects Leck and Emley for a rather grander realisation. This well established practice was certainly the most eminent in local business circles. They had after all recently completed the Rand Club building as well as the impessive Corner House, at that time the tallest building in Johannesburg. But given Mr Hull’s financial predilections it was their recently completed Stock Exchange that he perhaps admired most.
With its columned portico and segmental arched corner pavilions, the red brick walls with stone groynes, this building, in the grand English Renaissance or ‘Wrenaissance as it was known, was the stylistic departure point for Highfield Manor as Mr Hull’s house was to be called.
In the late nineteenth century there was a revival of interesting English Renaissance architecture and a great admiration for the work of Sir Christopher Wren, architect of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. His architecture was regarded as the epitome of English Classicism. It embodied the Palladian principles of design with sufficient Baroque muscularity to form the basis for a potent architectural vocabulary. The leading architect in the revival of Wrenaissance was the English architect Norman Shaw with building s such as the large country house ‘Bryanston’ in Dorset.The stylewas further developed in the work of Philip Webb and became the mainstream of Edwardian architecture.