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Violet Bank on Park Road (OXO House)

Violet Bank on Park Road was built at the turn of the century (c1899/1900) and occupied until his death in 1910 by James Hill, who in 1884 had been elected a Member of the Cape Legislative Assembly, representing Barkly West. Jimmy Hill, as he was known, came to the Diamond Fields in 1870. Finding no success as a digger, he entered into partnership with a Mr Alf Paddon to open a general merchant’s store, first at Barkly West, then at Kimberley. With its ornate wrought-iron work imported from Glasgow, Violet Bank remains a fine example of the domestic architecture to be found in Kimberley at that time. Because of the OXO design on the fence, it has through the years been referred to by many a schoolboy as the “Oxo house”. Perched on the roof, towards the back of the house, was an elevated structure, a summer house designed to catch any cool evening breeze in an otherwise hot and dusty town, and also as a retreat from mosquitoes. The building was bought by Medi-Clinic and restored as their maternity ward.

–Steve Lunderstedt

Addition by the Kimberley City Info Webmaster – From the Noordkaap Koerant, Wednesday 14 February 2007

“KNOW KIMBERLEY introduces residents of the Diamond City to their surroundings. The buildings and surroundings are priceless, and with the help of the Africana Library in Dutoitspan Road, something interesting will be discussed each week.
The house called Violet Bank is neither violet nor was it ever a bank.
It is on the corner of Vista and Park Roads in Belgravia and is now used by MediClinic as its maternity ward.
The house was built at the turn of the century for James (Jimmy) Alfred Hill and no record exists of where the name Violet Bank came from.
For many years there was an Oxo sign on the fence and it was called the Oxo House by youngsters.
The house is known for its wrought iron railings and finishes on the verandah. The wrought iron work is original and was imported from Glasgow in Scotland and brought to Kimberley from Cape Town by ox wagon.
The front gate was always locked and a bell was positioned on the gate post. Anyone who wished to visit would ring the bell and wait on the pavement.
The old house had high ceilings and large rooms with a conservatory and a cellar.
The roof was hipped and had louvered vents and turrets, a house built to handle the heat of Kimberley.
Over the entrance is a gable and the pathway is covered by an arched canopy supported by iron columns.
Two stables faced an enclosed cobbled court where there was another double-storey block of living quarters with a balcony along the back boundary of the property.
Opposite the stables was a billiard room and on top of that a sundeck which could be reached by wooden steps from the balcony of the living quarters.
Jimmy had come to the Diamond Fields in 1870 and tried his hand at being a digger. This venture was not very successful and he went into partnership with Mr Paddon and open­ed a general merchant store. This was the beginning of the Hill and Paddon Trading Company.
He was a founding member of the Kimberley Club, represented Barkly West in the Cape Parliament and served on the Queen Victoria statue committee with Col. Harris, Carstairs Rogers and Cecil John Rhodes.
Jimmy died in 1910, but his wife, Amy Henrietta Hill, continued to live at Violet Bank until her death in 1935.
She always travelled in horse-drawn carriages and when her son once offered to buy her a car, she said she does “not want to go hurtling through the countryside and see nothing”.
The house was almost demolished to make space for the new private hospital which is now Medi-Clinic.
The city council saved the house and it later became a guest house.
In 1994 the hospital group bought the house with  the  idea of turning it into a day hospital.
After many petitions and council meetings, the house was revamped to be the hospital’s maternity section which could only be reached by a corridor from the front of the hospital.
Neil Oates was the manager of the hospital at the time and said that they worked with the monuments council to keep the outside of the house as original as possible.
This way, one of Kimberley’s oldest and most important dwellings will be maintained for generations to come.”

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