Phillips Era : 1917 - 1941
After Willem Adriaan van der Stel was forced to return to the Netherlands, Vergelegen went through a succession of owners until 1917 when Sir Lionel Phillips purchased the property for his wife, Lady Florence Phillips, who transformed the dilapidated Estate into a floral and cultural treasure trove.
The Phillips' spent vast sums of money on the restoration and upgrade of the Estate. Sir Lionel Phillips was known as a ‘Randlord,’ making his millions on the diamond fields of Kimberley and the gold mines of the Witwatersrand. He also served as chairman of the Johannesburg Chamber of Mines for several years.
Dams were built, roads constructed and the old footbridge was replaced by a structure wide enough to accommodate motor traffic.
Lady Phillips removed all the vineyards and practised mixed agriculture. She brought her gardener, Hanson, over from England to plant shrubs, trees and herbaceous borders. With the help of architect, C. Percy Walgate, she restored the historic homestead and converted the old winery into a magnificent library to house Sir Lionel Phillips' collection of books.
Lady Phillips did not restrict her activities to creating a beautiful home for her family; she also became intimately involved in promoting local culture and handicrafts. She was a great benefactor to young artists and opened her newly restored home to people from all walks of life. Many famous and influential guests, as well as struggling artists, enjoyed her hospitality. Gwelo Goodman, Francis Brett-Young and Irma Stern were among her proteges.When she died at Vergelegen in 1940, at the age of 77, Lady Phillips left behind a legacy of great beauty to be enjoyed by all.