House of the Week: Langford Row, Cork City €250,000

Tommy Barker checks out two homes, side-by-side, on Langford Row in Cork City. 

Langford Row, Cork City €250,000

Size: 94 sq m (1,000 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 2/3

Bathrooms: 1

BER: Exempt

Best Feature: A surprise

Stopped on the steps up to No 3, Langford Place, and quizzed as to the age of this city’s terraced row of six charming ‘alms’ homes, estate agent Michael McKenna guesses “about 200 years, I’d say.” He’s very close: they’ll turn two full centuries of age in a stripling 18 years, and the date of their construction is actually revealed in a dated stone plaque on No 1, by the gated entrance from Langford Row, proudly proclaiming their creation as 1835.

One of the most intriguing short runs of terraced houses in Cork city’s inner southern suburbs, this half a dozen venerable, generally well-kept, easy-on-the eye over-basement buildings are sort of tucked away behind St John’s former church, by the turn down towards Douglas Street.

The church, with a restrained neo-classical facade is a one-time Episcopalian place of worship which itself dates to 1854 and now forms part of the campus nucleus of St John’s Central College, with its contemporary buildings fore and aft, leaving this cluster as an oasis of a preserved, graceful past.

They were built as alms houses for the less well-off, as well as retirement homes for retired Church of Ireland clergy and, often for their widows, and have been overseen for years by one of Cork’s oldest charities, Lapp’s Charity.

Time and changing living patterns has caught up with them, though, and while they’ve served some retired clergy and the occasional bishop right up to the present, a number have been rented more generally and two – No 1 and No 6 - were previously sold, and are now privately owned.

A next chapter of disposal now beckons for No 2 and No 3 this month, going for sale by private treaty, each with a starting price of €250,000 quoted by auctioneer Michael McKenna, and he’ll be swamped with interest and inquiries, and busy with the merely curious and the nosy.

If just one were available, there’d be a bun-fight and bidding galore, given the city centre living convenience, the charm, the fact each has freehold title, and a clincher is the surprising size of all six houses’ long, mature back gardens.

There’s two for sale, though, and two more (Nos 4 and 5), in better condition, are expected to follow onto the market some time afterwards, so those finally presented with the option to buy into this most-special setting and opting to bid and to buy and what to aim for may well call for some tactics.

But, for now, two are there for the taking, and surely bidding will push them above the start-of asking price of €250k? On a superficial view, and despite their considerable age, they just might not need to swallow too much extra cash to get up to a relatively comfortable secular living standard.

Entered up a short run of seven limestone steps with handrails, the mid-terraced houses are about 1,400 sq ft each, with two main levels over a basement/lower ground level and effectively have two rooms per level, with a bathroom on the return. There’s good ceiling heights, fireplaces aplenty, original sash windows in reasonable sliding condition, and one house has a very distinctive twelve-over-eight sash on the stairwell. Kitchens right now are to the back, at lower ground level and open out to individual, enclosed courtyards with slate roofed storage sheds and outdoor privvies.

Stout doors in the courtyard walls open then to the long (c 100’?) and mature strips of back gardens (No 3 has a fine cedar in its mid-section) , with a communal passage by the courtyard walls, and secure side gate access to Langford Row by the contemporary block of apartments, built a decade ago on the site of a former filling station.

The layout sees two bedrooms at first floor level, so those who might seek a third for guests have options too at other levels, or more readily at attic level, where there’s currently very slender steps compartmentalised off on the top landing to rooms under sloping ceilings.

VERDICT: Utterly special, yet an utterly practical bite-sized city period living prospect, with gardens, parking and privacy. The fact there’s two for sale via Mr McKenna, and two more to follow, will see a new chapter written for the enchanting, six-of-the-best at Langford Place.

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