Time has been kind to this old stone coach house and courtyard at Jamesbrook in East Cork, writes Tommy Barker. Built in the 1780s, it is now a spacious and comfortable home with up to five bedrooms and a substantial 1.8 acres of land
Jamesbrook, East Cork €680,000
Size: 3.100 sq ft on 1.8 acres
Best Feature: Serenity
Peace drips slowly, and harmoniously, at the off-road, hideaway home, with historic ‘Big House’ links, at East Cork’s Jamesbrook, set just above the narrow, scenic road wending a way around woodland and Cork’s harbour fringes south-east of Midleton.
It dates possibly to the 1700s, with a later section to one side, now largely rebuilt, surrounded by old courtyard walls with niches, and was built as a stable block and coach house for the occupants of Jamesbrook Hall to the south over a few fields, and which is one of the oldest intact East Cork country houses, refurbished in stages by the late 1990s.
The ‘Big House’ at Jamesbrook is Georgian in character, tall with three storeys, and pre-dates the Georges, back to the latter half of the 1600s and built by a Cork business family, the Goulds. It’s thought to have been constructed during the brief reign of James II, 1685 to 1688, and stayed in Gould-Adams family hands up until to 1932, when the last family member passed away.
Jamesbrook Hall itself was brought back from the brink of abandonment, at one market-peak time priced in the millions, with its adjacent courtyard buildings and land, and the period dwelling eventually sold in 2014 for a recorded €420,000.
And, it appears that Jamesbrook Hall had not just one, but two coach house clusters and stables, one close to the house, and this other, more distant, workmanlike one, which included a forge. Now a converted and upgraded coachhouse of immense character, with a graceful wide arch off-centre still in situ, this human habitat once housed horses, and even cattle, with a hayloft on its upper level: in fact, livestock were in residence here up to as recently as 20 years ago, it’s recalled locally.
Those former uses are now just pale, banished memories, such is the level of creature comforts for bipeds in the hugely upgraded home.
Today, it’s up to 3,100 sq ft of tasteful and stylish space in what’s essentially two sections, with two staircases, with a glazed hall link between them, and a small number of large living rooms, a knock-out sun-room to the front — which is cosied up and cosseted by a large Austroflamm wood-burning stove — and with up to five bedrooms secreted elsewhere about the characterful two-storey build.
This conversion was done by a Cork city-based business family back in the mid-2000s, for their use as a holiday home primarily, to a design by JE Keating & Associates architects and was finished around 2008.
The current owners, who have long lived in various parts of Cork harbour and are the keenest aficionados of the area’s rich outdoor life and amenities and the natural environment, bought here seven years ago, and were immediately smitten with what they saw, from the first moment of their visit.
The place, set near Saleen and with its own, ancient walled-in surrounds plus paddocks and views to the currently russeted woods at Rostellan, had been only a few days on the market, and they jumped for it instinctively.
Back then, it was offered on 2.5 acres, and the couple said to the then-selling agent that they actually didn’t need or even want so much land.
“He told me I wan’t a proper Irish man if I didn’t want as much land as I could get,” recalls one of the occupants now with a smile. They negotiated, or so they thought, for less land, but at the final legal stages and when maps were finalised, found they yes, indeed, they got more land than they had bargained for.
In some respects, that was fortuitous, as they are now downsizing, and want to build a smaller home, on a smaller plot out of sight behind one of the high, surrounding stone walls.
This converted coach house thus came back to market as summer was drawing towards a close, and is for sale on a still most decent 1.8 acres, amid prosperous and well-tended East Cork farmland, with good farm neighbours, and even a few thoroughbred racehorses as grazers in adjacent fields and forming a moving part of the natural vista.
Selling agent is Adrianna Hegarty of Hegarty Properties in nearby Midleton about four miles away, and she guides the special package at €680,000. Buyers could come from anywhere, she admits, locally or from further afield, from Dublin, the UK or beyond for what’s very clearly a lifestyle package, within a half hour or so of the city and an international airport.
The current owners, now vendors, have brought it to another level, over and above what they bought.
They added the 27’ by 12’ sun room across the front facade, with a low-sloping membrane roof, tall windows on three sides for enclosed garden views, and then made it year-round comfortable by moving in a tall Austroflamm wood-burning stove from the adjacent c 20’ by 20’ living room, just the other side of the gently-curved, widened old stone coachhouse arch, now an internal feature with glazed side panels and access door.
They then reinstated a more traditional-looking second stove back in that double aspect living room, of such proportions that it can easily hold a baby grand piano, several sofas, a broad work desk, bookshelves, and capacious cabinets, for part-storage of an enormous collection of classical music CDs.
In current usage, it’s sort of a house in two halves, with main daytime living areas ranged off the sun-room, as in sun-spot, living and kitchen/dining room, all mostly oak-floored, next to a hall, and with a cool pantry for provisions storage, as well as a separate utility room.
There’s also a double-height hall by a second staircase, with landing/reading area on high, and a large, ground-floor en-suite master bedroom, with a walk-in wardrobe/dressing room, private bathroom, and feature double aspect corner windows overlooking the ‘secure’ entrance point between the old estate stone courtyard walls.
Directly overhead is an even larger, c 19’ by 19’ dormer bedroom/workroom, used as a workspace by the owners but highly adaptable, and overall, between the two first-floor wings are four of the house’s up-to five bedrooms, and a main family bathroom.
Most of the joys of Jamesbrook’s coachhouse are to the front, with south-facing aspect, and sheltered, tended gardens rich in summer drifts of lavender, and agapanthus, and with four raised beds fringed in limestone.
There’s quite a deal of shelter, yet a section opens low down to the south west for harbour views and glimpses. Given the hurricane and storms of this past few weeks, the sheltering intention works and, while beds are naturally a bit bedraggled after some deluges, all’s good, really, ready for Spring 2018 splendours and surrounded by gravel and limestone-paved paths inside the ancient yard walls, and with useful pasture beyond, enough for a horse or two.
Also survivors are the two glasshouses and the BBQ area, and the exterior has the hallmarks of intelligent, appropriate planting, and productivity too, with fruit and veg still ripening under glass.
A pergola or gazebo would be a nice addition now in the corner for views, and the broad house with its part-exposed limestone facade gets to trace the sun all day long, rising over the walls and land and setting in a far corner, where the day’s last rays pick up on the coloured glass in a tall display stand in a sun room corner, creating sparkles and twinkles of blues, reds and yellows.
Overall condition, inside and out, is immaculate, with a mix of RAL coloured alu-clad and Rationel-style windows, with electric heating as a back-up to the two burly stoves, and there’s a C2 BER, excellent for a place with its roots back in the 1780s.
Agent Adrianna Hegarty lauds the setting reached off a long private avenue, the sense of tranquillity, secure enclosure, history and presence, and reckons when the right buyer comes along and experiences it, they’ll ‘get it,’ just as its vendors did.
VERDICT: A place apart.
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