Waterfronting period home is full of charm, and high quality finishes. It floats Tommy Barker’s boat
Glenbrook, Cork Harbour €480,000
Size: 212 sq m (2,278 sq ft)
YOU really get a sense of history, continuity and the conveniences of harbour living, at this exquisitely upgraded mid 19th century home, once called House Raphael, but now simply known as 1 Bath Terrace, Glenbrook.
As it stands, the end-terrace period house with a delicate, curved rear return/stairwell, is full of charm, and high quality finishes and intelligent remodelling for 21st century daily living.
Yet, for all of its finery and comforts and top quality joinery, it is at least only a match for, if not trumped by, the novelty of its setting, where ships and sail boats are regular passers-by, witnessed in all their glories from all three levels of this restored, extended and enveloping family home.
In fact, it is so intrinsically linked to the shoreline that a good-sized boat can be winched up and down onto the tides right here, on the ocean-bound stretch of the River Lee’s last legs before hitting the more wide open expanses of Cork harbour once past Monkstown.
No 1’s owners keep a fast boat, a flat-bottomed Dell Quay Dory, complete with powerful 75 hp outboard motor on a vertical mechanical lift, operated by electric winches, alongside steel steps and a small private slipway.
Within minutes, the entire family can slip away, out their back door, onto the boat, and out on the waters, with trip options upriver, downriver, into Cork city centre, or past Cobh to East Ferry, Whitegate and beaches out by the harbour mouth. Literally, they have day trips galore, without going out of their front door.
In ‘taking to the waters,’ they are merely continuing a tradition that goes back to the Victorian era, when this particular section of Cork harbour came to life, popular as a health resort, complete with salt water baths, Turkish baths, hydrotherapy pools and other amenities. Covered carriages called jingles ran up and down the road to Cork city, and paddle ships also ferried passengers from harbour to the city quays, and other ferries criss-crossed the river to Carrigaloe on Great Island to serve Queenstown/Cobh.
Rail reached Passage West in 1850, putting it even more firmly on a tourist map for decades ahead, and the rail line arrived in Glenbrook and Monkstown only by 1902, and thence on to Crosshaven; the rail line through Glenbrook ran directly across the road from Bath Terrace, which witnessed its arrival and eventual demise in 1932.
Today, though, the three noble terraced homes that comprise Bath Terrace still see daily commuter rail traffic, but now it’s over across the water, where the highly efficient Cork-Cobh rail line operates all day, every day. It’s some bit, at least, of intelligent Victorian infrastructure and engineering enterprise which has made it into the 21st century, and a reminder of the folly of having ripped up so much of Ireland’s many rail and tram lines for the short-term expedience and convenience of the motor car.
Concealing its ace card of water access pretty much from the road, picturesque Bath Terrace now sits beside modern apartments, Glenbrook Wharf, built on the site of the old Glenbrook Club Hotel, and whose architect Stephen Hyde also has water-frontage and a boat mooring by his own smartly-chosen home in a corner of that development. On the other side, just a bit downriver, stood the bath houses and hamams that gave Bath Terrace its name. (The Royal Victoria Monkstown and Passage Baths opened in 1838, followed by Dr Timothy Curtin’s Hydropathic Establishment.) Other reminders of Victorian enterprise, transport and shipping abound here in the ‘triple-village’ cluster of Glenbrook, Passage West and Monkstown: as recently as the early 2000s, developers Howard Holdings had a grand plan to reinstate harbour ferries, albeit quicker than the steam and sail originals, when they bought the former Royal Victoria Dockyard, with ambitious plans for a marina, hotel, apartments and other uses upon it.
Its vaunting ambitions became a cropper of the Celtic Tiger’s crash landing, but Howard Holdings instinct to return Cork to its harbour roots remain as valid: after all, they delivered City Quarter on Lapps Quay as a forerunner of what docklands renewal could deliver for this old maritime city, with the harbour still a USP, its unique selling point.
Well, after 15 years of ownership, and two bursts of upgrades the most recent, and most dramatically altering being by 2016, No 1 Bath Terrace’s owners, with a growing family and outdoor space needs, hope to sell up and transition to a spot on acres, yet also near the coastline as they are hooked on boats.
Coming on board for the sale is estate agent Jackie Cohalan of Cohalan Downing, who knows the Monkstown area well and who vaguely recalls the condition of No 1 back when the current occupants bought, and who recount it had been empty for years, with trees growing in it.
All’s utterly changed, from stem to stern, and even to the back, in the enclosed garden with ever-changing river and shipping views, and sweep of high quality limestone paving. Instead of wild trees growing with weedy abandon, there’s now a clipped, thoughtful planted side bed of ornametnal bay trees, holly, pale hydrangeas and some seasonal blooms on one side, and a practical, insulated garden storage shed and herb beds on the other side.
But, first things first. Set back just a few separating feet from the street, No 1 has a formal front door entrance in a painted, dash facade under a simple, deep-set fanlight window. Also upgraded in recent years are the neighbouring Numbers 2&3, whose facades differ from that of No 1, with a bit more ornate brick detailing around their front windows and doors.
Within No 1, there’s a welcoming hall, with wood-paneled walls, ceiling rose and a reinstated encaustic tiled floor, which was lifted, and reset, with missing bits matched exactly from salvage tile buys in London.
There’s a formal, front reception room, used for dining, to the left, with handsome proportions, two sliding double glazed sash windows in sympathetic pvc frames, and shutters work still, with the original sash weights laid out on a side display almost as sculptural pieces. Two other 10lb weights do, indeed hang as art pieces on a chimney breast, above the room’s excellent cast-iron fireplace. (The use of the weights was, in fact, recommeded by a professional feng shui practitioner, as a countering energy anchor to the energy of the water passing by the house’s back boundary.) This is a deep house, make no mistake, expecially since its ground floor extension and re-ordering in 2016 which pushed the house out circa 20 feet more than before, to create a 26 x 25 foot ‘great room,’ home to an ergonomic kitchen with long island, a family/sitting room, casual dining, and home-office.
And, between the front of house, and that great room, lies a central vestibule, leading to a characterful staircase in an gracefully elegant curving return annex. Also off the dining room is a linking TV room/library, a perfect, cosy night-time retreat, complete with cream enamel, wood-burning stove, capacious shelving, and sliding glazed pocket doors for when partition is desired.
A good half, if not 60%, of No 1’s circa 2,280 sq ft is at ground level now since the last major alteration made such an effective transformation. This back room, with double pitched roofs and eight Veluxes in their slopes for drawing down daylight deep into the core, is floored in wide plank salvage pitch pine, sourced from Wilsons of Belfast, while the dining room’s darker, earlier-sourced pitch pine boards came from a Cork salvage yard on Dublin Hill.
Maintaining a continuity of look and decor is the quality of ceiling coving and light roses, done on ground and first floor levels by Cork firm Capitol Mouldings to match the original coving intact next door, at No 2, as No 1’s fabric had distintegrated badly by the time the house last sold in the very early 2000s.
As important for the house’s overall luxe look is the work done by Skibbereen-based Clohane Wood Products, who jumped on board for the latest makeover. They did seemingly acres of wall wood panelling, now all painted in restful shades, they made the casement windows for the extension, and they redid the already excellent kitchen units which were was put in a decade or so earlier, in painted solid timbers.
The owners say Clohane came up with the sketch and kitchen floor plan within hours of visiting, and they dismantled, matched and upgraded the units, switching some solid fronts for lattice timbers, changing handles and knobs for chrome, and sourced a new under counter ceramic sink. A free-standing pine dresser got painted the same shade as the built-ins, and the units and large island were all topped with new, pale and glistening Silestone quartz worktops for a seamless look.
Simply, this great room is, indeed great, spanning a large open area of perhaps 650 sq ft, save for the slight intrusion of the bump and curve of the stairwell return, which is such a distinctive architectural feature of all three homes in Bath Terrace.
No 1’s focal point now (other than the attention-seeking harbour view, or the kitchen’s large range cooker) is the purpose-built, energy-efficient chimney breast hugging a contemporary 8kw ‘Byland’ woodburning stove from Town and Country Fires, supplied and fitted by Flame by Design, Cork. It has an outdoor air feed, and channels extra warm air back into the room via vents fitted in the insulated chimney breast, before smoke’s emitted from a tall stainless steel external flue.
Auctioneer Jackie Cohalan rightly extols the standard of workmanship throughout, showing “outstanding attention to detail, while the very best of materials were sourced, so that each part of the house could be maximised for modern day living.” Antique furniture and lighting fixtures sit as comfortably with contemporary pieces, and while much of the building’s internal fabric is fresh and crisp, by necessity because of the poor order it was in 15 years ago when saved, the essential quirkiness remains, most notably in the curves and the tiny feature windows front (an oval in a front gable) and quatrefoil opes in the curvacious turret-like return. (In contrast to the hard-to-slate ‘conical hat’ return roofs seen at Nos 2&3, No 1 Bath Terrace is now finished with a Trocal membrane, as are its top floor’s two curved roof dormer windows.)
There’s four bedrooms at No 1, over its two upper floors, with the best of them at first floor level, where two original bedrooms have been joined together for a master suite with dresing area, complete with wall of slidrobes and seating space, with languid, indolence-inducing river views.
There’s one other bedroom (with wash basin) at this mid-ships level, off a quirky landing with second stairs doubling back on the first, and this mid level is also home to the main, wood-panelled family bathroom, which has a Jacuzzi bath, sink in a marble surround, and separate shower.
The top, attic level is home to two further bedrooms, with bow-topped dormer windows, walnut floors and exposed, original roof beams and trusses. Head height on the stairs gets a bit tight for six-footers-plus, and even more compromising is this top level’s shower room, squeezed in under sloping ceilings. The shower is just about manageable for adults, as is the sink, but getting to the WC needs a bit of a stoop, or a steady aim. It’s quite the surprise, in fact, to hear that No 1 Bath Terrace served its time in a previous century as a Mrs Robson’s boarding school, taking six girl pupils under its wings and tutelage for the princessly fee of six guineas per quarter.
Nowadays, there’s a choice of good national schools in Monkstown and at Passage West, in a new building, while Bath Terrace’s Victorian era original construction includes features like vents under the downstairs floors, to allow for regular airing, necessitated by occassionaly high water tables, a feature in many Glenbrook vicinity homes.
Works done along the way at No 1 includes spraying roofs with insulating foam, all new wiring with high-end brushed steel switches and sockets extra high up on walls, and the wood-panelled walls have a special corrugated membrane behind, to allow the original old stone walls to breathe. Central heating is gas fired, zoned, and temperature controllable in individual rooms, controllable too by smart phones, and gas also powers the large range cooker, while outside in the back garden, by some raised decking and the boat lifting apparatus, is a huge, gas-fired BBQ.
The water is so close you can fish from the garden, and other passersby include trawlers, tugs and tenders, yachts, dinghies, ribs, kayaks, container ships, and smaller cruise ships, the latter like slow-pasing hotels, lights all-ablaze.
Coming now for sale and guiding €480,000 for this most special package, Ms Cohalan expects interest from home and away, and especially from overseas, and those who’ve lived along, on, or by the water, will be smitten by the harbour, and will embrace it.
VERDICT: Does the boat count as a fixture, or a fitting?
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