Kya deLongchamps is impressed by what she sees when she visits a period house near St Luke’s in Cork
ARRIVING early on the clinkered slopes of St Luke’s, I took an investigative ramble through the fascinating, discomposed terraces.
Bold-faced curiosity goes with the job. Glasses trembling on the end of my nose, there was craning, tip-toe, over ivy-shrouded walls —squinting like Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Match Girl, into the gated gentrification of the newly minted properties of our Victorian Quarter (Google Maps brands it our Victorian Quarter).
Grabbing an inky coffee and worthy snack at O’Keeffe’s Artisan Foods — this was all decidedly unsettling. Please God, let me live and write long enough to tickle up the mortgage to live up here.
Kingsville is on Wellington Road, close to the foot of Military Hill — about six minutes’ stroll downhill to the new Harley Street Bridge to MacCurtain Street, and two minutes from the renaissance happening that is St Luke’s.
Built for members of the merchant classes in the 1880s, the rolling lengths of Kingsville’s gardens are bounded by Summerhill North — the fine temple-style 19th-century pedestrian access sealed but intact.
A high wall shrouds the front of this five-storey house adding protection and privacy, pierced under a pediment arch by a rich red wrought-iron gate with a Tree of Life motif and curious spur-style latching mechanism.
A carpet of highly coloured encaustic tiles leads us from the street entrance down a long, narrow walkway, bounded on the left by a soundly dilapidated two-room building (former servants’ quarters).
With planning permission — these 37 square metres are an intriguing, deal-maker — room for a habitable annexe, even a two-car garage if the boundary wall were taken down (see what close neighbours have already done).
Unlike some of its surrounding companions dating to the golden 1820s and 1830s, Kingsville is not listed — a small “hurrah” for most buyers. Bounding to the end of the story — this understated, grey lofty terrace is a “sleeper”, as antique dealers would say — unrecognised, thus far, after a couple of months out on the market.
The crisp, evenly lit images online don’t transmit its atmospheric loveliness — that reassuring, palpable spirit-of-place.
Stepping down over rubbed granite steps into the distilled golden light of the front hall, I let out an ecstatic “oooooh”.
Apologies to Gillian McDonnell of Sherry Fitzgerald, Cork. This was not the house I was expecting to see — at all. I gushed on like a love-struck fool.
The first floor at Kingsville is actually the second storey. Reception rooms upstairs? A result of the hillside setting and a popular genteel, Georgian device to make use of a good prospect.
The intimate L-shaped hall contains the stairwell and leads left to a powder-room and small outside courtyard, or straight back through the house to a large, elegant sitting-room, the width of the house, with two tall windows looking down to the Lee.
It’s an impressive, honest industrial panorama of the city.
The dockland drama is gentled by the garden and trees, with views to the new developments at Penrose Quay and Horgan’s Quay, flushing new commercial life (and residential demand) into our lovely old lady of a city.
There’s stately, correct, high ceilings and a fine high 19th-century black and red fireplace, plus original cornices, picture rails and a ceiling rose.
Despite the necessary removal of the failing sash windows, the survival of architectural features of the house, including shutters, panelled doors, pitch-pine flooring, a superb staircase with original railing, and most of the second fix woodwork, is a credit to the current owner.
Period pocket doors are left open to the current kitchen which is modestly designed but serviceable and set in another lovely room with its own fireplace and a quaint window to the inner courtyard which acts as an effective light well.
There’s a separate door back to the hallway — ideal if you’re catering a party or just want to detach the two rooms for any reason.
Up to the first landing are two double bedrooms, one currently serving as the owner’s retreat and office — equal in size to the sitting-room below.
Both rooms have lovely, original fireplaces and plasterwork, and are served by a bathroom on the landing.
On the third floor are two more bedrooms and a small kitchen/diner (bedroom five if you prefer) set up for the luckiest students in Ireland (the owner previously shared her house with well vetted tenants during term time).
A sinuous, closeted stairs reaches to a further generous bedroom and full bathroom in the roof-space, in good order and likely to be declared “mine” by the pushiest offspring of the next owners.
The basement is, in fact, a fully finished cavernous ground floor space leading out to the 476 square metres of garden (notice the fantastic, architectural door surround) — ideal for a casual entryway, a massive utility-room or an alternative site for a new kitchen.
The terrace and gardens are tiered, flanked by rubble walls, with a separating gate to the secondary plane.
The grounds might be largely all to the rear, but they are vast for any city address, and could be made into a self-sufficient kitchen garden with plenty of roam for the Swallows and Amazons (that willow just demands an eclectic tree house).
Kingsville is described as being in turnkey condition. You could certainly move straight into it. It’s warm, dry, perfectly decorated — it’s very well maintained, and everything works.
However, it will most likely be sympathetically renovated and tenderly reconfigured, probably in annual stages. The BER of “F” is no surprise — don’t be put off.
Even with a modern gas boiler, zoned central heating thermal stores in those thick Victorian walls, and double glazing — the fabric and age of the house make this rating just about inevitable — computer says “no”. A surveyor will have a healthy list of what must be done, over time, to satisfy their dry, heartless reservations.
VERDICT: A solid period winner with heart and potential to match your pocket.