A historic home in Co Cork has got a new lease of life with a cosy, modern two-storey extension, writes Tommy Barker
STEEPED in local history is Castle Bernard Lodge in Bandon, Co Cork, a robust survivor of a once enormous Munster estate that, at peak, ran to 40,000 acres, with lands as far west as Durrus, and with Bandon Bridge at its epicentre.
Not only is the lodge a hale and hearty survivor of an estate that effectively minimised around the time of the War of Independence, when the main Castle Bernard grand house was burned out, this ‘lodge’ is probably in better health than at almost any time in its 199-year history.
It’s more than twice its original size, too.
Last sold back in 2005, as an original-footprint compact former hunting and guest lodge associated with the Castle Bernard Estate and the Earls of Bandon, it’s now a private, upgraded, opened up, opened out, and much extended home of some 2,300 sq ft. It has four bedrooms, very accommodating daytime and leisure rooms, considerable luxury, and a clear demarcation of where the original lodge stopped, and the new-build was added on with some architectural élan.
It is set is by a broad woodland demesne sweep of road, a mile or two west of Bandon, along a quiet country route which leads from Bandon town’s fringes to Bandon Golf Club, and adjacent Tennis Club, on part of the 500 acres remaining of the once-sprawling Castle Bernard Estate.
The balance of the estate’s land is rented out for farming, while the original castellated dwelling (it looks a bit like Castlefreke) is, sadly, continuing its ruinous decline. Other mementos of the estate can be glimpsed in the surviving cottages and other buildings, many with ancient leaded windows, closer to the town.
The couple who took on this ex hunting/guest lodge bought it in 2005, and drafted in the thoughts and drafts of several architects at the time. They eventually used the services of the late Bandon-based designer/engineer Ross Cahill O’Brien to bring their purchase firmly into the 21st century, doing the work in 2006/2007.
Rather than add to the side, and extending in a ‘repeat’ clone or complementary style, he opted to build on at the back, primarily, in a contrasting and contemporary idiom, and took the winsome gothic original with its hefty ornate carved timber fascias and finials, to a new level — a new level both figuratively and physically.
What’s new is immediately identifiable as — in contrast to the white render and slate-roofed original — the rear wing is finished in dark, treated cedar cladding in the main, with a low-pitch asphalt roof in two sections.
It’s reached via a first-floor elevated glass link from the upstairs of the old lodge.
This new add-on has access to its raised garden sun terrace, both from the newly-created large living room, with its high ceilings and stove, as well as from the en- suite master bedroom, via double doors.
That external raised terrace is very much a room in its own right, with low stone walls fringing it from the sloping, pristine lawn which runs up toward a mature treeline and a feature old stone wall boundary, where the 8th hole of Bandon Golf Club is just out of sight to the south.
A particular aesthetic feature, and a practical one too for screening, is the curved embrace of a sloping dividing wall, a bit like an embracing arm and elbow, helping to compartmentalise the exterior sit-out spaces, with the best of garden views.
The way the wood-clad extension behind is placed up on a higher level, and the ‘bridge’ accessed internally, allows freedom of movement, right around the exterior of the lodge back down at ground level, where there are also several access points from interior to garden/exterior.
There’s secure, off-road parking, and a gym/home office with independent access has been fashioned by the courtyard. Around on the other, more hidden side, is an added on sun room.
Selling agent now for the trade-down vendors is Bandon-based Brendan Bowe, who sold to the couple back in 2005 also, when it was a very different property proposition.
Back then, Mr Bowe would have spoken about its potential (but the price paid is undisclosed give it was in pre-Price Register days). Now it’s a case of re-selling it with the potential all realised.
He guides at €595,000.
It’s in exceptional condition throughout, and is situated on very well-tended gardens, with extreme maturity at the boundaries of the c 0.75 acre grounds, along with seating bowers, a plinth for statuary, and outdoor entertaining areas also. (One of the owners last year marked a significant ‘roundy’ birthday, and, to celebrate it, there was marquee catering for a sit-down meal for 100 guests in the shelter of the courtyard).
It’s coming up on the 200th anniversary of the original lodge — in 2020 — and estate agent Brendan Bowe describes it as ”a truly character-filled property that has transitioned over the years into a beautiful home with its present custodians transforming the property by a wonderful two-storey extension and in doing so, creating a very beautiful and large home in a stunning parkland setting blending the old lodge with contemporary design.”
Accommodation includes a main and/or evening 22’ by 13’ drawing and dining room in the lodge’s original front ground floor, where two smaller rooms have been opened into one large reception room, complete with solid wood floor, high standard of decor (period/antique style) with a feature white marble fireplace at the western end, with burnished brass trim, and insert dark green enamel wood-burning stove.
In contrast, the kitchen’s a modern affair, galley style, with lots of walnut units, black granite tops, and tile floor, and the adjoining utility is in a similar livery, while off the kitchen is a glazed, 13’ by 12’ sun room/casual dining room, with pale tiled floor and views over a side courtyard.
The hall/corridor is floored in marble, with a curved feature internal wall leading to a guest WC, and above, up a single flight of marble tiled stairs, is a landing, link corridor and sunny seating and reading space.
The original lodge houses three characterful bedrooms, some with sloping ceiling and exposed painted roof beams. Along the corridor is a main bathroom, with a short, ‘half’ bath.
The main section of the new wing houses the restful en-suite master bedroom (with separate WC and rainfall shower behind twin frosted glass doors internally, twin sinks, etc) and has garden access via double doors.
And, the most used room in the house, the 17’ by 16’ garden sitting room, has 9’62 ceiling heights, solid wood floors, fireplace with wood-burning stove, and art aplenty.
Starting first viewings this week, Mr Bowe expects an appreciative interest, possibly including inquiries from overseas/returning Irish for this one-off — it’s a mix of old and authentic, and new and comfortable, on the edge of Bandon, just south of the river Bandon along the Castle/Killountain Road, and a 20-minute commute from Cork city and airport.
VERDICT: Lodge is too small a word for it.