Hennessys' Cork harbour home hideaway

THE arrival of Monkstown’s oft-coveted Castle House for sale on a weekend when Cork celebrates all things ocean and harbour related is an irony that would not have been lost on this home’s long-time owner, the late, great and erudite Cork gentleman Charlie Hennessy.

A lover of Monkstown, and of Cork harbour, and a keen dinghy sailor there, Charlie Hennessy was also a follower of many sports, engaged himself in independent and environmental politics, and supported all that was good in the Irish art world. He became a member of the Arts Council, and chaired Cork’s International Film Festival for many years, as well as chairing the Crawford Art Gallery, and the National College of Art and Design.

Overlooking a wide sweep of Cork’s harbour around Monkstown, Ringaskiddy, Verolme and to islands such as Haulbowline, Castle House was the very private home of this very public citizen, and even more so was the retreat of his exceptionally private, and latter day reclusive, wife Abby, nee Abigail Scott, a one-time Abbey actress.

Their home, rarely visited despite Mr Hennessy’s social character and circle of friends, is due to be sold by private treaty by Hugh McPhillips of Marshs auctioneers. He guides the exceptional home (which is an historic, protected structure) on equally exceptional wooded, retreat grounds at €700,000: that reflects its general poor order, needing full restoration, after decades of under-investment.

A solicitor by profession, who headed up the South Mall law firm JW O’Donovan, Charles Hennessy - just Charlie to one and all - was a city boy, born on Leeside’s Georges Quay, who moved upmarket and downriver, to a prized C19th Monkstown property as career(s) and interests progressed.

He died in 2008, aged in his late 70s. Now, following the death last year of his widow Abby, the hidden, three-storey house once associated with Monkstown Castle (and the family of playwright George Bernard Shaw) is being sold for the couple’s estate. Also currently up for sale are the law offices of JW O’Donovan at 53 South Mall for €820,000 via Lisney, as an investment, let to the firm: it’s where the bulk of Mr Hennessy’s impressive art collection was safely housed.

As the former, long-time Hennessy home Castle House on almost two acres next to the 17th century largely restored Monkstown Castle comes for sale, following a 2014 auction of garden items, statuary, urns, cast-iron benches etc, it’s recently and painstakingly been entirely cleared out of personal possessions, a long process, with a bust of Abby Hennessy by sculptor Seamus Murphy the last item to leave.

The 4,300 sq ft five-bed home, with wide-brimmed soffits, deep bay windows and timber pilasters at ground, has all of its original sash windows, shutters, some first floor external louvered shutter for a French villa look, slate roof, parquet floors, ceiling ornamentation and solid 1” thick and 1’ wide floor boards overhead. There are several veined marble fireplaces, one with decoratie Wedgewood inserts, and the L-shaped double aspect drawing room features some cast iron support columns. While Castle House is reckoned to date to 1840, its stairs has a Georgian grace, and the basic kitchen has an old Aga.

The grounds hold an ancient 90’ oak tree, yew, laurel and rhododendron, and an array of specimen trees, with a paved terrace and patio, complete with a rectangular lily pond, while the graveled drive by adjacent double garage retains the outline, like some Turin Shroud impression in powdered rust, of some vintage cars which had long rotted to the spot.

Conservation and necessarily sensitive upgrades to Monkstown Demesne’s benignly neglected Castle House may cost as much as the €700,000 selling guide.

Its now departed owners clearly had put their money, and their private passions, into art on the one side, and into couture, shoes and a half century of fabulous fashion buys on the other.

The enormous wardrobe (including classic Coco Chanel) of the late Abby Scott Hennessy, which became vintage as time passed, was bought up, entire, by a London specialist for an undisclosed, substantial, six-figure sum.

VERDICT: Pedigree property needing TLC.

Monkstown Demesne, Cork Harbour

Price: €700,000

Size: 4,300 sq ft/two acres

Bedrooms: 5

Bathrooms: 2

BER: Exempt

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