Going up the leafy drive to Elm Bank, you could be forgiven you’d accidentally time-travelled off Cork City’s main Douglas Road, and ended up, on a country boreen, back in some earlier time.
Except, perhaps, for the fact of being within a 10-minute walk of buzzing Cork city, and a minute’s pop-around Elm Bank’s entrance pillars to the adjacent Tesco Express, convenience indeed, personified.
The owners of No 1 Elm Bank joke that when it was opening, there were jokingly told they’d never need a fridge again: if they wanted milk for a cup of tea, they could run out for it and be back home again, before the tea had even brewed in the pot or the cup.
The Kerry/Kildare couple who bought No 1 Elm Bank, one of just four period mid C19th homes in a row set back nearly 200’ from the main Douglas Road, opposite the hospital campus of St Finbarr’s and behind century-old trees, barely knew Cork when they stumbled across it in early 1989, with their first infant child in also arriving that year
They quite possibly had no idea of the privacy, or, indeed, rarity, of what they were buying. In fact, it’s a racing certainty that 99.9% of Cork city’s citizen have no idea at all where it is, how to locate it, or what’s up that verdant, and stone-walled, approach avenue.
Truly a private world, shared by just four families and each practically screened by very mature boundaries one from the other, Elm Bank dates to the 1860s and is, by now, quite the suburban oasis and oddity.
No 1’s owners feel that Elm Bank dates back to horse livery times, and indeed an old limestone building complex to its rear, along the Ballinlough Road, bears all the hallmarks of having been a sizeable stable block.
Arches to the rear facades of Nos 2, 3 and 4 Elm Bank suggest they might even have been carriage houses, they posit, and all four in the irregular terrace share a vehicular rear access to the city end of the Ballinlough Road. It’s by what used to be Keanes Yard, a one-time concrete works, ironically graced by some exquisite limestone pillars, in an almost classical country house courtyard entrance.
That’s mostly all behind No 1 Elm Bank, quite literally and metaphorically, but is testament to its long roots, and out-of-town air.
The couple who bought back in 1989 and who’ve both travelled and worked abroad for long periods are trading down, hoping to stay in the area.
They’ve drafted in the services of estate agent Hugh McPhillips of Marshs Auctioneers to sell No 1 for them, and it’s a house he might well recall, as he sold it to them exactly 30 years ago.
Much of it still feels familiar to him, despite the passage of time, as it hasn’t changed much, but has done its family accommodating and rearing duty with ease.
What is new to him, is the ‘discovery’ or addition, of another ground floor room to what he remembers listing in his sales brochure in ‘89. That room came by purchase from the new owners of an adjoining, entirely different and even earlier era home, set at a ‘T’ or right angle to 1 Elm Bank, possibly Queen Ann in origin by the roof pitch, and which has very recently undergone a very major refurbishment after it was put up for sale.
No 1 Elm Bank’s a wide house, about 50’ and 30’ deep, and the six-bay No 1’s clearly the widest and largest of the four in the row. At the far end, No 4 is getting a full, architect-reconfigured makeover and extension, complete with side extension, attic conversion with south-facing Veluxes, large bank of solar panels and other upgrades.
No 4’s upgrades are being done by a new generation of long-time family owners, and in fact the last sale at Elm Bank was No 1, back three decades ago, so, there may even be a curiosity factor among those who come to view.
Set at the end of its own long private drive, off a communal gravelled one and past old, white wrought iron gates, it appears rock solid, with a porch entrance to a beech tiled hall, with tall-ceilinged reception rooms left and right, each with fireplaces.
The main or more formal one is off-square, with a distinctive curve by its chimney (pic, top left), and there’s some delicate plaster tracery or frieze work by the ceiling.
There’s also a dining room, facing south and it, like the main reception, has original working window shutters, and a second door to a double-aspect, front to back kitchen/dining/family room, with wood burning stove, with kitchen access to a rear, tiled enclosed courtyard of about 200 sq ft.
A right-angled back hall inside, meanwhile, opens to a pantry, cool thanks to being windowless, and there’s also a guest WC and store.
A sturdy stairs splits in two directions, with bedroom and bathroom on one section, and the main run of five/six bedrooms on the other, most of them to the front and thus south-aspected. Those who may not need so many can link one or two up for en suites/dressing rooms, with lush garden views?
As it stands, and it stand well enough for 160 years of age, No 1 Elm Bank has c 3,000 sq ft, but there’s also easy an easy-to-access large attic, with original hefty trusses, and considerable head height to the internal ridge: it’s reckoned there’s as much as 1,200 sq ft of usable floor area up here, if converted/adapted.
Thirty year after its last sale, No 1 needs further investment by its next owners, so at its €575,000 guide, bidders may certainly factor budgets and wishlists before making offers. But, it will remain quite the rarity, with city proximity, dual road access, 150’ front garden, polytunnel in situ, and a Tesco Express as an out-of-sight, convenient, larder.
VERDICT: The bank of elm trees that gave Elm Bank its names may be gone for decades now, but with mature oak, spotted aucuba and other laurels, beech and purple prunus and plum trees, it’s as leafy a setting as it ever was.