Architects, tortoises and spaniels have colonised thisend-terrace Cork city home, writes Tommy Barker.
Rearing families has been the good fortune of No 7 Egerton Villas for nigh on a century and a half.
Now, after more than half a century in Kelly family care (which included generations of faithful springer spaniels, and a tortoise called Schumacher that lived in the front garden for 50 yearsfor 50 years), andbookended by connections that include practising architects and a love of languages, it’s ready to reprise the rearing role all over again.
No 7 Egerton Villas has been the family residence of the late Denis and Vera Kelly, a Longford/Tipperary-born couple who made Cork their home after Denis J Kelly set up his architecture practice in 1959 with partner Jim Barry.
They bought No 7 in 1967 from the Foley family, who’d had it since 1921, and reared five children here. It was an easy city life, with proximity to schools and within a daily walk/commute to a design practice on the South Mall.
Architecture has passed through the Kelly family with two more generations still practising, in Cork and in Dublin; that provides a nice century-long circularity, as its owner back in the 1880s and into the 1890s was architect Dominic Joseph Coakley, who had 13 children.
DJ Coakley’s name is carved on the National Monument on Cork’s Grand Parade, erected in 1906 and which he designed to pick up on details of the ornate Gothic Holy Trinity church facade, which he also designed in the 1880s, 50 years after the church’s foundation stone had been laid.
Other family names associated with No 7 Egerton Villas include Lindsay, De Foubert, and Foley.
The Kellys named No 7 ‘Ravenna’, after the Italian city where they’d honeymooned, famed for its mosaics dating to the fifth and sixth centuries.
They did more than name it Ravenna: when they came to relocating the house’s original kitchen and Aga to a larger breakfast room, next to a formal dining room, they put in a deep, blue mosaic tesserae-faced wall behind the range, for Aga-fuelled Ravenna-like warmth.
Other than that, the family opened this house’s two side-by-side bay-window front reception rooms one to the other, and then they just sort of colonised it, and used it for entertaining, as the city grew and changed around them.
The convenience of a city setting meant lots of time for the Kelly gang’s hobbies and activities, and provided a springboard for getting back out to the country, for fly-fishing, shooting with springers, and even horse riding.
Vera Kelly (nee Stokes, from Tipperary’s Fethard,) had trained as a radiographer, and managed to keep up a horse connection with a family on ‘as-old’ suburban Cork’s Strawberry Hill by Sunday’s Well, making regular hacks to Blarney and, once, even went on horseback to visit a friend hospitalised in the Bon Secours... unexpected horses, for courses?
The well-known couple actively played tennis into their 70s and 80s. It’s only now, after the death earlier this year of Denis J Kelly in his mid-90s, that the family’s link with No 7 is set to be broken. While the family’s wrench is palpable, the tenure was both happy and long, the current generations admit.
End-terraced Ravenna goes to market this week with estate agent Malcolm Tyrrell of Cohalan Downing , who praises its period originality, its roominess and room proportions, with 3m-high ceilings in the main and interlinked reception rooms, as well as its privacy and position at the heart of resurgent St Luke’s Cross, off Military Road.
Sturdy, three storeys tall, and directly south-facing overlooking the Ambassador Hotel on Military Rd, it’s an asymmetric build, entered up steps, by side lawns behind high hedging and cast iron rails and gate, past a 1960s added sun-room porch (with the initials ‘VK’ cut into an entrance step) and a deep side hall.
The front gardens of the elegant, timepiece home are a sun-trap, and were where the family’s two pet tortoises lived.
One made it to the grand old age of 50 years, up to 2017 and was latterly and ironically called Schumacher, after the racing driver Michael Schumacher.
The tortoises hibernated and hid out in the side hedges, grazing on buttercups and campanulas, and were a novelty feature for children in the St Luke’s neighbourhood over decades, still fondly recalled.
The springer spaniels, meanwhile, were garrisoned in the enclosed, large, sloping, and equally as private rear garden, with a barrel as their kennel.
There are steps up to a workshed, and to a barrel-roofed, wide garage, with roller shutter door to a parallel road behind, off Alexandra Road by Woodland Villas.
The ease of garage access is a boon, as are the on/off street parking options for No 7’s new owners.
Smelling of bone-dry old pine timbers, the old-style garage is bright, with a back wall of windows overlooking the rear of No 7 and its enclosed garden, and could, says CDA auctioneer Malcolm Tyrell, become a fabulous home office if so desired.
It already served its time as a carpentry shop with the family building a Mirror dinghy here, and storing kayaks and fishing gear along the way.
Mr Tyrrell guides the appealing No 7 at €485,000 (No 5 Egerton Villas shows on the Price Register at €393,000 back in 2017), and acknowledges that the spacious and embracing five/six bed home will need further investment and updating once in new hands.
Rear windows are old timber sashes, the front and bay windows were replaced several decades ago with double glazing, and there’s oil heating, with oil also firing the long-serving Aga in the blue-carpeted kitchen with it Ravenna-inspired mosaic spatter-back.
Useful back-up rooms include a cloak room, pantry, bright and welcoming entry hall with guest WC off, plus a back hall with ground-floor shower room, while the first floor’s main family bathroom features a ‘blue period’ suite with dark blue sanitary ware and bath.
Agents Cohalan Downing sold a couple of contemporary architect designed, A-rated new three-bed builds at Ard Aoibhinn just 100m away on Alexandra Road, for prices in the mid €500,000s, and tipped over that for a pristine period mid-terraced home at 2 Ardeevin, at the foot of Gardiners Hill, recorded at €509,000.
Powell Property got a recorded strong €670,000 for 1 Westview, a pristine restoration job on a 2,250 sq ft end terraced period home facing Egerton Villas, on Military Hill.
How much more the next family of occupants want to spend on No 7 will be of individual preference, but the track record here so far is that families (and tortoises) settle in here, for the long haul.
VERDICT: Egerton Villas has an aesthetic flair.
St Luke’s Cross, Cork City€485,000Size: 254 sq m (2,718 sq ft)Bedrooms: 5Bathrooms: 2BER: F