Tommy Barker finds a Georgian gem at Emmet Square and Ar Nead, translated as ‘On a Nest,’ an attractive dormer bungalow built 200 years after its neighbours.
The Georgian gem that is Emmet Square in West Cork is simply steeped and interwoven in the town’s fortunes and history: it’s also where the corner-set No 14 is now for sale, at the far end of the row which is bookended by a museum, Michael Collins House at No 7.
The duo, No 7 and No 14, bookend the southern run of tall, terraced houses of what was originally called Shannon Square, built for Clonakilty’s wealthy merchant class over two centuries ago.
It’s claimed to be the only planned Irish Georgian square outside of Dublin, which in itself has five formal 18th century squares, and all on a far grander scale, mostly red-bricks.
Curiously, Clonakilty’s Emmet Square is also slightly distinguished by properly only having three sides: the northern one, by the former and notable Deasy’s brewing site, is markedly different, undeveloped yet.
The construction of the more rigorously detailed southern side of the square is attributed to a Rosscarbery man, a Winspur or Winspear Toye, who built them under a lease from the Earl of Shanon, with the lease dating from 1821.
Engagingly, that lease from the Earl of Shannon to Toye was set to run for “three lives and 61 years from the death of survivor”, with the third life passing in fairly short order, in 1875, meaning a shift in title by 1936 — when Hitler was on the rise in Europe.
Part of that leased block and local lore, No 14 is fresh to market with local estate agent (and keen historian) Con O’Neill of Sherry FitzGerald O’Neill, and it’s one of the more original of the species, rich in original architectural features, from fanlight over the entrance door to timber sash windows and fireplaces, as well as old tiles in a former conservatory.
Mr O’Neill guides the 4,300 sq ft seven-bedroomed home at €345,000, acknowledging that it now needs “some sensitive restoration in order to retain and enhance the unique features of its original design”.
There’s more than first meets the eye from its presence on the square too: there’s a long annex to the back, which adds two bedrooms to the main section’s five, plus a second kitchen, a small living room and stores.
Originally on well over a half acre of walled gardens, facing south to the rear, part of those grounds are now occupied by a bungalow, built by No 14’s most recent owner and occupant, the late Sam Kingston.
Sherry Fitzgerald O’Neill’s Con O’Neill is also selling that bungalow, No 14A or Ar Nead, translated as ‘On a Nest’ (pictured below, centre) and in its own way it’s as attractive a residential proposition as its 200-year old kin which it followed.
Built in 2009, Ar Nead is a bright 2,600 sq ft dormer bungalow, situated on a half acre, walled in also, and accessed off a lane behind Michael Collins House.
Ar Nead, or 14A, is also priced at €345,000, and the identically priced properties —which are generations apart — can be bought as separate lots, or as one lot, should someone have quite grand plans at the €700+mark.
Already sensitively developed alongside No 14 is Glebe House, No 15, in what was a classical school back in 1810.
Glebe House, set at a 90 degree angle to 14, was valued post-conservation in 2005 at €1m, but more recently was for sale at €595,000+ for its 3,000 sq ft (sizes and styles vary considerably along Emmet Square with Hodnett Forde, who own offices, are on Emmet Square.)
A few dozen contemporary and award-winning mews house were built on a landscaped acre behind No 15, called Glebe Gardens and delivered with aplomb (and plum and apple trees) by the town’s landmark Waterfront scheme’s developers Hillback, back in the mid 2000s.
Also award-winning on No 14’s front door is Emmet Square’s ‘park’, or Kennedy Square, called after US President John F Kennedy, complete now with water feature, seating, restrained planting and hard landscaping. That public square’s reordering won a RIAI ‘Public Choice’ award for Cork County Council and its architect Giulia Vallone back in 2014.
Diagonally across the square from the available No 14 and by the church grounds is a large and imposing statue of Michael Collins, the Big Fella, unveiled in front of a thronged crowd on the 80th anniversary of the death of Michael Collins by none other than the actor Liam Neeson, who played Collins in the eponymous movie.
Born outside Clonakilty in 1890, Michael Collins himself had briefly lived and worked at Emmet Square, having moved into the town with his sister, Margaret, working for a period with the West Cork People which was published at No 7.
That slate gable end-terrace building went from being private home to a solicitors’ office in the 1980s. It’s now Michael Collins House (pictured, above), and apart from holding Collins memorabilia and displays, it also recalls other local historical notables, such as O’Donovan Rossa and 1798 rebellion figure Tadgh an Asna O’Donovan.
Local conventional wisdom dates Clonakilty’s Shannon Square (now Emmet Square,) to the period 1785-1805, and SFON’s keen investigator Con O’Neill reckons “it’s mostly correct,” yet adds the southern side was a later arrival, shown in 1820 maps as an outlined rectangle, possibly ready to be built for the Earl of Shannon’s estate, and local gentle-folk — just before Clon’s linen industry went into decline, taking much of the town’s fortunes and gentility with it for a long period.
Back at No 14, auctioneer Con O’Neill has unearthed the names of previous residents of the sizeable property, including at the time of Griffiths Valuation (1848 – 1864), when 14 Emmet Square was in the possession of a Honoria McCarthy, and later it passed to a Timothy J Canty, who was a managing director of the nearby major employer Deasy’s Brewery.
Canty lived at No 14 at least from 1894 through to the 1901 and 1911 Census records.Deasy’s Brewery off Emmet Square, and with its tall brick chimneys still in situ, dates to the same hey-day era of the town, set up in 1800 by Richard Deasy.
Later, Canty was among those who introduced the famous Wrestler or Clonakily Wrastler beer to the world. Brewing stopped in the 1940s, ran later as a distribution company and wound up in 2001.
No small beer itself, No 14 corners the market in Clonakilty’s rightly admired Emmet Square, while the bungalow No 14A to the back adds further 21st century interest.
Clonakilty, West Cork
Size: 400 sq m (4,300 sq ft)