House of the week: Church Road, Blackrock

Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Church Road, Blackrock, Cork


Size: 220 sq m (2,270 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 5

Bathrooms: 3


There is no mistaking the setting of Cork’s Barnstead House — the views from inside and out are dominated by the steeple and finials of the 1820s-built limestone St Michael’s Church, writes Tommy Barker. So, on a visit here, we’re situated right in the heart of Cork’s Blackrock parish on its Church Road.

With origins back in late Georgian times, Barnstead House is quite the tall structure itself, with a lofty, steep-pitched roof, and internal accommodation, spread over three levels, and with spire views from each of those floors.

The church it faces is sort of a Blackrock landmark, designed by George Richard Pain, and consecrated in 1828. But, it was less than a decade old before its spire was hit by lightning, and another architect, William Hill, designed the replacement seen here, 180 years later.

Within the church’s Blackrock parish grounds are buried William Beamish, of brewery lineage, as well as mathematician George Boole whose 19th-century algebraic calculations enabled the rise of computer power.

Picture: Eddie O'Hare.

Also interred in St Michael’s grounds are Cork architect Sir Thomas Deane and his wife Elizabeth from Dundanion House (there were three generations of Thomas Deanes in the Blackrock family and architectural profession.)

Dating to the early to mid-1800s, and Georgian in origin, is the five-bay Barnstead House, originally associated with the Tivy family and, for a period in the 1950s, with the Dunne family, of Dunnes Stores dynastic renown.

Barnstead was added to in the late 1800s with a sizeable Victorian annex on its northern gable, and in the 20th century it got carved up into a number of flats and duplexes, six in all, accessed in part by an external staircase.

Around 1962, most of its acres of grounds were bought for residential development, with about 30 houses, in Barnstead Drive and Barnstead Avenue, delivered to a suburban market by O’Connor builders.

Picture: Eddie O'Hare.

They were built in a distinctive, early 1960s style, some with cedar or clay tile clad features, and the clay roof tiles used in those new builds managed to find their way to the roof of Barnstead House itself as well.

In the same family’s ownership for almost 40 years, Barnstead House is a quite reluctant trade-down choice of a private couple, both of them architects, who bought in 1980, bidding against one other bidder who’d planned to pull it down and build yet further houses on its gardens.

Fortunately, the buyers who triumphed returned it to single family occupancy. They removed the ugly Victorian set-back annex, reinstated the rooms to more sympathetic proportions, and had to refit an internal staircase, as the earlier flats’ conversion saw external stairs only in place.

Picture: Eddie O'Hare.

Along the way, they also replaced the windows, fitted a kitchen (it’s still here), and lived with the house’s pebble-dash exterior walls.

Having reared a family of three, they are downsizing. They got planning permission for a bungalow on a smaller portion of the post-1960s’ carved up ground, on the northern/opposite side to Barnstead Avenue and Barnstead Grove, which abuts St Michael’s Blackrock Tennis Club. Already, the mature site boundaries are in place, so those coming to view Barnstead House can see exactly where the line is drawn, and the larger garden portion, c0.28 of an acre, rightly goes with the well-stood old house; the new build, not yet started, will most likely be called Barnstead Lodge.

Timothy Sullivan is the auctioneer selling the ‘real’ Barnstead House, guiding the well-kept 2,270 sq ft three-storey, five-bed home at a guide price of €725,000.

Picture: Eddie O'Hare.

Two of its bedrooms are low-slung attic dormer rooms, with Veluxes, the mid-level has exceptionally high ceilings and houses three bedrooms, main bathroom, a shared ‘Jack and Jill’ en suite and has a very big, almost room-sized, landing/reading area, with church spire views.

At ground is a bright dual access and double aspect 19’ x 17’ sitting room with wide white marble fireplace, and it’s west-facing at the back, with a secondary door to a rear hall, with garden access. The hall is wide and welcoming with arched fanlit doorway, and this entry level (also graced by extra high ceilings) has a 16’ x 12’ kitchen/dining room with dark brown ‘retro’ units and Neff ovens.

There’s a rear/side lobby with gable door, with guest WC and pantry.

Picture: Eddie O'Hare.

Given the high and hot demand for detached homes on good grounds in and around Blackrock, the Cork suburb du jour, Barnstead House is going to get keen viewing interest as it enters yet another ownership chapter; its mature, private, and landscaped west-facing back garden with some lovely birch trees and magnolia would easily take a sizeable and sunny rear add-on over one or two levels.

The vendors moved here in 1980 from the highly regarded design classic Dundanion Court a few hundred metres away on the main Blackrock Road.

Clearly, they have been careful custodians of Barnstead House, albeit without blowing budgets or falling for grandiose and showy statements, so there’s lots of optional changes now which can be made and, handily if that’s to be the case, it’s not a protected structure.


With a once-more resurgent economy, might some architectural ‘grand statement of Blackrock arrival’ yet be made here now, at Barnstead House?

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