Steeped and steepled in Cobh

Steeped and steepled in Cobh
Pictures: John Finn

Fine girl you are... Tommy Barker visited Holy Ground to unearth the life and harbour times of this beauty.

Getting Carrigmore House was the realisation of a youthful dream for Cobh man Jack Twomey, and his wife Frances.

The son of a local school principal, and later one of Cobh’s most successful pharmacists, Jack Twomey had always told his daughters it had been his childhood wish to live in one of the highest-set homes in the harbour town.

It’s widely visible from the water, and from much of the harbour, but utterly private at the end of a long drive above the town’s elevated Lake Road, where he had first spied it from.

His long-held wish came through in 1987, with the couple’s family practically reared at that stage, when it came for sale, for a local family the Tattans with a farming background. 

Still, the late Victorian home he’d so highly prized from an early age went on to form the central part of Twomey family life over the next generations, with strong recall of visiting ships and vessels, from cruise liners to the Tall Ships in Cobh in 1991.

Also fondly recalled by his daughters, as parents themselves, with their own children are moments like arriving back from holidays in France on the Roscoff ferry heading to Ringaskiddy and seeing Jack Twomey enthusiastically signaling their homecomings with flags fluttering from the front of Carrigmore House: home are the sailors, home from the sea?

But, now, after 30 years of enjoyment, the Twomey link to the commandingly-set 120-year old property is about to end. 

Jack Twomey passed away in the 2000s, and his Dublin-born wife Frances who he’d met and wooed while studying in Dublin died just within the past year, having been cared for in her older years in this home.

“It was always a happy one,” say the couple’s offspring, remembering lots of home baking, visitors aplenty and their own children getting lost playing hide and seek in Carrigmore House’s 1.3 acres and garden sections.

As part of the process of preparing Carrigmore House for its sale, the current adult generation have scanned the lease, seeing on its documentation links on its first lease with the Smith Barry family of Fota Estate fame, wealth and influence. 

A Samuel Kirkby built the current large, two-storey house with views surveying all of Cork harbour, from Roches Point to the islands such as Spike and Haulbowline, as well as looking down on St Colman’s Cathedral as it and its spire’s construction continued over many years.

Kirkby also built Carrigmore’s gate lodge, stables and glasshouses, on a new lease with the Smith Barrys by 1898, and later owners included Bells, and Halls, with many involved in business, and more particularly imports and exports, the lifeblood of Cork as a trading port.

Families could, quite literally, see the day to day business activities of their lives play out on the waters below Carrigmore House, and for one owner, in particular, there was pleasure as well as business to be espied from Cobh’s Spy Hill.

Carrigmore House’s owner from the 1940s into the 1960s was Robert Aylmer Hall, of R&H Hall grain merchants’ wealth, and in the 1950s Aylmer Hall had owned one of the country’s most elegant yachts, racing in the 12-metre class the 1920s-built Flica, bought in from the Solent and raced in Cork harbour and off Cobh with a local crew.

Black & white photographs of Flica adorn many, many Cork harbour homes...including Carrigmore House, which carries its maritime linkages lightly, but decidedly.

The extremely well-tended Carrigmore House, itself ship-shape in every way, is fresh to market this month with estate agent Lawrence Sweeney of Savills, and he guides the six-bedroomed 4,300 sq ft home at €550,000, noting that it has been consistently invested in by the Twomey family during their tenure, possibly the longest series of ownership it has had to-date at over three decades.

It’s distinguished by its internal brightness, thanks in the main to its southerly aspect, getting full sun, and its large windows, more Edwardian in proportion than Victorian and now with replacement double glazing for added comport.

There’s a new, oil-fired zoned heating system in place only for the past five or six years, and there’s a new roof too, with good insulation.

Then, the very real crowning glory is the house’s centrepiece, a roof lantern, above the lofty stairwell with its feature, wide and straight up central stairs, and ringed landing. 

The lantern was upgraded a few years ago comfortably topped off with triple glazing, like a cozy and clear hat, allowing views to the skies, of sun, moon and stars, or of scudding clouds.

Steeped and steepled in Cobh

Two of the first floor’s six bedrooms are to the front of the property, with captivating vistas, and one room, with south and west aspects, has access to a large glazed balcony, as an all-weather viewing perch or crow’s nest.

Several of the spacious (and, high-ceilinged) bedrooms have fireplaces, and the main family bathroom serving them has a Jacuzzi bath, while the ground floor’s guest WC is large, and has also been discretely fitted with a wet-room shower.

The hall, with original immaculate tiled floor, carpeted stairs and surrounding landing is Carrigmore’s heart and circulation conduit, and ranged off it at ground are three sizeable reception rooms with ceiling heights of more than 12ft.

Two have very good marble fireplaces, the principal drawing room opens to a side sun-room conservatory by a sheltered garden terrace, and a rear dining room in turn faces that terrace and his direct access to a 450 sq ft sun-trap glasshouse, currently ripening bunches of the sweetest grapes for salads, and the strings used in preceding and even very recent summers for supporting tomato plant trusses are still in situ.

Meanwhile, across the house’s far, front corner, a family/TV room has views directly down overlooking the spire and clock of the Pugin- and Ashlin-designed cathedral, and occupants in this room always know if and when there was an event of note at St Colman’s, as well as knowing when it was 6pm and time to put on the TV news. 

Of course, the cathedral’s bells (it has a carillon of 49 bells, one of Europe’s largest) also ringing out on the hour, half and quarter hour was another clue?

Notable too as a sign of the passing of time has been the ever-increasing maturity of Carrigmore House’s gardens, shrubs and trees, and with most along the boundary by Lake Road being a century and more of age, some have come to partly screen harbour and cathedral/east town views and panoramas. 

Nothing more than a sympathetic trim might be needed in many cases, such as with the striking and sentinel Scots Pines?

Getting ready to start sales viewings, Savills’ Lawrence Sweeney says Carrigmore House is steeped in Cobh and Cork harbour’s community, about a 500 metres hilly walk of the town centre and train station, while being a remove away, if and when needed, due to its extreme privacy by the top of the hill, up its own long wide avenue drive.

It’s also got all the airs and proportions of a period property, albeit a late Victorian one rather than a mid-1800s one with more typical slender sash windows, with many over-sized openings now, making it bright and hospitable and all about the Cork harbour prospect and panorama beyond.

Lake Road, Cobh, Cork Harbour

€550,000

Size: 400 sq m (4,300 sq ft) on 1.3 acres

Bedrooms: 6

Bathrooms: 3

BER: D1

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