These two houses steeped in family history on Cork City’s northside could become a premium redevelopment site or whimsical homes. Pictures: Eddie O'Hare.
IT’S not every Cork suburban family home which you visit, as it is being cleared out as part of an executor sale, where you get to hear a line like: “Five of us got a tractor each.....”
But, then again, not every house has a history, or a recent occupancy heritage, and a trove of rare and eccentric collections, as well as a couple of entombed tractors, quite like Roseville, and its neighbouring ‘storage’ house, Corsica Lodge.
Set near the top of Strawberry Hill, above Sunday’s Well, and below Blarney Street and tech giant Apple’s EMEA, are this mis-matched duo of old houses, with lofty views over Cork city and UCC, as steeped in character as they are in characters.
Chances are now, as they come for sale as individual or grouped lots, they’ll disappear, for redevelopment.
So, first and perhaps last, to sing of their individuality, and of the Hassett family that bound them together over the past decades, and of 60 years fully-lived occupation of Roseville.
Home of the late Tom Hassett and his wife Jean (nee Renouf, see below) it became custodian to: two vintage tractors; 10 children; hens and a chicken coop; dogs; marine specimens such as whales’ eyes, a shark’s tail and jaws; a marlin’s spike; pig’s skull; a boar’s head; elk antlers, ostrich and other birds eggs collected over generations, and urchins, mainly of the marine kind, many from the bed of West Cork’s Lough Hyne.
Then, menagerie aside (think of it as a domestic version of Dublin’s Natural History Museum, writ small), blue-painted Roseville has been heaving and heavy with old crystal radios, stationary engines, two sheds’ full of tools and mechanical bits and bobs, unfinished projects, old sewing machines, reel-to-reel tape recorders, masses of books, annuals, diaries and letters going back 100 years, patents for original inventions from the Renouf side of the family, and a guest book signed by just about every visitor to Roseville’s cactus and a succulent-lined sunny front porch, including as ‘visitors’ the milkman, and Donnelly bakery’s bread delivery boy.
Little wonder then, with choicely-set Roseville and its gardens starting to burst at the seams (the two remaining vintage tractors put the cast-iron hat on it?), that Tom and Jean Hassett bought the house second-next door to them, just a few yards away on Strawberry Hill, winsomely called Corsica Lodge...and used it, pretty much, for storage. That filled too.
Now, after the wheat is sorted from the chaff, and the prized tractor bits distinguished from scrap metal, skip after skip after skip has been passing through the portals of both Roseville and Corsica Lodge.
Next up is Cork’s Loftus Crane Hire, to get uprooting two remaining vintage tractors (two tonnes each?) out of the back gardens, where they have taken deep hold, including a 1936 Case Model C tractor, with solid metal wheels, never rubber shod.
It’s the least that Loftus can do, seeing as how they craned them there in the first place oh, about a quarter of a century or so ago (see pic, top left).
All of this disposal and change is only after the ten Hassett offspring, siblings and next generations, and in-laws, have had first dibs at selecting items of value, personal effects, things of importance, or merit, or rarity value.
The slash hook has been out, strimmers too, and parts of the gardens including a lovely red sandstone bluff unearthed too, many seeing the light of day for the first time in very many years.
And, highly visible are the ‘For Sale’ boards erected individually on the two dissimilar detached houses on their valuable grounds, listed with estate agent Jeremy Murphy, who says they are like houses out of their time, almost like farmhouses.
He then does the courtesy of putting names up on each, but, tellingly, also up on the boards, are the site sizes, 0.19 of an acre in the case of Roseville, and 0.3 of an acre in the case of falling down/structurally stricken (yet dry) Corsica Lodge.
Mr Murphy guides the former, Roseville at €275,000 and notes especially the views from it, and values the larger grounds with Corsica Lodge at €300,000.
They can be bought individually, or together, and may have development potential far in excess of a couple of old detacheds, especially as they are linked across the back of their extensive grounds.
Neither are listed structures, and Corsica Lodge is listing all on its own, with extensive subsidence and cracking: unusually, it never had electricity installed, either in the Hassetts’ time, or in the hands of its previous occupants.
Meanwhile, the family reckon Roseville only dates to the early 1900s, and say it replaced a terrace of four cottages: might it now ‘revert’ and hold another four, bijou, townhouses, or more, as it and Corsica Lodge get billed as “a superb development opportunity”, likely to go for multi-unit replacement given an exceptional, elevated setting so close to the city, and UCC, and more?
Tom Hassett saw a different scope here, back 60 years ago, when he and his wife Jean bought Roseville, with one child then in tow, and nine more to more fully flesh it out.
Mr Hassett, an accountant by training, worked for several of the bigger Cork firms of his day, from Thompsons Bakery to the B&I line, and he served as company secretary to Roches Stores on St Patrick’s Street also, retiring from there 28 years ago, and he passed away in the last year or so.
Since ‘retiring’ he had followed his two passions, fishing (he was co-founder of the fisheries’ body ISWFPO and its secretary for many years), as well as collecting and restoring vintage tractors and engines.
His partner in a long life, Jean, had been gifted a strong interest in nature. Her father was Louis PW Renouf, originally from Guernsey, who became Professor of of Zoology in UCC (1922 to 1954, stirring times!).
He was the first to develop Lough Ine (or Hyne) near Skibbereen as a marine biological research station, and 100 years after its unique environment was first recognised, it was designated as Europe’s first marine nature reserve in 1981.
Lough Hyne and its extraordinarily rich hinterland is also where the Hassett family holidayed (various siblings went on to careers in trawling/fish-selling, farming, veterinary and medicine, carpentry, computers and more), in tune with the Renouf link: Jean’s own grandfather Philip Renouf (Louis’ father) made and patented a strange stationary engine (the piston remained static, the cylinder/block moved, for the anoraks out there) which bears his name.
Philip’s father was Sir Peter le Page Renouf (born 1822), a noted Egyptologist, translator of the Book of the Dead, and an associate from his Oxford years of Catholic scholar and saint-in-waiting, Cardinal John Henry Newman, with a bust in Renouf Snr’s memory outside Cairo Museum.
Seems like one (‘Renouf or Bust’) outside of Roseville, and Corisa Lodge might not have gone astray either?
What’s now in store for a remarkable private family’s ‘museum?’’
Strawberry Hill, Cork City
Price: €275,000 + €300,000
Size: 0.16 acre + 0.3 acre
BER: F/ G