Tommy Barker explores The Red House in Youghal, a home steeped in history and with extraordinary potential
Set by the mouth of the mighty River Blackwater, Youghal, in east Cork, is a town steeped in medieval history.
Now, an extraordinary Youghal townhouse, with a long and proud pedigree and links to 18th century traders called The Red House, is up for sale.
For its relative grandeur, with and intact elaborate staircase and interior wood panelling with design flair from Dutch architect Claude Leveuthen, The Red House is an Irish townhouse with few parallels — it would not be out of place in the capital, or in another prime city setting.
Set back, on a 0.4 acre site on Youghal’s North Main St with curved front courtyard approach steps, and with an enclosed back garden, The Red House spans 6,800 sq ft, over three exceptional levels plus basement, and was built initially for the wealthy Uniacke family whose Cork roots go back to the 13th century, with this home dating to 1703 and designed in the elaborate ‘William and Mary style.’
Members of the Uniacke family owned many thousands of Munster acres, as well as Georgian-era homes such as Mount Uniacke in Cork’s Killeagh, and Woodhouse in Stradbally in Waterford.
Over the centuries, it was a merchant’s home, a home to a Justice of the Peace, Thomas Farrell, whose tenure from 1900 is recalled in a terrazzo floor plaque, and later from 1932 it was a parochial house, with some stained glass internally dating from this period.
Fortunately, few of its occupants over nearly three centuries made significant interior alterations, so its integrity is remarkable.
It last changed hands 40 years ago by then in quite poor condition, needing significant attention, including to the roof.
It was bought in 1980 by Eamon and Helen Keane: He had been marketing director for Fáilte Ireland and Helen had run the German family-owned Hotel Europe in Killarney.
They embarked on a sensitive, six-year restoration schedule, followed up by regular and gentle interventions and ongoing maintenance, slowly revealing examples of stucco, cornices, hand-cut rafters, and timber pegs, Memel pine panelling, and they preserved the sturdy, ornate staircase, with stout alternating spindles of barley twist and fluted columns.
Eamon passed away a number of years ago, and with family widely scattered, Helen, who has been a high-profile ambassador for Youghal’s many attractions and historical links to the likes of Walter Raleigh and Richard Boyle, the Earl of Cork, has decided to sell.
The Red House is now for sale for the first time in 40 years, in excellent overall condition, and is price- guided at €595,000 by estate agents Fiona Hennessy of Sherry FitzGerald Hennessy in Youghal, and with Roseanne De Vere Hunt of Sherry Fitz’s Country Homes division.
They say “it presents an incredible opportunity to make a unique, yet highly liveable piece of Irish heritage of your own”, and say that even while it is almost 7,000 sq ft, it nonetheless has a homeliness … even if on a rather grand and impressive scale.
“This house has extraordinary potential to bring its illustrious history forward to create the next chapter as a remarkable family home,” says Ms DeVere Hunt.
There’s a mix of formal reception rooms, and garden rooms, and the master bedroom has a balcony overlooking the gardens, and the seven bedrooms are set over the top two floors.
There may well be Airbnb hospitality or other guest niches too, with appreciative visitors receptive to its long history, fine craftsmanship, and architectural integrity: Many of its features are highlighted on websites such as the Irish Aesthete, and the Building of Ireland survey.
Taking its name from its Dutch terracotta red-brick façade, while public to the front, it is set back from North Main St with private appeal, and the bricks owe their origins to the days of sea trade between Ireland and Holland, most likely coming over as ballast on ships.
There is a certain irony in that, given Youghal’s own reputation for brick manufacture from slob clay, and almost on its doorstep are beaches, a golf course, the Blackwater and all the services and amenities of a popular seaside town.
VERDICT: Exceptional heritage building.