Suburban house has class past history

THERE’S history aplenty at Sheares Villa – but what of its future?

The now-suburban house was a private secondary school in the latter 1900s, but long before that was the one-time family home of United Irishmen John and Henry Sheares, whose father, also John, was a wealthy banker and represented the Borough of Clonakilty in the English Parliament.

John snr was a partner in the bank Rogers, Travers and Sheares, on what is now called Sheares Street in Cork city centre. Some of the family was reared in this 1700s-built faded elegant villa on Cork city’s Glasheen Road which was then countryside, and John and Henry Sheares became politically radicalised after a spell visiting France during revolutionary times. The Sheares brothers, who became barristers, later lived in Dublin and ultimately were both betrayed, charged with treason for their part in the 1798 Rebellion, and were hanged at the end of that year.

A plaque on the wall of this Regency-style villa in Cork city’s now old suburbs recalls the link with the Sheares brothers, and the house passed through a number of families and generations – before becoming a private boys’ secondary school in the 1950s.

Teacher Sean Donnelly – keenly aware of the place’s special role – turned the private house into Glasheen Secondary School. After he married in the 1960s, his wife Noreen, who’d been a district nurse, retrained also as a teacher. At peak, the school employed well over a dozen teachers, and educated boys from as far away as Ovens, west of Ballincollig, who’d cycle daily into the city’s suburbs for school.

Mr Donnelly died in the 1970s, his wife Noreen continued to run the school until 1981, when it closed, some years after the rise of Coláiste Spioraid Naomh in Bishopstown.

In recent years, while still being a family home, Sheares Villa (near Glasheen National School) housed a pre-school in some of its former classrooms.

Now, the period, listed property with long a long and noble past faces a new chapter and options, coming publicly up for sale with estate agent Sheila O’Flynn of Sherry FitzGerald.

There’s a two storey over basement house with significant architectural detailing, especially some very old timber panelling in the front formal rooms and hall: a recent removal of an overmantle mirror has revealed a mid 1700s Chinoiserie idealised landscape painting done directly on the wall, and this is about to be further investigated.

There’s a short series of graceful limestone steps to the main entrance, and the house (needing extensive conservation) has a 1960s residential annexe to the right, plus rear additions, which are likely to be removed. There’s about 3,000 of main living space, in rather a jumble of rooms.

Overall site area is 1.1 acres, with mature beech trees mostly on the perimeter and with a very fine, mature copper beech in the front lawn, along the old stone-walled approach avenue.

The house, opposite Flannery’s Bar, has good levels of privacy.

Guide price is €575,000, a fraction of what it might have been expected to make a few years ago for its development potential.

Given its proximity to both UCC and the CUH and Bon Secours hospitals there may be some educational/medical/institutional/religious interest – even for car parking – and the existing classroom blocks (some were rented as apartments) may give way to a few large new detached houses. Sheares Villas hits the market at a depressed time for speculative and substantial market buys – although the large 3,000 sq ft Arts and Crafts home No 2 Carrigfern by the Bon Secours, has just been sold for owner Professor Joe Lee, via Cohalan Downing for a bit less than its €850,000 AMV.


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