1920s suburban dormer is to the manor born

Tommy Barker says Yew Lodge is a big home that whispers discretion.

YOU’LL pinch yourself when you get through the door of the 1920s-built Yew Lodge: all of a sudden it appears you’ve gone back a century or two in time.

And, if you have a few million euro to spare, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t give this place the once-over. It is a pretty unique city house mix.

First glimpses of the old oak wall panelling, old floors and antique doors and you’d swear you were in a centuries-old English manor home, an impression endorsed by the sideboards and display cabinets and the period-style rooms off the long central hallway, which is possibly 50’ long.

Yet, the house of 4,000 sq ft, on an acre of landscaped nirvana off the city end of the Blackrock Road in Cork, is essentially a big dormer home, deliberately aged, and one with genteel swagger and hushed attitude. It whispers discretion, and discrete affluence.

The sale of Yew Lodge, in cul de sac Ashton Park, has gone to estate agent Hugh McPhillips of Marshs, who holds both the Cork city private house price record (at €5 million for Sunday’s Well home,) and the house auction price record of €2.8 million for the Blackrock Road house on over an acre, Roshenheim, which will swallow a million or more again before restored to glory.

So, he knows the upper echelon of the Cork residential market is the most healthy and competitive of all. Whatever jitters there are remaining from last year’s welcome market slowdown, it hasn’t impacted on the top tier, say from €1.5 million upwards, where cash and equity-rich bidders are lined up for the infrequently available top homes.

He seeks offers over €2.6 million for Yew Lodge, with its valuable suburban (almost urban, as Cork City Hall isn’t much over half a mile away) acre plot and he’ll get that, and more.

And, even though the exceptionally deep site has limited development potential at the very end, for a big modern house or two, Yew Lodge may well be bought just for its self and its pleasure grounds, and the new owners can just ‘bank’ its future further potential.

That’s what the vendors did, having been here for 20 years and having made full use of the gardens and grounds. The previous owner, solicitor John Coakley, did the same for his period here, from the late 1960s to the early 1980s.

But, while the last two owners kept faith with the house, credit for its design, construction and planting goes to Englishman Hubert Nordel, who caused it to be built in the 1920s when he came to electrify the Cork Ford plant on the nearby Marina.

He laid out the plot, maximised its planting and potential for any horticulturist, and now there are crowning glories like a very large lime tree, ornamental trees and shrubs, a full February-flowering mimosa, bay trees sculpted into topiary tiered and twisted shapes, and a colonnade of brick pillars which once, held together by steel cables, encouraged roses in all their glories. Not too difficult to reinstate would be the aviary, and a vine house, and the large glasshouse has already been replaced, currently home to a few cacti and banks of old terracotta pots.

The five/six-bedroomed house is to the front of the site, screened by a row of garages which form part of this property mix, and beyond the house are lawns, a pond and lots of patios areas, with large stone flags and some ornamental shapes and brick patterns around the rectangular lily pond, a la Garinish Island in the Gulf Stream along West Cork.

He also integrated lots of older house quality materials in this quality build, hence the fine timbers, panelling, limestone cills, rough lichen-spattered rockery sections, flagstones, old mill wheels set into the patio outside the two-south facing, cheek-by-jowl reception rooms.

The bulk and the best of the accommodation is at ground level (see also p.1 news piece for a brief run-through), though the dormer level has one side bedroom and two grand bedrooms at either end, and the southerly end room is, in effect, a master suite with adjoining bathroom and scope to open a balcony over a bay window from which to survey the glorious grounds.

Any new owners have the option of raising the house to full two-storey height to really provide for a bustling family’s needs, and there’s no central heating system as yet (it’s a combination of electric heaters and open fires) but then, it has served well enough for three owners, none of whom have been in a rush to move on or turn top over tail.

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