House of the Week

The elegant, 210-year-old Lotamore House on 14 acres with views of Cork city’s marina was a guesthouse for 20 years. It’s price of €1.3m (it previously sold for €3-4m) reflects the cost of upgrading.

IN Lotamore House’s 210 years, it has seen good times, bad times, and now bad times again. But, for the astute with money, the tide will turn back in favour of this grand, 1798-built villa: now’s a good time to buy.

Lotamore House is one of a small group of large, elegant homes built by Cork’s merchant classes in the Georgian era when they so-tastefully colonised the hills running north east of the city, prime pitches for all day sun, and river and harbour views.

Next to Lotamore, on similar wooded grounds, is Fleming’s restaurant and accommodation, the Brothers of Charity in Lota House (designed by architect Davis Duckart) and the Cheshire Home, which is building small accommodation units for the elderly.

A 90-bed nursing home was the plan for Lotamore House when it was sold a few years ago for €3 to €4m, but it fell foul of planning and the so-called Seveso directive because of activities on the Tivoli docks nearby.

Now, it is selling with agent Catherine McAuliffe, of Savills, for its investor-owner, for €1.3m — buttons for the size and quality of house, and densely wooded grounds just two miles from the city.

That price reflects it’s huge size, which will consume sizeable amounts of cash in conversion/upgrades to whatever new use it now finds, be it private home, corporate HQ or reverting to guest accommodation.

It served for 20 years as an upmarket guesthouse, until 2006, and judges on the circuit were known to favour its tranquillity.! It’s not in bad condition, with a solid-slate roof, straight walls, good plumbing and working sash windows, plus stained-glass features and quality fireplaces. But floors were opened up to upgrade services in the last year or two, and wallpapers and doorcases stripped off for redecoration, so it looks worse than it is.

Cast-iron gutters need to be cleaned out, before water starts to come in, so the quicker it is bought and started in on, the better. It is a good long-term investment, no matter if there’s no obvious cash in the country, nor an immediate need for a building such as this. It will prevail, though.

Lotamore’s previous uses included offices for a computer software firm, and it was the offices of the Irish Sweepstakes in the mid-1900s, while private family owners included the Hacketts, the Ronayne Mahonys, the Cudmores, the Lunhams and, early on, the Perriers, a Huguenot merchant shipping family.

The original, seven-bay central portion, over-basement, was added to in the early 1900s by the Lunham family of bacon fame, for a son, who never came home from World War 1.

Lotamore House is in the middle of its 14 verdant acres (a bit weed strewn right now, as is the former lawn tennis court) and there’s specimen trees, such as oak, beech, chestnut and a spectacular rhododenron. A ceramic, three-tier fountain depicting swans and herons is slowly being stalked by tall grasses on the formal front lawn/meadow.

While stripping-back work was started on the main house, two former coachhouse buildings behind have been converted to decent-quality self-contained houses, there’s a re-roofed storage building, boiler house, large, overgrown walled garden with ruined cottage lost in its midst, a gate lodge stands by Lotamore’s entrance on the Tivoli dual carriageway, and the house’s views (ignoring the Tivoli docks and depots) include Blackrock village and Blackrock Castle, the Marina, and east as far as Marino Point.

It now needs someone to take the long view, once more.

VERDICT: If you’ve use for the space, it could be a bargain.

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