THERE’S a very unexpected hot and cold running water link to the late Jacqueline Kennedy, in the reworked Cork harbour home at 1 Sydenham Terrace, Monkstown in Cork.
The house has an immensely heavy, century-old bath that came from Woodstown House in Waterford, and would have been bathed in back in 1967, when Jackie Kennedy came on a well-reported holiday to Ireland four years after John F Kennedy’s fateful assassination.
Neither Waterford, Woodstown House, nor even this elegant bath, got to feature in the acclaimed Oscar-nominated movie Jackie, starring Natalie Portman, which had bigger themes to explore, but it’s an unusual, very real, and very physical connection, to one of the world’s most enigmatic beauties, and to her, eh, nether regions.
Jackie Kennedy hadn’t visited JFK’s native Irish soil with him in 1963, and while he promised to return, it was in fact Jackie, with children Caroline and John Jnr that made the second Kennedy family visit in June ‘67, when she stayed at Woodstown House.
From there, she visited Lismore Castle, the Curragh Racecourse, rode horses on the local beaches and even was fortunate to survive a swimming incident when the shock of cold Irish water fatigued here, despite being a strong swimmer.
She was rescued, in the event, from the powerful chilly currents by a Secret Service agent accompanying her on her Irish holiday.
So, how much more pleasant would have been a warm bath and a luxurious soak, back at Woodstown House?
Whoever buys Cork’s 1 Sydenham Terrace may be about to find out, as having rescued the very same bath from a field at Woodstown House after a makeover there some years ago, this property’s vendors who bought and extensively renovated here in Monkstown in 2012 are leaving their field bath salvage find behind, after the house sale.
They say this find came about by virtue of knowing Woodstown’s owners, and they bought it after it had spent a period out in a West Waterford coastal field.
To make it secure after transporting the enormously heavy bit of sanitary ware over a county border, they had to put reinforcing steel RSJ’s into the house’s section to support this thick-set bath.
For weight comparisons, think of the ‘average’ cast iron bath that perhaps takes four to six able bodied men to carry and multiply it by a factor of two, or even three.
It’s got that much ‘heft’ to it, and won’t be leaving 1 Sydenham Terrace in a hurry.
Poignantly too, and out of affection for the link, the connection to Jackie and JFK is marked at No 1 by a black and white photograph (below) depicting a luminously happy looking ‘First Couple’ out sailing in the early 1960s.
Bath-times aside, No 1 Sydenham Terrace is a bit of a graceful lady in its very own right, and has had more than cosmetic surgery carried out to it to ensure its continued good looks for many more decades to come.
The terrace of six homes, set above Monkstown and looking south-east over Cork Harbour and the village towards Haulbowline and Great Island, dates to 1830, and the majority of the six stalwart homes have by almost a coincidence of timing changed hands in the past decade or so: terraces, it appears, like larger housing estates, go through ‘life’ cycles and generations, almost in tandem.
As a chic, niche cul de sac straight run of two-storey/over lower-ground homes, Sydenham Terrace is one of Monkstown’s choicest addresses for period, Georgian and Victorian homes, up there with Alta Terrace which is even closer to the water for views.
The Price Register shows Nos 1, 2, 3 and 5 all transacting since 2012, top price among that clutch was €638,000 and it shows No 1 selling in ‘12 for €495,000.
The current family owners, who made so many alterations since 2012 and who increased its comfort and decorative factors while respecting its period era roots, are making a move to another old house project elsewhere in Co Cork, having whetted their appetites here.
No 1 is for sale with Dominic Daly auctioneer, who seeks offers around €720,000, and he bills it as “a genuine, Regency period home which has been superbly restored and upgraded, in a most scenic and convenient location overlooking Monkstown Bay”.
Like visiting any of its erstwhile neighbours, you could be confused as to what’s the front, and what’s the back, and the most imposing of the facades on this terrace is the three-storey one, facing the light and the water, with verdant grounds stretching away, downhill in levels, from the lower most, garden and kitchen level.
Main entry point is by the rear/road, where short leafy gardens inside boundary walls and wrought iron pedestrian gates lead to elegant front doors, in square headed cases with moulded cornices on corbels.
The architectural elan continues, almost unabated, once within prized end-terrace No 1, which quite handily has additional off-street parking to its side, plus garden access.
Internally, it has redone old floorboards, insulated and with some feature panelled walls in the principal mid-level 19ft by 15ft reception room, plus many original and period era appropriate fireplaces and window shutters.
And, it has original conserved sash windows, front and back, with the top-most master bedroom just now this month the proud recipient of brand new, specially fashioned hardwood sash windows’ they add to the comfort factor of an open fireplace, set between feature ornate mahogany wardrobe screen doors with a fretwork motif panel insert.
These are big houses, c 3,000 sq ft (No 2 next door’s previous owners added an orangery to their garden level to make for even more bright living space), and come with generous circulation space at entry/mid level and first floor level, while the lower/ground level is slightly smaller due to being set into a hill slope.
Starting at the top, No 1 has four attractive first floor bedrooms, three are to the front with bay views and several have original fireplaces.
The main bathroom, wallpapered and carpeted for utter luxury, is off a half landing and stairs return to the side, and has great character, with feature deep, immersive ‘Jackie O’ bath, separate rainfall shower cubicle, and WC with high-level cast iron Darnley cistern, plus Victorian-style radiator.
It’s quite the reflective sanctuary space.
Much of the joinery here post-renewal was by one of the owners’ brothers, who was a carpenter and furniture maker, and he brought his talents to bear on several levels, including bedroom screens and even in making a bespoke, squared and rounded timber seat and hinged lid, for the guest WC, and he topped it off (or bottomed it out) with a bit of whimsy, adding a wooden claw and ball furniture peg in front of the ceramic pan for, well, for pig iron.
Then, giving back a bit of elegant timeless class, this ‘small room’ has been papered in the same Zoffany chinosiere wallpaper as that features in some of the master bedroom’s walls.
There are three reception rooms here at No 1’s mid level, two to the front. One, the larger, has a wood-burning stove, and a second stove crops up in a brick-lined hearth, set in a relaxing bookshelf-lined 13ft by 13ft study, facing the front garden, making for cosy, evening time retreats.
Finally, a second burst of stairs (hand crafted, recently installed, and rock solid in contrast to the rickety set that preceded it) leads to the basement/lower ground level, past a handy store room, and down at garden level then is a wide and bright kitchen, some 18ft by 15ft with gas range cooker at one end, plus a cream Rayburn at the other.
It’s a lovely room, with rafters expose in the ceiling and with original, very old pine wall studs left exposed behind the modern cooker, with buttery-hued bricks in between the uprights and diagonals.
Off the kitchen, in the house’s lower underbelly core, and always likely to be at an even temperature, is a fully shelved pantry, there’s a store room/den with old, feature stone and brick walls with old chimney hearth, hefty mantle and some Celtic animal relief carvings done by a previous owner, with garden access via a boot room.
Almost as pleasant as the interiors are the gardens beyond, with stone-flagged terrace immediately by the boot room door, and next up is a gravel section leading then to a trellis screen where the greenery really takes off past a cutesy gate plaque announcing ‘I’m in the Garden’.
Civilly, there’s communal access across this mid-garden gravel section for the mid-terraced homes, for when access is needed for bulkier items or maintenance.
Past the clematis draped trellis and its garden gate, the ‘outdoor room’ proper starts with abundant shrubs, nests for birds, very mature boundaries, and it has two ponds appreciated by frogs.
Well-established plants and trees include acers, eucaylptus, palms, fruit bushes, and the garden has a shed and greenhouse.
There are glimpses of harbour views beyond, and just screened out of view is Verolme, which itself was a was a hive of extraordinary activity in the past week as three hyper-sized and just-assembled 1,000 tonne, 85 metre Liebherr cranes were inched onto a low-loading ship rather ominously called the Albatross, for trans-ocean transportation to Puerto Rico.
: Bliss out in No 1’s great bath.