"THIS is what we all crave, everyone is commenting on the beauty of this home: Why is it we don’t build them like this anymore,” asks Midleton estate agent Adrianna Hegarty, with a rhetorical flourish and a tinge of despair, as word of the heralded sale of ‘the doctor’s house’ came up in local East Cork conversation and general chat.
Dating to the 1800s, and a Georgian townhouse of quite original beauty with coach house conversion potential behind, Rock House is indeed a bit of a find, steeped in distilling and medical pedigree.
Originally owned by Midleton Distillers, roadside-set Rock House is at the far eastern end of Midleton’s Main St, 200m or so from the Jameson Distillery.
It has been in the current owners’ caring family hands since the early 1960s — caring given the professional role played by the late Dr William Walsh as the on-site medical practitioner for the distillery’s workforce and management.
Now being sold by his family, the late Dr Walsh used the basement of Rock House as his surgery and waiting room.
In this, he was carrying on a tradition from another generation — his father before him had also been a Midleton medic.
Before the Walshs’ decades here, and for much of the previous centuries, Rock House had a stables and a carriage house at the rear, which was in use when horses were the main mode of transport.
The stone remains of that coach house are still in situ, though unroofed, but could convert for a rental or guest-use property.
The former coach house of the ‘other half’ of Rock House (there’s a pair of stand-out semi-ds here, unmatched by any others similar on the road eastwards out of the town) was converted to a dwelling in the early-to-mid 2000s and was sold, likely to have fetched more back then than the €310,000 asking price in 2017 for Rock House, plus old coach house, and both still can be accessed from a rear laneway, which gives both parking and privacy.
It would appear the two-storey over-basement Rock House was almost carved out of the rock on this town-edge site, as scooped and quarried out stone sections are visible still right alongside. Today, the vendors recall tales that “behind the property, over the back wall, neighbours kept horses and a pack of hounds. It was all countryside from the back wall of the property, all the way to Castlemartyr.”
Now, the town is a 20-minute spin by car or train from Cork City, is ringed by the N25 dual carriageway bypass to the south, running around to the Lakeview roundabout which parcels out traffic east to Castlemartyr, to Youghal, down to Ballinacurra, Cloyne, Shanagarry, and to the harbour and the coast.
Might the buyer come from that rich farm hinterland or shoreline, reckoning it is time for a move to town, and all amenities on the doorstep, including schools, shops, farmers markets, and top cafes and bars, such is the case at Rock House?
Whoever takes it on will need to do work on top of ‘merely’ purchasing it, so a budget handily in excess of €310,000 will be needed for this end-terrace semi-d, where period-era neighbouring properties on the town side past its ‘twin’ are red-brick.
Rock House’s end gable is slate-hung, and it has four or five limestone steps up to its original front-door pedimented doorcase with columns and dentils, set back behind wrought iron railings.
Inside, it has original doors, floors, windows, shutters, architraves, and fluted and pedimented door cases, as well as a very elegant, arched window with stained glass and splayed cases by the stair return.
Its current layout sees the kitchen still ‘downstairs,’ by the former surgery and waiting rooms, with a dumb waiter running food and plates up and down from this lower level to the ground/entry level’s main dining room at the house’s rear.
The more formal drawing room’s to the front, with a nine-over-six pane sash window arrangement; elsewhere, windows are the more typical six-over- six.
Fireplaces work (the original pieces seem to have more recent, 1900s tile inserts, and there’s oil-fired central heating installed) and ceilings have decorative cornices and plasterwork, especially elaborate in the hall.
Rock House has 2,350 sq ft in all over its three levels 12’ heights at entry level, and 11’ high ceilings on the first floor proper, where three of the four bedrooms are to the front, with bed four and the main bathroom overlooking the rear patio/ courtyard and side garden, with gated entrance area.
They really don’t build them like this anymore, a rock, indeed.