BACK in 1951, when Kelvin was built, it was practically the last staging post of the spread of Douglas, and of Cork city’s south and east quadrant.
Old family photographs from the early ’50s show the new, detached house just sited and bedding down, looking out over the Well Road to the Douglas estuary in one direction, across the Well Road, with farmland behind and beyond the side and back boundaries of Kelvin, much of it grazing land for what was then Bresnans’ farm.
Up the road, the Silver Key in Ballintemple’s Churchyard Lane was practically a country bar, and was a ‘tied house’ to the Beamish and Crawford brewery, while on the far side of the Silver Key, Beaumont quarry was in its last stages, but still supplying limestone rubble for roads and new estates starting to close in around it.
Well, it has all changed since then, with the steady incremental growth of housing over the next two decades, when ‘new’ estates crowded in among the older ‘remote’ detached houses, farm dwellings and occasional cottages. It even continues up to the present day, albeit at slower pace, as Kelvin comes to market via agents Cohalan Downing, for the first time ever, after 67 years in continuous family occupation.
The ’50s and ’60s were the era of real pace in house-building, though, and now even a cursory drive-around Kelvin (say, starting around the adjacent Ardmahon and Lake Lawn estates of semi-d’s) shows an entire web of roads, cul de sacs and interlinked estates spanning the area and tying together the once disparate ‘tribes’ of Douglas, Ballinlough, Beaumont, Ballintemple and even Blackrock.
An outsider landing into this now heavily populated hinterland just a few miles east of Cork city might, indeed, find it hard to determine exactly where one address starts and another ends.
It’s the sort of exercise a parish priest, sports club or a local politician will have at their fingertips. As discriminating, too to the nuances and pecking order scale are those Corkonians with overly fine-tuned social antennae – thinking here, perhaps of the Irish Examiner’s columny columnist Ask Audrey?
Anway, back to the Well Road, about as ‘good’ an address as aspiring home hunters (or, Audrey) might wish for, and it has provided a fair few €1m-plus house sales in recent decades. There’s even one or two directly across the road from Kelvin, where developers Rockforest/Into the Future Homes have four new builds slowly coming to fruition, all ‘sale agreed’ via agents Casey & Kingston, at prices ranging from €850,000 to €1million, and with a waterside site by the estuary yet to commence construction.
There’s even been a few ‘knock and replace’ new builds, and a case in point is just two doors away from Kelvin where a large family home designed by PLM Architects now has a choice long site and grounds by Lake Lawn.
One of just three homes in a leafy row between what’s now Lake Lawn and Ardmahon, and currently the smallest of the trio, Kelvin comes to market this week with estate agent Malcolm Tyrrell of Cohalan Downing, and he guides at €795,000, for a very well kept home, yet one that has kept faith with its roots and era in all the right ways.
It was named after Lord Kelvin, the renowned 19th century Irish-Scots physicist, who was born in Belfast, and the name was selected after the young couple’s honeymoon in post-World War II Northern Ireland, when they visited the Belfast Botanic Gardens, where there’s a bronze statue on a stone plinth to Lord Kelvin.
The botanic links continued in Cork’s Kelvin, as the woman of the house who went on to have a family of eight children here was, and remained, a very keen gardener, and her sheltered garden here at the Well Road was a particular pride and joy.
Some of the trees that grace the grounds date almost to the 1950s, such as a lovely weeping willow in the front garden, along with magnolia, cedar and copper beech to the back.
There’s about a third of an acre in all, grounds deeper than wide, and the side boundary is by the entrance to Ardmahon Estate, with a small public green space over the tall back boundary wall.
Kelvin’s position on the site means it can be extended deep into the back garden, or as readily out to either side. At present, there are two, twin side-by-side garages to the left of the two-storey house (the family occupants have long links with the motor trade and motor sports,) with an annex on the other side which has a study to the front and a large utility room (with Belfast sink) to the back, with garden access.
Despite appearances, and the fact that it reared a family of eight children, south-facing Kelvin hits the scales at just 145 sq metres, or 1,558 sq ft, so those who come to view will almost certainly be looking at adding on over two storeys, so the design challenge will be to maximise light to the rear: go out any distance and westerly light is there for the taking.
At present, at ground it has two attractive reception rooms, each with original fireplaces and coved ceilings; the front is relatively standard for the day 13’ by 12’, and has a window bay, while the back room was pushed out a bit, and now measures 20’ by 13’.
Also added to a bit is the kitchen, now sort of L-shaped, and a radiator cocooned in a rounded chimney breast with a ‘Sheila Maid’ clothes airer above seems to call out for a range cooker to replace it, once Kelvin is rejigged.
There’s a pleasant hall, with wide mahogany handrail on the stairs, and above are four bedrooms, three of them doubles and two have wash basins, while handily the main bathroom is now configured as a wet room, with shower.
Now set for viewings at Kelvin, estate agent Malcolm Tyrrell of Cohalan Downing readily says that the house needs modernisation, and is easily added to (subject to planning permisison constraints) and observes “it’s a great opportunity to acquire a classic house in a prime residential location on the south side of Cork city.”
Also in the same Douglas vicinity, a c 90-year old bungalow called Sans Souci on a 0.3 acre site near the Cross Douglas Road has gone ‘sale agreed’ at under its €795,000 AMV, via Sherry FitzGerald, while a 1930s c 2,000 sq ft detached needing updating in the cul de sac Woolhara Park is still available with Savills, who guide at €850,000.
: What’s now in store for solid-state Kelvin is a matter of degree.
Well Road, Douglas, Cork
Size: 145 sq m (1,558 sq ft)
Bedrooms: 4 Bathrooms: 2