Tommy Barker finds period features intact in a property which housed just four families over two centuries.
Montenotte, Cork €510,000
Sq m: 325 (3,500 sq ft)
Best Feature: Quietly aloof
THERE ARE grace notes galore at the Georgian home called Beaumont, up on the heights of Cork city’s old Montenotte suburb.
Also called No 6 Montenotte Road, Beaumont is itself a bit of a lofty retreat, with accommodation on four levels, and a lot of retained period features, which thankfully, have been well respected.
It comes to market this week with Ann O’Mahony and Gillian McDonnell of Sherry FitzGerald, who have open viewings today around noon, and after 1pm on Tuesday: they love it, the feel, the space, the city and Marina views, its character, the lot.
The agents guide No 6 at €510,000, and last year Sherry FitzGerald got €545,00 for the more modernised mid-terraced No 2 Lower Montenotte Road after it quietly returned to market, having first been offered in 2008 at over €1m.
This most solid semi-detached house, Beaumont has been a cherished family home for decades, and in fact its occupants reckon it has only ever had four families in occupation, starting with the Beale family in the early to mid 1800s, back when Cork’s merchant and wealthier classes built their villas and small estates on this south-facing sandstone hillside, with the city and river Lee underfoot.
With family well reared and moved on, and with grandchildren now the most vocal and active up and down No 6’s levels and elegant stairs, they’re ready to trade down, down, down: they’re moving to an apartment after getting so used to having 3,500 sq ft at their disposal.
When they bought here, around 1980 with young children in tow, they fell for the house without ever seeing it fully: the first they saw of the basement level, for example, was after they had fully taken possession of the house.
Back then, this lower-most level had been a self-contained flat, so they set about opening it back up to the rest of the house above, which meant re-creating doorways and securing a suitable staircase: they came up with an ingenious way of getting genuinely old stair balusters in place under a new handrail: they used old Singer sewing machine frames (pic bottom right), set on their side and bolted together for a fancy-looking bit of decorative wrought iron feature. It’s simple, and smart, and fits just sew.
Beaumont is on the most private of grounds, about one quarter of an acre below the Lower Montenotte Road which swings down from Corkscrew Hill and Lover’s Walk, and the stretch is characterised by high stone walls, discrete sites, and over-sized semis and a few big, elegant detacheds; elsewhere Montenotte has some of Cork’slargest homes, hillside mansions best seen from across the river on the Marina: quite a few have found commercial uses too.
Once past a secure pedestrian gate, broad and shallow steps wend in a curve to the hefty, original and fan-lit front door, leading to a side hall annex.
Other than the formal front 24’ by 15’ drawing room with its four tall sash windows (three to the front/south, one to the east) the staircase here in this inviting space is the house’s best feature, with a curving bay and tall arched window with ruby red edge panels, shutters, dado and ornate balusters under a mahogany handrail.
All of the house’s original marble fireplaces seem to be present and intact, along with some lovely cast iron ones in the atmospheric attic rooms (firelogs are now a simple alternative to hauling buckets of coal for a fast blast of flame) and ceilings have simple cornice work and roses, and doors and ironmongery are original to the period.
The house is a protected structure, and to the front (ie, the side facing the road) all of the timber sash windows are original too. To the back, the owners were allowed replace the enormous south-facing windows with double glazed sashes in a Georgian pane style, and it’s made a huge, warming difference, they say.
At present, there’s a simple kitchen and family dining room, plus play room and utility at lower ground/basement level, and lots of storage, along with access to a rear service yard with old arch stores for coal and other fuels: you feel the weight of history even here.
The main entry level has outer and inner hall, front drawing room, rear formal dining room and kitchenette, and the next level up is home to three bedrooms one with attached shower rooms, in a rear annexe, as well as a main bathroom and separate WC.
Trot up another level, still with that admirable staircase, and there are three further rooms plus a store. It’s a layout to keep any family fit. Back in the day, dinnertime was signalled by a shout up the stairs, and if that didn’t work, a ship’s bell gave a clarion call for grubstakes.
And, recalls the house’s modest matriarch, “you never went up or down the stairs with empty hands. It was case of ‘if you’re going up, will you take this up with you,’ and the same coming down,” she recalls with good humour.
Outside, the grounds on No 6’s three sides appear well kept, with decking below for real sun-trap sitting out, and in earlier times, this house and its neighbour would have had a cast iron balcony across its next level up for view-taking, but that’s now long gone, and the crowns of leylandii trees have started to fill in the river views — but you do get the sounds of the Live at the Marquee event wafting over water each summer, since early Pairc Ui Chaoimh days “when Michael Jackson was wonderful.”
VERDICT: A Cork classic.
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