As city living goes, it’s hard to find fault with heritage home Wellington Road’s No 4 Wellesley Terrace — so, put up your Dukes, and throw in your bids.
Wellington Road, Cork City
Size: 282sq m (3,035sq ft)
Best Feature: Painstaking renovation
BRITAIN’S squabbles with Europe are nothing new: 201 years ago, the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon in 1815 in the Battle of Waterloo.
Now, the victorious military commander — who was born Arthur Wellesley in Dublin in 1769 and who was twice British prime minister — is recalled in a number of ways, monuments, and addresses.
Case in point is Cork City’s elegant Wellesley Terrace, off and above Wellington Road and 10 ten minutes walk to the city centre, though almost a world apart thanks to a leafy, private setting.
It’s given a double marker of named remembrance to the extraordinary career of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, who fought in up to 60 battles and in places as far away as India; after his election as British prime minister in 1828, Wellesley oversaw the eventual delivery of Catholic Emancipation for his country of birth, Ireland.
Many other addresses in Cork recall that era of British Empire and militarism, most obviously clustered around Cork City’s army barracks, built at the start of the 19th century.
Now called Collins Barracks, it played a key role in the life and economy of Cork, as Britain recruited and drilled for major conflicts including the Napoleonic and Crimean campaigns, as well as farther-flung Zulu and Boer wars.
With military bearing, Wellesley Terrace is about as grand as any of the Victorian era-built rows of houses in Cork, many constructed for military personnel and its six, three/four-storey houses built in 1870s were named in honour of the Duke of Wellington by developer Jane O’Brien, proud of the Irish link.
The ‘Wellesley Six’ are book-ended by two other terraces, and No 6 itself was noted for decades as a welcoming ‘open house’ for artists, writers and a broad cultural milieu visiting or living in Cork, as the family home of the late, great Irish sculptor Seamus Murphy and his wife the painter and art teacher Maigread who passed away recently, aged in her 90s.
A plaque commemorating Seamus Murphy is amid the ivies on No 6, while former politician Máirín Quill and her sister Ita live in No 1.
The family owners of No 4 Wellesley Terrace, who bought here in 2011 in a poor state when Nos 3 & 4 were chopped up as 10 bedsits, were able to visit No 6 to get an idea of how some of the vanished or distressed architectural detailing should have been.
While lots of original features had survived, such as ceiling plasterwork and roses, and ornate corbels, others such as door cases had been lost in the conversion to bedsits and fire-door requisites, so door, window and architrave mouldings from No 6 (courtesy of the Murphy family) came in handy.
The two houses, Nos 3 and 4, were bought in their bedsit state by siblings as family homes and were renovated shoulder-to-shoulderin, with similar attentive care in terms of building fabric, authenticity, materials and upgrades, ‘though each took a more personal route later in terms of decor, kitchens and bathrooms.
Now, though, on a visit and first impression from outside, one’s just as fine as the other, complementary mid-terraced neighbours, amid good company.
The terrace is, rightfully, protected for its architectural pedigree, and all six have kept their quite ornate facades with moulded render around windows, with plinths, dentils, cornices and corbels (the ornate ones on high are known as modillions) rosettes and keystones.
A few well-worn, old limestone steps led to No 4’s replaced hardwood door, under a plain glass fanlight, and all windows across the three-bay facade are faithful copies of originals, in painted hardwood, with round-headed, one-over-one pane sliding sashes.
Internally, and coming up on 150 years of age, No 4 Wellesley Terrace is more comfortable than at any time in its past after its painstaking conservation, restoration and renovation, thanks in very large part to the confidence its young architect owner James Murphy O’Connor had due to his training (and, with architects quiet in 2011, he also had time, he observes wryly).
The standard of care, comfort and finishes is evident top to bottom.
Work done included rebuilding chimney stacks and copying the render details up so high here, and the attic bedrooms within are big and bright and high-ceilinged, thanks to wide dormer windows seen here above roof parapets, faced now with thick, all-weather slate.
The same thick slate also features around the back of Nos 3&4, on their return annexs, which serve as access points also to the tiered rear gardens and terraces, accessed on two levels, ground and first.
These are big houses, just topping 3,000sq ft, yet they’re not too big, and they are adaptable.
As currently used as both offices and family home to James and his wife, Italian jewellery designer Caterina Giuliana, off its quality Jura stone-floor hallway, No 4 has a practical, bright, well-fitted office at ground level in front, with oak floor, linked to a Jura stone floored shower room, so for other occupants this could be an en suite guest room/bed five.
Behind is a work room, with courtyard access via French doors, and the stone-floored annex also has courtyard access, boiler room and store.
The family, with young children, go up to the first floor to start living, and across the full width of No 4 is a south-facing drawing room or ‘piano nobile,’ with three immaculate painted sash windows, working folding shutters and corniced ceilings, plus a reinstated veined grey/white marble period fireplace.
This hearth is home to a multi-fuel Morso Danish stove for extra energy efficiency (and, all windows, front and back and up at attic level are double glazed) while the main heating elsewhere is in five zones, including hot water, provided via pristine white, heavy-duty period-style cast iron radiators.
A section of ‘dummy’ wall has been fashioned in the internal wall between the front living room and rear kitchen/dining room, and this accommodates sliding partition doors, mostly solid timber with small glass panes on top.
When not needed, they disappear imperceptibly from view, and can be summoned back into place with a quick pull on flush-fitted brass finger rings.
While the first floor front room is restful, period grace personified, the kitchen behind is fresh and contemporary, sourced from Ikea, with flush, flat pale units in contrasting white and dark colours, and simple runs of worktops around the flush fitted steel sink and hob, while the long, narrow island demarcating the cooking from dining spaces is uncluttered by appliances.
Three slim, cylindrical light fitting hang over the island and there’s a modern crispness to most of the lighting throughout No 4: however, the only fitting not included in the sale is the striking glass baubled suspension light, called Caboche by designers Fiscarini, hovering over the dining table.
Oh! did someone mention ‘sale?’ No 4 is fresh to market mid-summer ‘16, as the family have a site to build a new home on west of the city and suburbs: seeing as
how there’s architecture in both sides of this Irish-Italian family, the urge to build from scratch is probably understandable.
No 4’s for sale with Ann O’Mahony and Gillian McDonnell of Sherry FitzGerald, who guide at what’s probably a cautious figure of €585,000, given its space and sheer quality finishes.
The same agents got €540,000 in 2014 for the loosely comparable 6 Alexandra Place, Wellington Road back in 2014, selling for a UCC academic.
And, although it wasn’t openly on the market, No 5 Wellesley Terrace shows up on the Price Register as having transacted in 2015, at €560,000.
Nos 3& 4 on this terrace are shown to have sold at €188,000 each in 2011 to their current families... back when they were offered as an investment pair at €380,000, and had 17 bedrooms between them!
Since they were bought by siblings, and apart from co-operating on the essential works needed side-by-side, the purchasers also agreed to open their front gardens together for a more practical, open play area for children.
These gardens are just across the access road serving the Wellesley Terrace, screened by British brick walls and pillars and cast iron railings.
Originally the gardens of all six were communal, suggests James Murphy O’Connor, but were later divided up, so in a way Nos 3&4 have taken a step back to their past feel. New owners of No 4 can opt to redivide if they so wish.
The old-city inner suburban setting has a real air of being aloof, aloft above the city, which really hoves into view directly south and underneath, with urban views improving with each floor climbed within: visible through the trees from the windows of the second floor master bedroom, is of the Elysian tower, increasingly now a night-time beacon of light as its 17 storeys get occupied.
Out behind No 4 is a lower, ground level stone-flagged courtyard, and about a dozen tall, stone steps led to the next level of outdoor terracing, reached also from the kitchen/living room level.
This outdoor space is surfaced in Liscannor stone, interspersed by some granite steps, and raised beds bringing in colourful planting of shrubs and herbs, with super-high old sandstone walls left and right as boundaries.
A further, even more substantial old sandstone wall is beyond another run of communal garden space across the full terrace, and above that is wilderness, land zoned as green space at the westerly end of the former St Patrick’s Hospital (now Griffith College).
Back inside No 4, there are two more floors of accommodation to discover: the second floor is home to a master bedroom suite, with two tall sash windows and there’s also a large, walk-in dressing-room/wardrobe, fully railed and shelved and, then, further behind is a high-end, en-suite bathroom, with shower, recessed mirrored wall cabinets, wall-hung twin sinks, bidet and WC, and flooring here again is Jura stone, as seen also at ground floor level.
A ‘secret’ door leads from the master bedroom to a smaller bedroom or adjacent nursery, also south-facing, and this floor’s north-facing annex/return houses an eminently practical upper-level laundry room, with Victorian period-era appropriate marmoleum floor finish (marmoleum’s a posh word for lino.)
While ceiling heights on the two lower floors are lofty, at almost 11’, they drop slightly to a still surprisingly decent 8’9” on the top-most floor, where there’s a landing with attic access (the attic’s floored for storage) and ranged off it are three bedrooms, with polished old pine floors, and immaculately sanded exposed beams.
Pull up a stool to the wide, dormer box windows, and you could spend hours, and hours more, looking out at the city’s heart, and river, beneath.
VERDICT: As city living goes, it’s hard to find fault with heritage home Wellington Road’s No 4 Wellesley Terrace — so, put up your Dukes, and throw in your bids.