Six years ago, estate agent Stephen Clarke put the restored lodge of the 17th century Monkstown Castle above Cork harbour, up for sale.
Monkstown, Co Cork
Size: 530 sq m (5,700 sq ft)
Bedrooms: 10 (possible)
Bathrooms: 10 (possible)
He quipped of the lodge next to the imposing castle bulk: “I’ve to find home for the ‘child’ first, and then we’ll look after the ‘mother’”.
That was 2010, and he sold the ‘child,’ or lodge, by 2011, for €352,000. Now, here comes ‘the mother.’
Coming to market is the restored bulk of Monkstown Castle, imperiously set at the top of the demesne in a position that has quirkily forced later road arrivals to wend a way around its immense, four-square walls, gabled turrets and corner machicolations.
Somewhat mischievously, yet accurately enough, Mr Clarke says the castle “is ready now for second-fix work,” and that’s a decade or so after hugely ambitious restoration works were started by its private owner who bought with the aim of converting its three storeys and 5,700 sq ft into three exceptional apartments.
It’s not just been a labour of love, it’s been a long haul.
And as it comes back for sale guiding at €875,00 and open most likely to offers as an unfinished project, an end to it could well be in sight for the right buyer: the heavy lifting, literally and figuratively, has all been done, to high standards.
It has immense new roof timbers and slate tops, some conservation-style roof skylights, internal floors now are in Ducon slab concrete, as are the stairs, and that’s pleasantly reassuring, as the structure was gutted by fire in the 1970s when then-owners Monkstown Golf Club moved out to a new clubhouse, and it lay abandoned and unloved for 40 years.
Today, it has all replacement windows, in suitable steel, first fix plumbing for its rafts and tiers of en-suite bedrooms has also been provided, so it’s a lot more than a shell, with cast iron rainwater goods, and lime render finish.
Might a new owner continue with the plans for three apartments, or reduce this 1636-built structure to two, on even one home? It’s seen all sorts of uses before.
Variously, it has been a private fortified home, reportedly built for one groat or four pennies, after a wily woman called Anastacia Archdeacon (or, Archdekin nee Gould) had it built during her husband John’s absence during the Spanish Wars.
She profited from charging its building crew for their food, accommodation and other provisions, so the story goes.
It’s a business model unlikely to be repeated by today’s generation of builders.
Other owners included Michael Boyle, the Archbishop of Armagh and a Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and in the late 1700s, it was owned by Bernard Shaw, related to the writer George Bernard Shaw.
The initials ‘BS’ are carved into an immense stone chimneypiece, along with the date 1636.
It also served time as a military barracks, with 450 soldiers attached, while other owners included the Newenham family.
It was sold to Monkstown Golf Club in 1908, as well as being used as a badminton club.
In contrast to its one groat/4 penny construction costs in the early 1600s, there’s most likely been several million euros put into its phoenix-like recovery, just needing a bit more fledgling and feathers to fly once more.
But it follows in a noble, recent Cork tradition of castle rescues, spanning Cor Castle in Innishannon, Kilcoe Castle and Dunboy Castle in West Cork, and Castlefreke, as well as Castloliver near the Cork-Limerick border.
Setting out his sales stall, Stephen Clarke of REA O’Donoghue Clarke points out that huge amounts of work have been done here, and that it’s rare to find a castle within a short commute (say, 15 mins) of a city and airport, on a golf course, with tennis and sailing club and schools and Italian cafe all within a walk of your very own battlements.
VERDICT: Back from the grave, but needing a last-gasp final push, or kiss of life.
It’s history, writ in stone, and ready for a new chapter.
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