Kya deLongchamps visits a secret gem in Fermoy Co Cork, which lay hidden under brambles until found and sensitively brought back to life.
Fermoy, Co Cork €350,000
Size: 185.8 sq m (2,000 sq ft)
Best Feature: Old roots
A short hackney trot from the town centre, The Coach House off Rathealy Road in Fermoy is a renovation ‘how-to’ — with knee-knocking period charm harnessed to contemporary efficiencies.
Set in a secluding hug of high stone walls in the ghostly shadow of Fermoy’s original 18th century East Barracks, these lands suspended over the banks of the Blackwater thrum with mercantile and military history.
There is evidence suggesting this building has ties to Fermoy’s founding father, John Anderson, responsible for the Cork/Dublin turnpike and mail line, and the barracks complex which gave it world standing (circa 1806-08).
It was almost certainly the coach-house for the neighbouring Georgian pearl, Glenavon House (c 1820), which is also, separately, for sale.
Like many obsolete Irish mews and bothies, The Coach House, clawed with brambles, was roughed out as two dilapidated flats by the 1980s.
Experienced with period oddities teetering on the edge, owner Andrew Haydon took on an ignored sleeper in 2003.
Recognising golden Georgian proportions suffocating beneath the mouldering render, he stripped the house back to a four-wall shell.
A formed concrete ring-beam was run across the old exterior walls, and married to a massive oak frame to raise and strengthen the walls and upper storey with a whole new roof.
During their lengthy adventures, Andrew’s team identified the perilous efforts of two former builders they dubbed ‘one-nail man’ and ‘two-nail man’.
The skinny oak members supporting (or rather not supporting) the floors, together with 20 tons of stone were stripped out and replaced with mighty 10”x12” profile beams, a radon barrier, and six inches of interior insulation for dry-lining.
Rockwool warmed up new floors, and under-floor heating was set in poured screed throughout downstairs and up in the master bedroom.
Andrew was determined to meet and exceed the legislative bells required of the then standard home, achieving a well deserved C2 BER in arid a dry, snug house.
“Above all, I wanted it to be a chilled house,” he enthuses, “and that meant fabulous comfort levels and the best energy efficiency we could manage.”
Having enjoyed the house for a decade plus, Andrew has been drawn to pastures new, and it’s now on the market with DNG Spillane, in hot-to-trot condition guiding at €350,000.
Approached through cloistering 8’ walls is a very good, south-facing 18th century facade set in a north perimeter wall, with a wink of gentility from brick eyebrows over the downstairs windows — detailing uncovered during the build.
The west carriage-arch is wide awake, glazed with versatile bi-fold doors. , drenching the living-room with light. There was livery for six horses here, signalled by surviving limestone hay chutes.
The house is entered at the west through double patio doors from the parking courtyard to the one-storey kitchen extension.
Sympathetic and appropriate, it’s open to the roof and traced in handsome decorative oak timbers and rafters.
Units are in solid beech with fat oak tops, the sink counter running into a deep window recess.
Quarry tiles and a neutral palette deliver a classic Irish kitchen within massive, protective walls.
The house can be heated (it rarely needs it six months of the year) by standard radiators or UFH fed by a gas combi-boiler.
You can also go ‘nuclear’ as Andrew puts it, and light the multi-fuel stove in the living-room, which, due to the home’s insulation levels and thermal mass, kicks the thermostats off upstairs in half an hour.
The principal rooms, in typical barn-conversion style, lead on into another full depth living room, with bi-fold doors leading to the garden.
Posts and beams, sand-blasted for character, carry natural settling cracks treasured by devoted ‘oakies’.
A stone-framed tack-niche signals the room’s former service.
Next is a dining room with a rhythm of vertical openings and an exterior door. This could double as a home office at the east end.
This floor currently terminates in a large bedroom with garden views, and adjoining wet-room (both wheelchair accessible).
Residential period detail is indicated gently with bead board, thumb latches and shutter style wood reveals in milky emulsions, that sit up nicely against the rugged stone.
Several hay chutes appear as tall, architectural recesses in the north wall.
Upstairs is reached by a hand-built, Douglas fir stair and shared out as two further generous bedrooms, both en-suite, married by a large reception sized upstairs hall, ideal as a bolt or cinema space.
The trusses in oak are proudly on show, with half-timbering to the walls. The master includes underfloor heating UFH and a dual aspect.
The master could be either of the gable end rooms, and there’s promise to frame out a fourth bedroom in the central upstairs hall.
Pulled intimately to the house, the tranquil three-bay garden features weathered oak edging, stone and brick raised beds, and velvet lawns with cut-out borders and climbers, girdling all in seasonal planting.
It’s a stilled, micro-climate that could coax a vine.
The secret garden marks the position of a former cottage and features more managed lawn, framed by cut stone and mantled in Virginia creeper.
Pierced by an ecclesiastical window and a romantic gothic arch, it could offer a children’s play area, a cottage garden, exquisite with specialised planting, or a traditional working kitchen garden.
The house is the principal ornament, with an honest mason’s variation of limestone and supporting cast of red and honey-hued sandstone flashed with the occasional quartz erratic.
The cobbling was too ravaged to save, but a square has been reconstructed by the bi-fold doors to the dining room, which also feature a limestone step, the gift of a neighbour.
The Coach House offers buyers the chance to get back in harness and extend.
At the east gable there’s the teasing presence of a wood-clad studio/workshop, the footprint of a potential 200sq foot extension, unlikely to require planning.
A door once at this end of the building was bricked up to accommodate the downstairs bedroom.
Taking this flirt a stage further — a north-to-south extension tucked into the boundary wall taken to one, or even two, stories, could provide 2-3 bedrooms or a greater range of living space in an L-shaped final finish, that would still leave an ample swathe of breathing room in the garden.
Verdict: Classic conformation and schooled to perform, The Coach House is an easy-care period rarity a short commute using the by-pass to Cork, sure to gallop off the books.
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