3 Orchard Road was architect-designed in the 1950s, but now may have outlived its site value, says Tommy Barker.
Orchard Road, Cork, €1.1 m
Size: 1,350 sq ft/ 0.6 acre
Best Feature: the huge grounds
THERE’S a lovely feel to the inside of No 3, Orchard Road — but its interior charms, and half a century of maintenance, almost pale in comparison to everything else in this extraordinary Cork suburban mix, right between Victoria Cross and Dennehys Cross.
Like what? Well, underground chambers linking into, and under, an old, lime kiln, as part of a 19th entrepreneurial industrial enterprise, for starters, on the chi-chi Orchard Road.
Orchard Road? That’s an address good enough to set the antennae of well-heeled, Cork home-hunters all a-twitch.
It’s right on the doorstep of University College Cork, the Bons Secours hospital, and Cork University Hospital.
In local, suburban terms, it’s a sort of ‘stockbroker belt’ setting meets ‘consultants on call.’
Well, let the professional parties brace themselves, and perhaps prepare to do battle with builders/developers, because No 3 Orchard Road goes on to tick many more, surprising boxes, most notably a site of 0.6 of an acre, which is just about about the biggest on Orchard Road for those into bragging rights.
Here, back in the boom-times, €1m-plus individual house sales were considered a racing certainty, even for do-er uppers.
Now, in chastened, yet recovering, property-market times, modest-sized No 3 Orchard Road arrives to market with a €1.1m asking price, quoted by Trish Stokes, of Lisney, and it’s going to fly, for sure.
The only uncertainty is just how much it makes, under or over the €1m hurdle.
As yet imponderable is who will triumph in the bidding, and what will become of the house.
And what, if anything, will remain of the just-lovely, domestic living time-capsule that is No 3, which was designed in the 1950s by a UK award-winning architect, and which has been owned since by just the one family.
It could make for one, spectacular home, while the grounds would easily be divided up into several, still-large one-offs.
Paving the way for a a 50:50 site divide is the real bonus of a second entrance, to the lower ground portion, at the lower end of Orchard Road, by the Victoria Road junction where another kiln-side house is currently for sale (see below).
Incredibly, too, the gardens have been nurtured down the decades, and, even now, as No 3 comes to market, as a family executor sale, the grass is trimmed, borders tidy, paths safe, shrubs gearing up to summer, and a half-dozen sentinel fastigiate poplar trees, which act as a mid-length back garden divide (plus more to the side), are set to burst into leaf any moment now.
The lawns also have a graceful, weeping willow slap bang in the middle: will it end up weeping and waving goodbye?
Orchard Road was, as its name suggests, an orchard, and a very large one, attached to the Jennings’ family’s old, stolid Brookfield House, just to the east and which now is the hub of UCC’s medical and nursing departments on the College Road.
At peak, the Jennings family had hundreds of acres, out from the 19th century, yellow, London-brick-faced Brookfield House towards the Lee Fields, Model Farm Road, and what’s now Farranlea Park, and they not only farmed it, they harvested huge crops of fruit , especially raspberries, and built up a thriving mineral soda and cordials business: in Cork slang terms, ‘raza’ owes a debt to the Jennings’ very own raspberry cordial, and they also worked with other minerals, such as lime.
In the 1800s, the Jennings built the enormous lime kiln, still glimpsed on what’s now Orchard Road, to burn lime boulders to make quicklime and other building products, and a byproduct of the burning was magnesiums.
The Lyons family that grew up in No 3 Orchard Road and its tiered gardens recall finding bars of magnesium in the grounds in decades past.
At first, Mr Lyons Snr leased land here from the Jennings family (at one stage, the Jennings’s ground rents went from St FinBarre’s Cathedral to Carrigrohane), going on to buy a plum, 0.6 acres from them.
He commissioned an architect from the UK for a Dutch-style/gable-front dormer family bungalow, and the same, quirky, barn-like garage roof appears, too, on the adjacent garage, which was built subsequent to the house.
Within this home today, framed, old, black-and-white photographs displayed on a wall show the final stages of construction of No 3, when limestone was in abundance and being fashioned into a front approach plinth, underpinning the house’s own face to Orchard Road, and used generously, too, in rear garden terraces.
Apart from the house’s own, circa 1,350 sq ft, there’s an abundance of extra buildings, with garage/workshop with WC, at least three well-built garden cabins/sheds; and built as a lean-to up against the old, lime kiln wall is a glasshouse, used as a warm, garden seating room and growing spot, and as a plumbed utility room, too.
It’s a peach.
Underground chambers in the old kiln have been fenced off, but are still a presence in this suburbanised garden, and the western boundary is the Glasheen river itself, which skirts the road between Victoria Cross and Dennehy’s Cross.
There’s hardly a garden like it, anywhere else in town.
Inside the two-storey home, there are welcoming reception rooms, front and back, each with age-appropriate, tiled fireplace, and even the kitchen has a tiled fireplace.
Quite the time-capsule, this kitchen has green tiles in the open fireplace, and an ancient, still-working, green-enamel, gas New World cooker, pristine yet much-used, which is almost certainly original to the house’s 1950s roots.
Of similar age and quality is a green, ceramic sink and draining board.
Good quality for their day, they’re not short of museum pieces now, but their preservation, and continuing use, are testament to a practical philosophy of mend and mind, maintenance, and old-fashioned housework.
The bathroom suite, upstairs, is a similar green, modish for its day, and 100 times more covetable than latter-day avocado suites.
The arresting views from the kitchen sink and rear of No 3 (once you get over the shock of the garden size) are through bare poplar trees towards County Hall, with the 140’ high dome of the brick-and-limestone Church of the Holy Spirit, at Dennehy’s Cross, visible to the south, just a few hundred yards away, and equidistant are the Lee Fields and amenity walks.
The church was built in the 1950s and was consecrated in 1960, for 1,100 souls, in the burgeoning western suburbs, paralleling the dates of No 3Orchard Road.
The original Brookfield House was sold in 1998 to UCC for the equivalent of €4.4m, and another €45m or so was spent creating a medical hub around it, while the immediate grounds are now home to some private houses, and the Brookfield leisure-and-student accommodation complex.
Along Orchard Road itself, there’s been a half-century tradition of house-building on side and back gardens, knocking and rebuilding, and building from scratch. There are some very fine, discrete homes here now
Next to No 3, on one side, is a large, new-ish home, on part of the original kiln site, and on No 3’s other side is a two-storey, detached house, which is currently being trebled in size.
Next to that, again, the former Glengarriff Hotel was knocked and replaced by six, privately-owned, luxury apartments, over a decade ago, while across the road is an architecturally-accomplished home, on dipping grounds as large as No 3’s.
And, just down Orchard Road, a derelict, fire-damaged bungalow, butting up against the lime kiln next to No 3’s lower garden entrance, went to market some weeks ago, with ERA Downey McCarthy, for €250,000, and now is under offer, well above that, for €380,000. Site assembly, anyone?
It’s the Orchard Road effect, and No 3’s arrival with Lisney’s Trish Stokes is going to rattle some cages.
The sheer amount of ground, in such a setting, will create waves among the more affluent classes.
If only one could pick up the house itself, and (re)place it gently back down where sites don’t command such interest.
VERDICT: A prize property
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved
Receive our lunchtime briefing straight to your inbox