Cobh Low Road houses are Cork’s version of Killiney. Inver, one of 14 houses here in a line of magnificent Victorian villas, makes a precipitous stand towards the sea, and is a handsome maritime home.
Cobh, Co.Cork €620,000
Size: 464 sq m (5,000 sq ft)
Best features: Period architecture, location and promise
If Cork has a Killiney, the collection of 14 houses on the Low Road in Cobh, and the area immediately surrounding them has to be it.
Magnificent Victorian villas make a precipitous stand towards the sea, windows trained to the waves cresting beyond the embrace of the natural harbour.
Whitepoint to the west is a jewel box of 19th century billets for every class, enhanced by the honest industrial surroundings, shipping lanes and popular ‘five foot walk’ enjoyed by venturing over the cast iron railway bridge down to the quay.
The complete peace of the place belies it, but the centre of Cobh is a short Sunday stroll to the east.
Shoulder to shoulder with their steeply pitched roofs, rich variations and semi-tropical gardens, this glorious 14 are unique and rarely does one come to market.
For sale with Liz Hannon of English & Co auctioneers, guided at €620,000, Inver is a 5,000 square foot semi-detached, two bay three storey property with a dormer attic, dated to 1862 from its deeds.
It’s a handsome maritime gentleman, one of a battalion built-to-let to the officers of the British Army and Royal Navy, stationed at Haulbowline and maintaining the fortifications at Spike Island.
Intended to reflect the status of its respected tenants, the lands were part of the Rushbrooke demesne, this prestigious section owned by the entrepreneurial Frederica Harriet Rushbrooke (1819-1882).
Her houses reflected the taste for solid grandeur with a quiver of Tudor revival in crinolated bargeboards, pointed arches and a whimsical gothic turret on the west gable.
The sash windows were removed before the time of the current owner, who compromised well with plain one-over-one PVC, double glazed units.
There’s some lovely original exterior cornicing on the exterior walls. In half an acre of walled grounds, intentional planting including a specimen contorted willow, shares credits with exotic and native interlopers.
You can still (as many off-duty lieutenants would have done) - step up through the drifts of planting and soft fruit beds to the back gate of Inver, accessing the High Road, for a gentle game at the Rushbrooke Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, est.1870.
One of the first early inhabitants of Inver was Francesco Michele Michelli, Hungarian Consul d.1876, who is remembered in a plaque in the Church of Ireland church at Christchurch, its spire a close neighbour, visible from the house.
We enter Inver at the west through a Gothic half glazed 19th century oak door to an ecclesiastical outer hall with surviving encaustic tiles.
Inside, there’s an imposing ‘L’ shaped inner hall and return, walls finished in a rich Farrow & Ball Brinjal. The authentic pitch pine boards, cornices, interior doors, door furniture and ceiling roses are all intact.
To the left is a family room, lit by a generous sash and warmed by a Belgian enamel stove, which at 3kW I’m told is cosy on the coldest day, and there’s a useful wood store off this room.
Across the hall, is a breath-taking drawing-room, a light opera of gold and primrose with original plank flooring and a white marble fireplace. Suffused light from the west and south is celebrated in a generous bay of windows searching through shifting branches of myrtle to the Naval Station at Haulbowline.
The dining room is a generous 20’9” by 15’6”, faces south and boasts two floor-to-ceiling windows and a pantry which was once connected to the kitchen through a hatch.
Potential thrums in this and so many areas of the house, and all these windowless bolts and stores are pleasingly dry.
The original feathery ceiling rose seen in the hall and two other reception rooms, was rudely replaced decades ago, but could and should be copied from the survivors by a dedicated specialist such as Capital Mouldings in Douglas.
The kitchen/utility/bathroom and back hall on the north west corner downstairs are untapped sleepers.
With pale timber units, a hot press and enough room for family dining, the kitchen is a modest girl begging for a polite introduction to the sloping garden by breaking through the north wall and roofing that handsome outside return formed by the boot- room.
The kitchen ceiling has been dropped and a chimney opening covered, again decisions easily reversed in an otherwise tough old trooper if you want the full Aga showcase dream.
There are a few puzzles in the layout, inclusion and titling of the rooms at Inver, largely due to the property’s past as a gentleman’s residence up to the 1950s.
The present owners have performed a valiant job in bringing an important house to its relatively new role as a single family home, stabilising and updating the structure over a period of some 20 years.
It’s a huge house and some rooms are still not clearly designated, but there are nautical miles of structurally sound space on offer.
Fireplaces aside, the whole place is heated by an oil fired condenser boiler, not new but a farsighted investment to serve the needs of such a rangey house.
The first floor landing is lit by a typical Victorian arched window opening (glazing replaced) which has a modern shower-room and a separate WC with a sink. Upstairs, there are eight bedrooms, six ready to go.
The first floor hall is a blueprint of downstairs, with the sunny western reach large enough to stage a communal family office. Solid wood plank flooring leads to the vast master on the first floor, repeating the charm, dimensions and bay window of the drawing room below.
If you want to know how utterly gorgeous the dining room could be, take a look at the fragile period styling of bedroom 2, directly above it.
Same light, same size, simply more time and money spent. Bedroom 3 has a northerly aspect, a hushed, meditative atmosphere and blissful garden views.
Bedroom 4, the smallest of the best four has a window on the west side, a fireplace (as do all but one of the bedrooms) and would make an ideal guestroom. The second floor would have housed the servants and is yet to reach the standing of its peers downstairs.
There are four rooms large enough to serve as fine bedrooms, a shower-room and another rangey landing with useful access on two sides to the roof for essential maintenance.
Inver retains not only a structural relationship with the house to which it’s attached. With both houses listed and under the protection of conservation planning, where that other one has gone, Inver could well follow.
This sibling house was up until recently a perfect mirror of Inver, but was gifted a sympathetic extension to the east gable of the house, which had to be pointed out to me- it’s seamless and perfectly executed.
Even more teasing (and given the conservation officer’s eye to what has been done with neighbouring, comparable properties) the owners there have built a long two story mews style beauty on the long east boundary of the garden.
It’s an honest, period appropriate gem, and large enough to serve as a single family home or roomy let.
The current owners of Inver explored the possibilities of including just such a detached building on their land, inviting the conservation officer to the house and were offered a positive attitude based on what had already been carried out over the wall.
With direct access to Cork in under 20 minutes by train or car, a good local primary school, Cobh Golf Club and Fota Island Resort’s championship courses, fine dining at Cobh’s Waters Edge and several other restaurants - Inver is a beautiful, well placed house in one of our most feted historic towns.
Properties sold in this special architectural group have appeared for sale with a hiatus between two-14 years, and little wonder. For all its softly rubbed grandeur, it really is a home to love.
VERDICT: A rare, maritime diamond just waiting for a bit of a polish, Inver could serve as a B&B, or continue to luxuriate as a beloved, intergenerational family home.
There is potential for extensive additions, but as the house is a protected structure all alterations to the house must be submitted to planning.
One of the first early inhabitants of Inver was Francesco Michele Michelli, Hungarian Consul d.1876
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