The gates are open for a large family at Dundanion House

On Cork City’s Blackrock Road, Dundanion House has had commercial uses for 50 years, but would be a ‘grand’ home, says Tommy Barker.

Dundanion is a sort of modest mansion, built in the 1830s as a private residence for one of Cork’s most noted classical architects, Sir Thomas Deane

The main Dundanion House is about 9,200 sq ft, including the basement, and if a family lived here, they’d hardly need any of the downstairs

IT’S 50 years since a family has lived at Dundanion House, but its time as a private home might have come once more.

Set at the village end of Cork City’s Blackrock Road, solid Dundanion is a sort of modest mansion, built in the 1830s as a private residence for one of Cork’s most noted classical architects, Sir Thomas Deane.

Deane had designed University College Cork’s quadrangle, the Cork Savings Bank on Lapps Quay (now being bought for circa €800,000 by the City Council), along with the Kildare Street Club, in Dublin; the University Museum, in Oxford, and back in Cork, St Mary’s Dominican Church and the Imperial Hotel.

Thrice-married Sir Thomas built this, his own home, over a full basement, unseen from its front facade, but spacious and bright, thanks to its side and rear windows, while the two upper floors have full and appropriate architectural detailing and finery — and hardly a hairline crack in its ornate plasterwork.

Since then, it has been a corporate HQ and offices for a development firm, offices leased to financial advisors, Beckett’s, and from 1964 to 1999 it was owned by the old P&T, and used as an engineering training centre for Telecom Eireann.

Other families in occupation included Wises, Thorntons, Mockers, and McNamaras, one of whom up until the early 1900s, used to ride his horses from Dundanion, around the meadows of Ballinure and Mahon.

Today, Dundanion still stands on three acres — impressive for such proximity to Blackrock village.

The Cork Blackrock and Passage West rail line passed by Dundanion in the late 1840s, cutting below its grounds, which meant a bridge had to be built over the rail line.

It is now passed under every day by hundreds of walkers, cyclists, and joggers, who use the old line as an amenity walk, gratis of City Hall.

Last sold in 1999, the five-bay Dundanion House is priced at €2m with agents, Sherry FitzGerald, and its commercial wing, DTZ.

But for those short of the last few shillings, take note and take heart: it is offered in one or more lots, with its converted 6,500 sq ft coach-house to be bought/sold separately, and there are separate entrances and identities.

As it stands, business tenants in that separate building contribute to a €50,000-a-year rental income.

In the past year or two, Blackrock has led the recovery in Cork’s upper-echelon price levels, Sheila O’Flynn, of Sherry Fitzgerald, getting €2m for the Rectory, and €500,000 for a single house site, and at least two houses have been built/rebuilt along its length in the past decade, at a reputed cost of more than €5m each.

The main Dundanion House is about 9,200 sq ft, including the basement, and if a family lived here, they’d hardly need any of the space downstairs, good and all as it is.

The ground floor has an impressive hall, and four ‘offices’, which need little more than a change of furniture to make them look domestic, and the first floor has seven offices, again easily turned to bedrooms.

However, there are no bathrooms proper, bar a range of business-like WCs, nor is there a kitchen.

So, there’s money to be spent, even though the basic house structure and fabric are in superb condition.

There is the hope of possibly buying the house at a sub-€2m, ie, minus the coachhouse, and the end result could be one of the better period homes in one of the best city suburbs.

Beyond its porticoed entrance, it has fine fireplaces (Connemara marble in the hall) and floors, staircase, high ceilings, ornate plasterwork and sash windows: it’s quite the real deal and was made a protected structure in the 1980s.

Sir Thomas, who was a mayor of the city, lived here in Blackrock for 28 years, when the house stood on 13 acres and overlooked the River Lee, along what’s now the Marina.

At one stage, when a tram line was run out to Blackrock, the house’s inhabitant made the front boundary wall taller, so as not to be overlooked in the ground by the hoi-polloi on the tram’s top deck.

That addition to the wall can still be glimpsed in the stone courses, but now, in stark contrast, a quite grand, formal entrance has been made onto the public road.

The remaining three acres, facing towards the Marina at the rear, include the remains of Dundanion Castle.

It was from Dundanion that Sir William Penn, (one of the Cork city’s first Quakers), sailed across the Atlantic, to the Americas back in the 1600s, establishing what is now Pennsylvania State. History indeed.

VERDICT: All options open here at one of the city’s best houses: will it be offices; a home; set for hospitality use, or a clinic?



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