House of the Week

COMING up on the 100th anniversary of the 1912 sinking of the Titanic, Cobh’s large Carrig House has proven itself a survivor of all it surveys.

One of the most historic houses in the Cork harbour town, Carrig House is steeped in Queenstown/Cobh shipping lore and its emigrant past.

It was built 180 years ago, in an Italianate style, as a private home for a local merchant, John Atkins, and has had a host of uses since. Its most notable and distinguished role was as the American Consulate in the late 1920s and 1930s. That role is remembered still inside Carrig House, where a stained glass window on the grand stairwell carries an image of a ship and the initials ICA, Irish Consulate of America.

Carrig House was bought in the 1930s by the Cork Vocational Education Committee, for use as a technical school, and it later served as a gaelscoil.

It last went up for sale in 2003, needing renovations, and it was been worked on top-to-tail by the locally-rooted couple who bought it back then, conservation building experts David and Monica Higgins of Cornerstone Construction.

They’ve overseen some of the most demanding house and church projects of the past decade, from Michael Flatley’s Castlehyde in Fermoy to St Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh. Their most recent building project was the timber frame for the London Olympics’ cycledrome, built by a team of west Cork carpenters.

The Cobh couple took on Carrig House as a labour of love, knowing its importance to the town, but have now decided to offer it for sale as they feel it has yet more scope in the right hands.

It’s up for sale with Mary O’Grady of O’Grady Mahony Auctioneers in Cobh, with a €1.5 million price guide and she says it could make a spectacular private house once more, would be great as a corporate HQ, ‘clean offices’ for a niche business, and also has clear heritage use potential.

Cobh is currently quietly bidding for a genealogical research centre, which would be a perfect tie-in with its other attractions and its existing Queenstown Story Heritage Centre in an old railway building. Carrig House overlooks that visitor centre, as well as the quay berths where international cruise liners now dock. Last Bank Holiday weekend alone, up to 7,000 cruise passengers called to Cobh on the MV Independence of the Sea and MV Celebrity Eclipse. Also right next door to Carrig House as visitors enter Cobh is a converted small church building, now a volunteer-run local museum.

The ground floor of this prominent 8,500 sq ft two-storey over basement building is currently let out to Cobh Town Council as public offices, and a part of the upper floor is let to a solicitor’s firm.

Most of the rooms have exceptional views facing full south over the harbour and waterfront, with Haulbowline, Spike Island and Roche’s Point all in view. There are several very large rooms, including an annexe added by the VEC in its day, complete with perfect parquet and terrazzo flooring. Conservation work is done to the highest standards, with sash windows having double-glazed units carefully inserted in them. Some roofs have been re-done in copper, including the formal portico entrance and a single story deep bay window. Carrig House has a site of about 0.7 of an acre, parking for up to 20 cars, with crescent-shaped terrace to the front, plus a tiny two-room gate lodge, also restored, with its facing stone entrance pillar recalling this house’s importance as part of Cobh’s Titanic Trail.

When it last came up for sale, the only doubt was the scale of work needed at Carrig House: now that everything has been done by a company that really knows its stuff, the only question is what new chapter of history awaits this one-off offering.


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