House of the week

PURE city centre living is on offer at the Georgian-era townhouse, 32 Nicholas Street in the very heart of Cork, a precipitous and narrow hilly stretch within the city’s South Parish.

Along with Shandon, the South Parish was one of the very first sections of the marshy city to be colonised beyond the original city walls, with stout Danish roots and a scattering of churches, abbeys and forts, several going back to the 1600s, while the old Red Abbey dates to the late 13th century.

So, old and venerable bones in and around this Douglas Street hinterland, and one of the best places to appreciate it all is from the top of No 32 Nicholas Street.

Possibly as old as late 1700s itself, this city base with an eclectic bohemian feel is just up for sale with Johnny O’Flynn of Sherry FitzGerald with a €190,000 asking price. It has got quirks and character and architectural detailing galore, as well as a roof-top eyerie and viewing balcony as its crowing glory.

Finally ready to leave the street (it’s effectively a hill, corralled by houses along its length) is long-time resident, publican James Donnelly, of Counihans bar note. He moved in to a house across Nicholas Street back in the early 1990s; the house he did up at the time was one of the very first interior spreads in these pages, in the early Weekend Examiner days.

Then, about 20 years ago, he gave up that bachelor pad, and bought the larger No 32 across the street, did an amount of renovations once more, from roof-replacement down to opening up its basement store.

Now, James, his wife Sinéad who’s Library Arts Officer with Cork County Council, and their baby daughter, one-year old Aisling, are packing up for another city centre-ish renovation project (it’s a bank conversion).

“It’s just so handy here, you are five minutes from everything in the city centre, and yet when you get back home, and go up on the roof to sit out, you feel very far removed from the hustle and bustle,” notes Sinéad.

No 32 even has private outdoors space, a 50’ long back garden, with high limestone walls (and plans in place for a rear extension), but for the views you have to climb to the roof. From this top-most vantage point, the west and north views include the 13th century Red Abbey, the South Parish St Finbarr’s Church dating to 1766 (just older than the United States of America) the rebuilt St Nicholas Church, while off on the yonder hills across the city’s twin river channels St Ann’s Shandon and the North Cathedral can be seen. Best of all, though, and the most immediate, are the views back down into the adjacent South Presentation convent’s oasis gardens between Douglas Street and Evergreen Street. This tranquil spot, ringed by buildings dating to the 1700s and even earlier high stone walls, includes the grave of Nano Nagle, founder of the Presentation Sisters. Nano Nagle’s now even further on a path to sainthood, after recently being declared Venerable by the Vatican.

Back on Nicholas Street: this steep and scything address is home to 40 or so houses, in various states of keep, and while its roots may be venerable, it’s still a bit short of heavenly, thanks to simple and unresolved urban realities, such as wheelie bins left out on pavements, competing for space with a few parked cars narrowing the gaps even more. (Best parking options are up to Evergreen Street, or down to Douglas Street, with residents’ permits.)

But, anyone into city living conveniences will be prepared to accept the rough with the smooth — and the attractions of No 32 will woo many waverers.

Much bigger than you’d expect, with a decent number of large rooms, there’s a surprising 1,250 sq ft here in all — and that doesn’t include the basement/store, via a spiral stairs from the kitchen. It gives an extra 120 sq ft or so to the house, handy for storage, or ideal for a wine cellar.

Best rooms are to the front, with a 15’ by 12’ sitting room downstairs, and a master bedroom and a small nursery/dressing room overhead, and the top floor’s got a large, attic second bedroom too. All other rooms have high ceilings, and lots of period details, joinery is mostly original pine stripped back and waxed, and floor boards proudly wear the signs of age.

The back bathroom’s home to a deep, roll-top cast iron bath by the window, there’s a separate shower and clever, upcycling use made of old period mahogany furniture as a hot-press and as a wash stands. “You can buy good, old furniture and use it like this for maximum effect and for less than the cost of white deal,” reasons James Donnelly.

VERDICT: Historic home ready with lofty views for new owners to put a further stamp and polish on — and the walled-in garden could be an extra gem and dimension.

LOCATION: Cork city

PRICE: €190,000

SIZE: 115 sq m (1,500 sq ft)




BEST ASSET: Originality


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