WATCH: Grand designs on a large historic home

This fine house is as full of history as it is of authentic original detail, but it’ll need work on its energy efficiency, writes Tommy Barker

Cobh, Cork Harbour - €695,000

Size: 373 sq m (4,000 sq ft) on 1.6 acres

Bedrooms: 6

Bathrooms: 5

BER: Exempt

DATING to 1865, The Grove, in Cobh’s Norwood Grove/Rushbrooke area, has been 40 years in its current family’s ownership.

That makes them its most consistent, long-time owners, with a very considerable task on their hands — emptying it out, as they seek to move from the big house, to the very opposite end of the scale, to the property’s currently derelict gate-lodge.

Selling up via Malcolm Tyrrell of Cohalan Downing Associates, seeking offers of €695,000 and now downsizing, with family well reared and gone, the detached Victorian home is big... quite big indeed.

It has links to the Cork harbour town that included hosting functions for British admiralty, US admiralty (including a commander of the Pacific fleet, who’d crossed the Atlantic) and Irish naval officers, all with uniform ease and much grace.

Yet, despite its size, over the decades the Irish family not only managed to furnish it, but to fill it. Even though all their children are adults, and have long -flown the coop, they all somehow managed to leave their childhood and teenage and early adult possessions behind at home, safe and sound in secure storage in their ‘old’ bedrooms.

As is the way, they also expect it to remain untouched, yet they probably still expect their mother to know where everything is if they need it, and the entirely normal thing is, the matriarch could probably locate anything at all, with the instant recall of an internet search engine. It’s a facility manager called the Irish Mammy.

Of course, they hardly licked it off the stones: the top, attic floor of The Grove has charismatic rooms, and they now are full of rails of overflow parental clothing, and one, the nicest, is a sewing room, from which over many years have emerged flowing quilts, wall hangings and a whole lot more.

Then, there’s books, sports paraphernalia, memorabilia, and furniture of a size appropriate to the relative grandeur of a 4,000 sq ft period build in which all are happily at home, having been amassed since the 1970s: there must be a TV decluttering show, or a lifestyle makeover, programme to be made in what’s facing The Grove’s vendors.

And look where they are going! They plan to move from the two- and three-storey Victorian beauty with its skirts of verandas and rose-clambering trellises and two sets of stairs (one for the servants), down to the gate lodge, at the property’s entrance directly across the road from an entrance to Rushbrooke’s Tennis Club.

That gate lodge, currently a ruin, half-roofed and wholly overgrown, might have 400 sq ft now, at best, about 10% of what’s immediately on offer at The Grove. Before any decanting and ruthless downsizing, the vendors are sensible enough to know they’ll have to expand the gate lodge, and are in discussions with conservation architects with a view to going for planning for restoration and expansions.

Already, two large new builds (one contemporary, one in a Victorian style) have come along on the roadside by the Tennis Club, on sites sold off a few years ago to non-family members, and a small house development also was developed over a decade ago lower down to the south. Quite incredibly, The Grove had all of five acres when it sold to its owners 40 years ago, and now its still stands on a sizeable 1.6 acres.

And what a two-acre plot it still has, complete with snatches of the obligatory Cobh/Rushbrooke views out to the mouth of Cork harbour.

Ringed by mature evergreen and deciduous trees, and as private as a country house still, it has the remnants of some grandeur and must have been one of Cobh’s grander homes of the Victorian era, including a lofted former coach house, and stabling, and outline of an old Victorian conservatory which had piped heating and tiled floor. This cluster all helps to create a sun-trap courtyard patio back garden, facing The Grove’s enormous back wall of fragrant, climbing roses and irregularly-placed and shaped windows.

Also left out back here is a portion of an old water pump, used for pumping water from a now-covered over well up to the attic, to flow down by gravity to the bathrooms below. It’s a task no-one would take on now, save a body-builder, as The Grove has five bathrooms serving its six-plus bedrooms, and both water and drainage are now via mains.

With three elegant reception rooms, The Grove became a listed property back in 2007, and was underpinned in 2010, and has oil-fired central heating and a Rangemaster gas cooker in the old-style kitchen. It’s been well maintained all along, but the fact no huge changes were made means the upside is huge authenticity, period detailing, retained fireplaces etc, while the marginal downside is that it probably needs energy-efficiency upgrades, and attention paid to its old sash windows.

From some of the windows can be glimpsed the spires of Cobh and Monkstown’s Church of Ireland’s 19th century builds, one east, the other west, and sensibly kept are the outline of the old tennis court and croquet lawn down a dozen steps from the facade’s bay window and wrap-around veranda, while the considerable grounds include garden walks around the perimeter among azaleas and other lush planting, all within a walk of the town, and two commuter rail stops.

VERDICT: Big prospects.



Breaking Stories

Man arrested after cocaine seizure in Dublin

Taoiseach disappointed by Peter Fitzpatrick's decision not to contest next election

Status Yellow weather advisory warns of spot flooding

Irish Government hails Kofi Annan as 'voice for international peace'

More From The Irish Examiner