COVER STORY

Tak­ing on this in­trigu­ing Cork pro­ject will call for some courage, says Tommy Barker

Irish Examiner - Property & Interiors - - PROPERTY - Pic­tures: Michael McSweeney, Pro­vi­sion

His­toric Mount Rivers has years ahead of it

HERE’S a trin­ity of time and de­sign in his­toric Mount Rivers, seem­ingly three houses — or at least three dif­fer­ent fa­cades — in one.

A quirk or odd­ity of de­sign that evolved over a cen­tury, it’s old­est part is a quite in­cred­i­ble 250 years old, solid right back to 1760, when Ge­orge 111 as­cended to the throne in Bri­tain, aged a cal­low 22 years, and a full 15 years be­fore the Amer­i­can rev­o­lu­tion­ary wars.

Set off what’s now the Cas­tle Road east of Cork city, where Black­rock Cas­tle over­sees the nar­row­ing of ship­ping chan­nels from the har­bour be­yond, Mount Rivers was added to in the early 1800s, with a long sin­gle-storey lodge ad­di­tion built to the north, with 10 win­dows along its length, thanks to el­e­gant curved bays.

Then, it was fur­ther ex­tended again in the mid 1800s with a grander, more for­mal Ge­or­gian villa-like ad­di­tion to the east,

Tpick­ing up lots of southerly light through its four tall win­dows, nine panes, over six per frame. De­spite its lack of sym­me­try, or even co­he­sion, it’s the sort of build­ing that those into very old houses will find absolutely in­trigu­ing, all the more so as it’s kept faith with its past and ar­chi­tec­tural de­tail­ing.

Now, af­ter 55 years own­er­ship in the Casey fam­ily, it is about to change hands once more, and comes to mar­ket with joint sell­ing agent Matt Fal­lon of FML Properties, and with Mal­colm Tyrrell of Co­ha­lan Down­ing who be­tween them give it a € 750,000 guide.

It’s on 1.6 acres of pri­vate grounds, be­hind a ter­race of homes on Cas­tle Road, and ac­cess is up around a dog-leg lane into its own grounds by a gate lodge in­cluded in the sale.

It had, in ear­lier times, more land, but over time that got eroded, with hous­ing es­tates built to the south in the 1990s and now with a very tall wall built around its perime­ter to en­sure con­tin­ued pri­vacy.

Mount Rivers’ most dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture is its ear­lier struc­ture, the three­story, three-bay block with its tall western gable wall slate hung, curved in front, and with three arched stacked win­dows on the rear. One of the front, top floor bed­room win­dows is a false or ‘blind’ one, done de­lib­er­ately to re­duce the num­ber of opes for a win­dow tax (ah! one for the Troika to re-im­pose?)

On it’s own, this al­most-tower like sec­tion would look a tri­fle for­lorn, stand­ing up like the bridge on a ship or tanker you might see pass­ing up the river 200 yards away; all three sec­tions of the house are rightly ‘of their time,’ easy to date, as there was no at­tempt to ape what had gone be­fore.

It does, how­ever, make for an eclec­tic mix of rooms, and flow be­tween them, and there’s a sin­gu­lar lack of a good or for­mal stair­case.

There’s es­ti­mated to be about 4,000 sq ft here, but if you ven­tured far enough into the at­tached sheds and stores that fig­ure would swell. Yet, as so much work has to be done to the main house now, it’s not as though too many buy­ers will be rush­ing out to colonise and up­grade even more ac­com­mo­da­tion. Leave that to phase 11.

The largest room is what’s called the old ball­room, about 30’ by 15’ and with 15’ high ceil­ings, and his­tory says that scenes from the Gospels were once painted on the walls, but were cov­ered over decades ago. At least three other rooms, notably those in the rear midera ad­di­tion with bay pro­jec­tions, have in­ter­est­ing shapes and pro­por­tions.

The roofs are gen­er­ally sound, and con­sid­er­able work was done on them about 10 years ago when the gable wall slate was sen­si­tively re­done, but a blocked gully or val­ley has re­cently caused some ceil­ing dam­age.

Tak­ing on Mount Rivers will call for some courage, but given its in­tact fire­places, plas­ter­work and some cor­nices, cen­tre­pieces, old door and cases (one mod­est-look­ing one dates to 1780) plus orig­i­nal win­dows, roofs, later ve­randa and long his­tory, there’s a prize here for the right buyer. It’s go­ing to be quite some home for dis­play­ing art and ar­ti­facts, once the build­ing’s own fab­ric is up­graded.

A pre­vi­ous owner, back al­most a cen­tury ago, was a botanist at UCC, and a num­ber

of rare and un­usual plant­ings have sur­vived, while a grass lawn re­tains the ‘mem­ory’ of its

It’s the sort of build­ing that those into very old houses will find absolutely in­trigu­ing

ser­vice as a lawn ten­nis court.

Both the house, its out­build­ings and much of its grounds have con­ser­va­tion pro­tec­tion, so the in­put of pro­fes­sion­als along the way to make it good for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions will be needed.

With a more mod­ern — ahem! 1860s — ter­raced home, Ma­hon Lodge on Cas­tle Road, now go­ing to bids of 490,000, there’s rein­vig­o­rated de­mand for crack­ing good Black­rock homes, and Mount Rivers 1.6 acres of grounds puts it in a league of its own.

VER­DICT: Any chance at all of get­ting even one more house site by its en­trance would do won­ders for its ren­o­va­tion bud­get.

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