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