A four acre haven on Killiney Hill for ¤9m

Mon­te­bello is an el­e­gant Vic­to­rian house which dates from the 1870s, ex­tends to al­most 8,000sq ft and sits on a sub­stan­tial four acres of se­cluded, pris­tine grounds

The Irish Times - Thursday - Property - - Front Page -

The unas­sum­ing wrought-iron gates de­not­ing the en­trance to Mon­te­bello, on Killiney Hill Road in south Co Dublin, give very lit­tle in­di­ca­tion as to wha t lies wi t h i n . It’s a well-worn road of lux­u­ri­ous pe­riod and con­tem­po­rary homes on many sites of vary­ing sizes.

The Ital­ian moniker evokes other grand prop­er­ties in the area, in­clud­ing Palermo, a fine Vic­to­rian cur­rently on the mar­ket for ¤4 mil­lion, and gleam­ing Sor­rento Ter­race nearby, with its ca­chet as Dublin’s most ex­pen­sive ter­race. But Mon­te­bello leaves th­ese, and many other pre­tenders to the grand­est house ti­tle, in the shade.

This quiet Vic­to­rian dates from the 1870s, ex­tends to al­most 8,000sq ft and sits on nearly four acres of se­cluded, pris­tine grounds. It is on the mar­ket through Sav­ills for ¤9 mil­lion. To put this in con­text, one of the most talked-about prop­er­ties of re­cent times, with per­haps the finest coastal set­ting in Dublin, is Gorse Hill. It came on the mar­ket ear­lier this year seek­ing ¤8.5 mil­lion and sold sev­eral months later for ¤9.5 mil­lion.

Mon­te­bello has no sea views, but there are many com­pen­sa­tions in­clud­ing the el­e­gant, ram­bling orig­i­nal house, a de­tached 850sq ft gate lodge, sta­ble blocks, a swim­ming pool, an in­for­mal or­chard gar­den and a rare oc­tag­o­nal pavil­ion that is an ar­chi­tec­tural cu­rios­ity in it­self.

When Peter Pear­son wrote about mid-Vic­to­rian houses in south Dublin in his de­fin­i­tive tome Be­tween the Moun­tains and the Sea, he held Mon­te­bello up as a clas­sic ex­am­ple of the era. It was a house built to re­flect the so­cial stand­ing of the fam­ily who lived there, with a gate lodge and “a wind­ing av­enue which brought the visi­tor to a broad gravel sweep in front of the hall door”.

Pear­son ven­tures that Mon­te­bello was orig­i­nally built for a fam­ily named Kirkwood, landed gen­try from Roscom­mon. Later, in the 1920s, it was the home of so­lic­i­tor AE Good­body, and more re­cently it be­came the fam­ily home of Dick and Ann Wil­son. With the Wil­sons now de­ceased and the fam­ily dis­persed, it’s an ex­ecu­tor sale, though the house still seems very lived-in, and is filled with in­ter­est­ing me­men­tos from a well-read and trav­elled life.

Glas­gow-born Wil­son was an en­tre­pre­neur who ini­tially made his for­tune in the fam­ily pet food busi­ness. In the 1960s he in­vested a good por­tion of rev­enues from that busi­ness in com­ple­men­tary medicine, an area his fam­ily had be­come very in­ter­ested in. Wil­son went on to head up Nel­son home­o­pathic reme­dies and in 1993 com­bined it with Bach Flower Reme­dies, pro­ducer of the hugely pop­u­lar Bach Res­cue Rem­edy. Dick and Ann Wil­son orig­i­nally lived in Belfast where Ann was a keen sup­porter of the arts. Friends in­cluded the painter TP Flana­gan and the poet Sea­mus Heaney. An obit­u­ary in the Tele­graph in 2006 cred­ited Wil­son with sus­tain­ing Belfast’ s arti s t i c life through the dark­est days of the Trou­bles, and the couple’s pas­sion for con­tem­po­rary art fol­lowed them to their Killiney home.

Heaney poem

The same obit­u­ary refers to a poem penned by Heaney to com­mem­o­rate Wil­son’s 60th birth­day. It be­gan: Dickie, at Mon­te­bello, years ago You stood me with my back against a tree The sap was ris­ing, trust was high, and so That sym­pa­thetic worked on me magic The Wil­sons pur­chased Mon­te­bello in the late 1960s in fairly poor re­pair and un­der­took a re­fur­bish­ment that took sev­eral years to com­plete. What’s in­ter­est­ing is that the very fine join­ery ev­i­dent in the or­nate wood­work through­out the prop­erty was com­pletely stripped back to its bare wood fin­ish. It makes for an un­usual – and re­fresh­ing – first im­pres­sion when so of­ten fine houses are pre­sented in gleam­ing painted hues.

The protrud­ing semi­cir­cu­lar porch opens into a main hall dom­i­nated by wooden Gre­cian-style pil­lars, bar­ley-sugar col­umns and bare wood floors. The stair­case also fea­tures a rare, orig­i­nal wrought iron balustrade. The main draw­ing and din­ingroom re­cep­tions have lovely, bright dual as­pects, with a fine mar­ble fire­place at the heart of the draw­ingroom, while con­trast­ing gilded cor­nic­ing and cov­ing frames the en­tire ground floor. An el­e­gant, well-ap­pointed sun­room was added off the draw­ingroom in later years.

There is a nice flow to the prop­erty, with the re­cep­tions sweep­ing around to the kitchen and break­fas­troom. Though bright and well-ap­pointed, they are also dated and will def­i­nitely be sub­jected to an over­haul by the next owner. There are seven bed­rooms ar­ranged over the half land­ing (a guest suite), the first floor and an­other small guest suite on the sec­ond floor. The main bed­room suite is to the front of the prop­erty, where an ad­join­ing bed­room was con­verted to a very spa­cious and lux­u­ri­ous en­suite with el­e­vated views to the gar­dens and moun­tains. Off this is a dress­in­groom, which could be con­verted back to its orig­i­nal bed­room use. The small sec­ond-floor guest suite leads up a l fi­nal flight of steps to a vast walled-in roof ter­race with views of the sur­round­ing sea and moun­tains.

The lower ground floor is a warren of rooms and ap­pears to be the biggest floor in the house. Cur­rently ar­ranged in two apart­ments whose boundary is a lit­tle un­clear, this will all be sub­ject to re­view by the next owner. It’s a dark, gloomy place at the cen­tre, though it wouldn’t take much to open up the space a bit and in­te­grate it more with the won­der­ful grounds ex­tend­ing from it.

With a full-time gar­dener liv­ing in the lodge, the ram­bling gar­dens, or­chard and swim­ming pool are well main­tained. Sav­ills agent Ben Lilling­ton Lester points to the sta­ble block sug­gest­ing the prop­erty’s em­i­nent suit­abil­ity for equine en­thu­si­asts. Mon­te­bello has many strings to its bow, but progress and ur­ban­i­sa­tion dic­tate that even its op­tions for rid­ing out at dawn are some­what limited at this point. Think of the com­muters. A pos­si­ble op­tion for the sta­ble block could well be con­ver­sion to smart guest ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Mon­te­bello’s clos­est neigh­bour­ing com­par­i­son might be nearby Strath­more. The for­mer Cana­dian em­bassy res­i­dence was sim­i­lar in size at around 8,000sq ft, ex­cept it sits on nine acres. It was sold in 2015 to en­tre­pre­neur Dr Joe Elias for ¤7.5 mil­lion and the prop­erty is cur­rently be­ing ex­ten­sively re­fur­bished. Strath­more’s added ad­van­tage is that it en­joys very fine sea views.

With UFC f i g ht e r a nd all-round show­man Conor Mc­Gre­gor ac­tively on the hunt for a home in the Killiney/Dalkey area, a prop­erty of this cal­i­bre is bound to come onto his radar. It’s pos­si­ble though that the se­cluded set­ting and low-key de­meanour of Mon­te­bello might not be a fit for the larger-than-life per­son­al­ity.

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