160-year-old house on sale for the first time

 

A Rathmines redbrick with links to the 1916 Rising has lots of period features and a rich history, writes Bernice Harrison

ONE OF the attractions for buyers in the market for a period property is the possibility that their house comes with a rich history – but the story is rarely as interesting as the background to 9 Belgrave Road in Rathmines, Dublin 6. Even the fact that the terraced redbrick is for sale for the first time since it was built is a rare thing these days.

It was built in the 1850s by Patrick Plunkett, who also developed nearby Palmerston Road and several other redbrick roads in Dublin 6. Rich and successful as he was, the builder was never quite accepted in the upper class social circles who regarded the Meathman as a bit too nouveau and Catholic for their liking.

When his son, George, married in 1884, this house and the rest of the terrace was part of his marriage settlement, while his bride, Josephine Cranny, daughter of another major property developer, brought a terrace of houses on Marlborough Road in Donnybrook as part of her dowry.

The well-heeled couple headed off to America on a honeymoon that lasted two years and let out their houses to mostly professional or upper civil servants who at the time were happy to rent.

Their son, Joseph Mary Plunkett, was a leader in the 1916 Rising. He never lived in Belgrave Road – his parents preferred the swankier neighbourhood of Upper Fitzwilliam Street – but there is a brown heritage plaque on the wall beside the front door. It celebrates the house’s most noted tenant, Dr Kathleen Lynn, feminist, fighter and a progressive doctor who was one of the first Irishwomen to qualify in medicine.

As a member of the Citizen Army she took part in the 1916 Rising, and later went on to establish St Ultan’s Hospital for infants in Charlemont Street. Little trace of her 50-year tenure remains in the house except the wonderfully eccentric balcony off her first floor bedroom designed by her friend, the architect Michael Scott. A believer in the health benefits of fresh air, she was known to sleep out on the balcony.

“It’s a wonderfully flexible house,” says its current owner Honor O Brolchain, who has become a chronicler of the Plunkett family. She edited her grandmother Geraldine Plunkett’s papers in her book All in the Blood.

Honor’s mother became her landlady in 1971 when she married and moved into a top floor flat in number 9. As her children came along, the family slowly took over the rest of the large house, reclaiming it as a family home. Now with the children grown, Honor and her husband are looking to downsize in the neighbourhood.

At 248.23sq m (2,672sq ft) it’s a very large house. Some internal period details are still intact, most notably the cornicework in the fine interconnecting reception rooms.

Honor says that in her years living here, she has slept in most of the rooms as the family changed the layout to suit their needs. There are now five bedrooms, as well as a kitchen on the top floor and another one in the basement, and new owners will almost certainly make radical changes and modern improvements.

Hopefully they’ll be able to retain some of the house’s character and even keep Dr Lynn’s now glazed balcony. In the 1970s, a section of the back garden was sold off and there is a mews there now. Both the front, and the south-facing garden have been planted for low maintenance.

Felicity Fox, the first agent given the task of selling this house in its 160 years, has suggested a price of €1.8 million.