Copper Face Jack’s in Blackrock? Now you can live there

Georgian conversion in former summer home of Earl of Clonmel, aka Copper Face Jack

  • Address: Neptune House Apartments, Blackrock, Co Dublin
  • Price: € 1,400,000
  • Agent: Sherry FitzGerald
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The launch this week of luxury apartments at Neptune House in Blackrock marks yet another incarnation for one of Dublin’s finest – and lesser-known – Georgian mansions tucked away behind Temple Crescent between Blackrock and Monkstown villages.

From the time it was built in 1767 the property has served many functions, firstly as a summer residence for John Scott, the first Earl of Clonmel and Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, better known as Copper Face Jack. (His city residence on Harcourt Street remains a vibrant spiritual home to this day.)

Neptune House ground floor livingroom, Blackrock
Neptune House ground floor livingroom. The rooms are cleverly devided to leave the original features intact
Neptune House ground floor livingroom, Blackrock
The livingroom features original windows and plasterwork

Then, in 1916, it was used to house British troops after they landed in Dún Laoghaire as they prepared to take on the Irish rebels in the Easter Rising. The house was later known as Temple Hill House, and from the 1930s to the 1970s was run by the Sisters of Charity when it is estimated about 572 children were sent from here to the US for adoption.

The story goes that in the 1980s members of Sinn Féin and the Irish government used the house for secret meetings that laid the way for the peace process. Around this time US philanthropist Chuck Feeney bought the house on 2.5 acres and let it to Trinity College Dublin for a minimal rent to accommodate students. In 2000, boomtime developer Bernard McNamara paid €8 million for the site when he planned to develop five blocks of apartments. Planning permission was approved, but the bust ensued and the plans – like so many others – ran aground.

Neptune House ground floor kitchen, Blackrock
The kitchen-dining area is screend ffrom the livingroom
Neptune House ground floor bedroom, Blackrock
The ground floor bedroom has an original fireplace

In 2013, following a bargain-basement purchase of the site for an estimated €2 million-plus by a subsidiary of New Generation Homes, planning was secured to develop a low-density scheme of luxury homes on the grounds and convert the Georgian house to four luxury apartments. The plans may have proceeded but the ownership passed in 2015 to Bushnell Investments, backed by the Newry-based McGreevy family.

Furnished showhouse

Thirteen luxury homes on the grounds, launched in May and priced around €1 million apiece, have all sold except for the furnished showhouse, currently seeking €1.275 million.

Today sees the long-awaited launch of three extra-large apartments out of four that have been created on each floor of the Georgian villa. The fourth penthouse apartment, with a substantial roof terrace, sold prior to launch for an undisclosed sum, according to Sherry FitzGerald selling agent Greg Coffey.

Neptune House ground floor entrance, Blackrock
Ornate plasterwork in the entrance to the the apartment

Ferreira Architecture, with its experience in period home conversions alongside new homes design on traditional estates, led the refurbishment of Neptune House. Ranging in size between 186sq m (2,000sq ft) with two bedrooms and 234sq m (2,519sq ft) with three bedrooms, these are enormous apartments by Irish standards, not to mention the proportions of the rooms within such a grand design.

Planning requirements dictated that each apartment within the protected building had to be designed while retaining every element of the existing structure – meaning entire rooms had to be retained intact to ensure the continuity of flow of ornate plasterwork. Dividing walls couldn’t be introduced, so the workaround in some cases is rooms within rooms.

This is most evident in the ground level two-bed apartment accessed via a flight of granite steps and the beautifully restored double-height front hall. Although it’s the only two-bed this is the most impressive of the three apartments as it occupies the best receptions in the house and as a consequence features the most ornate restored plasterwork by master stuccodore Patrick Osborne.

To ensure the original features were not tampered with, the main reception in the original drawingroom is divided between the kitchen and living area by a freestanding shelved partition that runs shy of the original ceiling and walls. The result allows the impressive original features to really shine.

This room also features a beautiful recessed French window anchoring one end and two very fine original stained glass double casement windows in full working order, with restored sash windows set behind. The main bedroom is laid out similarly, with an original fireplace and dual aspect views through five floor-to-ceiling sash windows (with remote-control blinds).

Original proportions

Again the bathroom and dressing area are set within the frame of the room to the rear of the bed in order not to lose the original proportions. At €1.4 million this is probably one of the most expensive two-beds in Dublin at the moment. But for anyone downsizing from a substantial period home the surrounds here would certainly ensure a seamless transition.

The three-bed apartments above, 209sq m (2,249 sq ft), and below, 234sq m (2519 sq ft), are seeking €1.5million apiece, and, similar to the ground floor apartment, have been tastefully laid out by House and Garden Furnishings. (All furniture, fittings and appliances are included in the sale.) With floors of engineered oak parquet, solid wood internal doors, gas-fired central heating and fully fitted kitchens and wardrobes by FitzGerald, the finish everywhere is to a very high standard.

Neptune House entrance, Blackrock
Neptune House entrance, Blackrock

The garden-level apartment has the advantage of opening directly to a substantial railed-in terrace which, with a little planting, could easily be shielded from the new houses opposite.

Outside is nicely landscaped, though it needs time to mature. Parking is plentiful and a one-way access system has been introduced, with entry via Monkstown Road and departure via Seapoint Road.

Another scheme of luxury apartments currently for sale in Dublin, also through Sherry FitzGerald, is Lansdowne Place, on the site of the former Berkeley Court Hotel. Units there are commanding eye-watering rates of around €1,000 per sq ft. Neptune House comes in around €650 per sq ft which may offer value to those less hung up on walking distance to town and who might prefer the surround of sea and suburbs.

So far Coffey says the main interest – and the “walk-throughs” have begun for interested parties – is from local downsizers and Irish professionals abroad planning a move back to Dublin in a few years. It’s certainly a refreshing alternative to the standard apartment offering and, if successful, it might pave the way for more similarly interesting boutique schemes.