Georgian country style in D4 for a royal penny

One of Dublin’s oldest homes once visited by Queen Victoria on market for €2.75m

 

Belmont Avenue in Dublin 4 is a road you could easily miss. Linking the busy thoroughfares of Donnybrook and Ranelagh it’s a long, narrow artery flanked on both sides by a mix of Victorian and Edwardian terraced properties and mid-century semi-d’s. Number 70, Belmont House, sits at the Ranelagh end and it stands apart from its neighbours for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it is one of the few detached gated properties on this road. Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, it is one of the oldest surviving houses in south Dublin. Dating from the Georgian era, it is known to have been in existence since 1760, although documents from the 1720s also refer to a “house and garden” on Coldblow Lane.

Coldblow Lane – named after estate owner Colonel Coldblow – was a public road that ran from Milltown Park Estate, and Belmont House most likely originally belonged to this estate. It’s situated about 100 metres from the main entrance.

When the estate was purchased in 1858 by the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus to create a Jesuit novitiate, Belmont House was not included. Coldblow Lane at that point had been renamed Belmont Avenue after Belmont House. Local lore has it that it was a dower house, or perhaps more racily, a house built for the mistress of one of the early owners of Milltown Park.

Early maps would indicate it was used as a coach house for the estate. And the lore doesn’t end there. Belmont House’s treasured claim to fame is that Queen Victoria on her tour to Ireland in 1849 was taken short and popped in to spend a royal penny at Belmont House while en route to visit William Dargan at Mount Anville.

Today the handsome, ivy-clad Georgian stands on a quarter acre site behind electric gates – its substantial grounds originally stretched back as far as Eglinton Road but were hived off for development in the 1930s.

Four up, four down

Belmont has been owned by the St John family since they moved there as a young family in the 1970s. The late Tom St John owned the Capital, Ambassador, Academy and Regent cinemas while his late wife, Maeve, was a daughter of the Dublin based Kennedy Bakery chain.

They chose to raise their five children within walking distance of the city centre because Tom resolved early on “he didn’t want to have to get up at night to collect any of the children from around town”, as his daughter Frances recalls.

The family has placed Belmont House on the market through Sherry FitzGerald asking €2.75million.

A solid, two-storey Georgian with 345sq m (3,700sq ft), it’s very much a country house in the city, of which, at this point, there are very few. It adheres to the simple four up, four down room layout. To the left and right of the fanlit entrance hall are the living and diningrooms – both well proportioned and bright with square bay windows.

The original fireplace was replaced in the livingroom at some point, and sacrificed in the diningroom to facilitate the addition of an adjoining kitchen to the side of the house in the 1970s.

The St Johns also added a courtyard to the side and a familyroom to the rear. Given the strict protection that applies to the original Georgian structure, it’s most likely new owners will seek to contemporise this side of the house, possibly taking down the courtyard wall and creating a better interface between the garden and the kitchen/family area.

The most elegant room in the house is the fine drawingroom to the rear with a lovely bay window incorporating French windows to the side garden. Original ceiling cornices, a picture rail and open marble fireplace and hearth add to the grandeur.

The bedroom above occupies the identical floor space, and makes for an impressive master bedroom with en suite. There are three further bedrooms upstairs (one en suite), and the smallest features the lovely arched window above the front door.

Investment required

With bathrooms on the landing and to the rear downstairs, and extensive cellar space – largely occupied by a jumbo boiler – buyers of Belmont House are looking at a blank canvas. Anyone with €2.75 million or thereabouts to spend on this property will likely have the additional wherewithal to fully proof it for modern living, and significant further investment is definitely required. An upside is that many of the changes could be contained within the existing floor space without further compromising the west-facing rear garden.

This is mainly in lawn bordered by mature trees, and was landscaped recently with boundary plants of olive and bay trees. It wraps around to the walled, gravelled and carefully planted front where there is ample parking.

Across the road from the main entrance to Belmont House is a development site backing on to Muckross College which received planning last September for four substantial four and five-bedroom homes with access from Belmont Avenue.

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