Georgian home suitable for bathers in Bray for €780,000

Lodge with five bedrooms is full of salvage finds that set off restored original features

  • Address: Arbutus Lodge, Dublin Road, Bray, Co Wicklow
  • Price: € 780,000
  • Agent: Sherry FitzGerald

While many people over the past week will have taken to the waters of Bray to cool down from the heatwave, the promotion of health benefits of sea bathing in the Victorian seaside town dates back more than two centuries. Arbutus Lodge, a five-bedroom Georgian lodge on the Dublin Road, was recorded in 1793 as a bathing lodge to cater for the influx of tourists visiting the town, and again in 1836 on an Ordnance Survey map as “let to people to receive the benefits of salt water”. With a tidal wave of people now taking to the sea to swim all year round, for many homebuyers proximity to the water will be a big box ticked on the bucket list of house requirements.

With its backdrop of the Wicklow mountains and the curative sea bathing properties, Bray’s attractions today are much the same as for those people who moved there in Victorian times. While today it’s all Dryrobes and special costumes, in 1900 magazines advertised the first bathing dresses for women, which were unfortunately made of wool – so they clung to the body when wet, accentuating the very body they were meant to conceal – so for a time, women stopped bathing altogether.

Arbutus Lodge, which is one of the older homes in Bray, takes its name from one of the specimen trees found in its lovely gardens. It was purchased 30 years ago by the current owners, who say it was quite by accident they ended up there, as they had already bought a home in Ballinteer. “It was a real hidden gem, had great character and a gorgeous garden. We came to have a look on a Saturday and bought it at auction on the following Tuesday,” the couple said, noting that it was love at first sight with the property.

The couple “begged and borrowed” to get the house in order as it had to be rewired, replumbed and plastered. “We had no kitchen then, so we made a makeshift one using old pine shutters to get us through.” It is often in cases such as this that gems pop up in the most unlikely of places. When stripping plasterwork above the diningroom door, they found an old ship’s beam used as a lintel, which is now exposed for effect. Many properties near the sea would have utilised wood from boats run aground or sunk, due to its durability.

Other pieces of interest – in an already most interesting property – include a restored rolltop bath, an Art Deco wash basin and the flooring in the kitchen, which the couple found in a shop in Fulham. “We were looking at this wonderful natural stone flooring but it was beyond our budget, then the owner said he had a consignment left over from the renovation of a chateau in France, so we shipped it over and we made slate inserts to give it character.” The lovely front door, which has been reconditioned and fits perfectly with the character of the property, was found in a skip in Dún Laoghaire, and the conservatory was built using old pitch pine from a bonded whiskey warehouse in Belfast.

In 2018 the gardens, which are heaving with plants, giving a myriad of year-round colour and making photography of the exterior of the house itself difficult, underwent a renovation themselves, with the addition of areas for dining and lounging. As luck would have it, old stone pillars were found when building garden walls; they were promptly dug up and they now frame the entrance to the vehicular parking area.

Extending to 215sq m (2,314sq ft) with five bedrooms and a BER of F, Arbutus Lodge is a real hidden gem, and many people who pass it on a daily basis are unaware of its existence. This is all part of its charm, along with its period details and enchanting garden. It is now on the market though Sherry FitzGerald seeking €780,000.