Period drama in French style on Canal bank


I’m thinking period mystery drama. I can half-imagine Miss Marple taking tea in the front room, her seemingly-inconsequential chatter revealidng clues about who did what to whom, and why as, outside, swans glide along the canal beneath stately trees. Diners on the restaurant-barge La Peniche , moored opposite, may or may not have had something to do with it. Later, Miss Marple will go downstairs to the perfectly period Victorian kitchen to question the servants, and a glance up at the old-fashioned bell-pull board will give her the revelation for the final piece of the puzzle to fall into place.

All these elements – the wallpapers, painted floorboards, rag rugs, pantry, gas fires, flawed glass and antiquated radiators – are what gives 35 Mespil Road its astonishingly authentic charm. They will also undoubtedly be the first things to go when the new owners rewire, reglaze and recondition the original sash windows, strip out and generally gut the house. Because, while period dramas call to our love of nostalgic charm, the 21st-century family likes creature comforts and has a different sense of style.

No doubt an Aga will go in under the porcelain tiled arch in the spacious garden-level kitchen. The pantry might become a utility room and, as the neighbours on both sides have added kitchen extensions and conservatories to the rear, eating up just a little of their south-facing walled gardens, all that’s up for change too. At the moment, the back of the house feels a little dark, although that has more to do with the Victorian affection for dark brown paint than with the aspect and availability of light.

It is a house, to use the well-worn estate agents’ cliche, that brims with potential. Right on the canal, the shops and restaurants of Upper Baggot Street are just around the corner and the city centre is a charming walk away. There’s space at the front for off-street parking, and it’s rare enough for a house to come up for sale in this location that has not been divided into flats or offices. It’s also unusual that the vendors in this executor’s sale have opted to try their luck at auction.

It’s also a house with history, and a plaque to prove it. William Percy French, the singer, songwriter, artist, journalist and engineer, lived here from 1894 to 1900. The composer of The Mountains of Mourne , and Are Ye Right there Michael? , was also, for a time, an inspector of drains – although that isn’t mentioned on the plaque. The Percy French Society has met here in the past.

Looking around, and soaking up the strong sense of history, the original fireplaces and surrounds are most likely to survive the inevitable modernisation, but I’m already regretting the passing of the gas fire with its special attachment to boil a kettle, the romantic light fittings and all that wonderful wallpaper. However, I’m not sure I could shower in the modern plastic cubicle without a qualm and the bathrooms will need updating.

Currently the house has three bedrooms over three floors, with bathrooms on the returns, though there’s room for some internal juggling. There is also a dining room at garden level, and a sitting room and drawing room on the entrance floor, to which there is a flight of stone steps. With a bit of work and vision, Number 35 will make a very elegant and practical family home in a great location, though you might want to consider letting the film crews in first.

The house is scheduled for auction through Lisney on April 10th, unless previously sold.