Jacob’s biscuit family’s Burnaby home on the market for €2.85m

Moorlands, in Greystones, Co Wicklow, was built in the early 1900s for the chairman of W&R Jacob

Moorlands, Whitshed Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow.
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Address: Moorlands, Whitshed Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow
Price: €2,850,000
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald

“What you see behind me is ... possibly the finest house in the Burnaby,” says journalist Peter Murtagh, in a short film entitled A stroll through the Burnaby made for Heritage Week 2013, and he’s standing in front of Moorlands, on Whitshed Road in Greystones, Co Wicklow.

The Burnaby estate was built between 1895 and 1910 on lands belonging to the pioneering author, mountaineer, photographer and film-maker Elizabeth Hawkins-Whitshed who was born in Killincarrick Farmhouse, a bit to the southwest of Moorlands, in 1860.

At the age of 11 she inherited her family’s 2,000-acre landholding and at 19 she married the soldier, author and adventurer Col Frederick Gustavus Burnaby, after whom the estate was named.

Entrance hall
Bay window

In 1901, according to details supplied by the current owners, a lease on Moorlands was granted to George Jacob, who was chairman of W&R Jacob, the biscuit company, from 1902 to 1931. (On Easter Monday 1916 the factory, on a strategic site at Bishop Street/Peter Row in Dublin, was seized by Thomas Mac Donagh and about 100 Irish Volunteers.)


In the same year, the architect Frank Batchelor of the Dublin firm Carroll and Batchelor designed a “House at Greystones for George N Jacob Esq”, which was completed in 1905 or so. The modern plans of the house, with 467 sq m (5,027 sq ft) over three floors, are included in the online listing, but anyone who goes to see it will be captivated by the three softly coloured hand-drawn originals that are framed and displayed on the way up the main stairs.

Having bought the house in 1983, Michael and Mary reared their five children here and are planning to scale down locally, putting Moorlands on the market through Sherry FitzGerald with an asking price of €2.85 million.

Living room

The property, on almost an acre, has an immediate appeal from the entrance off the south side of Whitshed Road, with a curving drive, majestic eucalyptus trees and a big flower bed that smells of currant bushes.

Described in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage as “a well-preserved Edwardian residence with distinctive built-in corner porch”, the exterior of Moorlands displays the distinctive details that characterise the Burnaby houses and are described in the inventory: mock-Tudor woodwork; gabled projections to the front and side, with tile cladding at the apexes and a slight overhang on the roof; original timber casement windows; and curved windows in the entrance porch.

On entering the quarry-tiled porch, with the original lock and key still in the door, it’s plain that the succession of owners have respected every part of the house, which is Ber-exempt, from doors to floors and from finger-plates to fireplaces.

Steps leading up to the back of the house
The back of the house
A view of the gardens
The landscaped gardens

The hall, with exquisite Arts and Crafts leaded glass and a deep window seat, has a corner fireplace tiled in dark blue, with a push-bell either side for the Jacobs to summon their servants. The main stairs start here, and you can glimpse the corner of the wooden back stairs through the corridor that leads to the kitchen.

Off this is the drawing room, which includes the most decorative part of the house; a classical fireplace with copper inset. A baby grand piano sits in what agent Gordon Lennox describes as a “pentagonal window”, which projects very appealingly from the south-eastern corner. The hall also opens to the dining room and both of these give on to the south-facing veranda, lined with timber struts shaped like the porch door and echoed on the landing.

In the dining room is a notable inglenook fireplace, with the cosiest seats imaginable and a place where Mary says Michael likes to get especially creative with the Christmas decorations. As a neat encapsulation of Batchelor’s excellence in capturing borrowed light throughout the house — most rooms have at least one window — a little leaded window shines in from the hall.

The sea view from the house

Beyond this is a TV snug (marked on the original plans as “Mistresses pantry”) with glazed doors to a glassy garden room with a dining table and access to both kitchen and garden, with a courtyard tucked in to trap westerly sun. The kitchen was extended by a previous owner and refreshed most recently in 2005, to give simple cream units and a granite-topped island.

The scullery and larder have been replaced by a well-planned utility, with adjacent access to the outside. To the right of the back stairs, the pantry on the original plans is now a neat little office with a view of the drive, and a bathroom retains original fittings including a wooden cistern. There is a second workspace on the turn of the back stairs.

On the first floor, past those perfect plans and through the wooden arch, five bedrooms (two with en suite) are arranged in easy flow. The main bedroom is above the drawing room and its pentagonal window gives views across the trees to the sea. The corridor is lit by a lovely window seat at the end.

On the top floor are a sixth bedroom and a room described as a studio, along with a large pitched-roof loft used as a games room. A projecting corner window draws in lots of light that filters through a glass floor-panel to the landing below.

Outside, the well-planted garden stretches southwards, with paths hugging the boundary — and the lawn, formerly used for croquet, would be great for a party. With secret sheltered dells in a setting reminiscent of unspoilt west Cork, Moorlands has a rare charm.

Joyce Hickey

Joyce Hickey

Joyce Hickey is an Irish Times journalist