The old ones with modern flourishes are the best

Eskbank on Cork’s Old Blackrock Rd dates back 150 years but has modern flourishes, says Tommy Barker.

Eskbank on Cork's Old Blackrock Rd.

There’s fertile ground, as well as a top location, at Eskbank, a distinctive and detached Cork City home, on private grounds with a market garden/garden centre history, all within a walk of the city centre, and close to just about every daily-need amenity.

Dating back almost 150 years, to about the 1880s, the squarely solid home last sold about 18 years ago, bought by a young family who’d returned from the US, to run a bar business in the city.

The convenience of the location they’d selected to move to, on the Old Blackrock Road, meant an ability to walk to and from work, day or night, and in ensuing years it meant that their children also could walk to and from city schools.

Now, with one in college and one heading out of school this year, it’s suddenly downsizing time, with the family on the hunt for a smaller home, hopefully in as handy a location. Sell first, home-hunt next; the sensible plan.

Hence Eskbank’s arrival on the open market. It’s listed with estate agent Jackie Cohalan of Cohalan Downing Associates, carrying a, €875,000 asking price, for its 2,300 sq ft of comfortable space, full of character.

It’s set on c 0.2 acres at the Blackrock end of the Old Blackrock Rd, and back in its heyday, Eskbank would have been one of the grander, detached family homes in this vicinity on decent grounds (and, it shares its name with a Midlothian area and rail station in Scotland.)

Previous and long-time owners of Cork’s Eskbank were the Browne family, and today’s occupants bought about 18 years ago from gardener, broadcaster, and musician Billy Browne, whose family had been here at Eskbank possibly since the late 1800s.

The hugely popular Billy Browne had a radio gardening slot on Cork’s RTE with Donna O’Sullivan, and was a sax player in showbands since the 1950s. He had a garden centre business by Academy St/St Patrick’s Street in the mid-1900s also, Browne Thompson, and later moved it out here to the Old Blackrock Rd and to his family home and acreage at Eskbank.

Then, in the 1990s, Mr Browne (who died in 2005, close to 80 years of age) sold much of the garden centre/market garden ground to the south of his home to developers O’Brien and O’Flynn, who developed the Rochelle Park scheme of short runs of terraced homes, off Victoria Avenue. He followed on around 2000, selling Eskbank itself to its current owners, as he himself prepared to trade down.

A modern kitchen fitted in a 150-year-old house.

Jackie Cohalan says it’s bright and accommodating and has been very well kept in the next ownership, and still in pride of place is a dwarf, arching Japanese maple in the grounds, opposite the front door, and which, at about 60 years of age, was a proud favourite of Billy Browne.

Even with so much of its original grounds now sold on, and long-since built upon, there’s still a good deal of garden and private space left, and handily there’s most of the ground to the south, away from the Old Blackrock Road entrance.

Not only that, but there’s almost a novelty in being able to drive a car right around the house, so super-handy for easy traffic flows of family cars and visitors.

Visits started in earnest this week from aspiring home hunters, and the viewer/buyer profile will be quite intriguing to track.

Auctioneer Jackie Cohalan was busy in the run-up to Christmas with sales of the upmarket, new homes development Botanika, less than 1km away on the Blackrock Road, by Cleve Hill, where most of 14 detacheds of c 2,370 sq ft were sold/booked swiftly, at prices of €820,000/€850,000.

That’s sort of the ballpark figure for Eskbank, at its €875,000 guide, so perhaps there’ll be the same sort of trading-up demographic that considered Botanika, with its A-rated new builds in a development of over 30 units, and a cachet, coveted ‘Blackrock’ monicker in the address.

Then again, Eskbank is a different proposition, with a genteel ‘Old’ Blackrock Rd address, balanced with city-end conveniences. It’s a period home, of similar size to Botanika’s detacheds, but in just about every other respect has a different feel and attributes.

For example, it come in with an E2 BER, which reflects its age, yet feels warm and comfortable, has two of its four first-floor bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, and has had the benefit of a round of modernising upgrades done around 2008.

It had been briefly on the market in 2006, with a €950,000 price guide, and when the owners decided to stay, they invested further in it, so that means that the kitchen, bathrooms with contemporary fittings, and other elements are all very fresh and up to date, without impinging on the house’s original character, and much of the original woodwork, such as floors and staircase, has been retained in good order and enhanced.

It’s defined too by things like high ceilings and good proportions in main rooms, with some feature exposed stone walls internally, and reminders in some bedrooms of old fireplaces such as a smooth limestone hearth in one of the four bedrooms.

Elsewhere, there’s a powerful wood-burning stove wall-mounted in the main reception room,
backed by a polished concrete
surround, and this large room is cosy and carpeted, with corniced ceilings, a double aspect, west and south, with a bay window flooding it with light from south, and with garden views too.

The front facade is asymmetrical, with bay to the left, while the main daily family life living room is across the oak-floored central hall, and has two windows facing the gardens, with southerly aspect. This room too has simply corniced, high ceilings, and a broad, stone fireplace, with very powerful gas-fired stove churning out the heat: this is very much the heart of the home and links to the kitchen/dining room for an easy internal flow of day-to-day life.

The kitchen’s under sloping ceilings, with some exposed stone wall on high, has overhead Veluxes, and windows to the east for morning sun, with a Rangemaster cooker among a plethora of integrated appliances.

There’s a utility room as back-up, and off the kitchen, yet linked to it and under a lower ceiling, is a family dining/breakfast area with access back to the hall.

Elsewhere at ground level, and handily balancing out the mix of open plan area and more self-contained one, is a study, with pine flooring, and an open fireplace, in crazy-paving style stone. Not crazy about the look? It’s easily updated, with a skim of plaster.

Thanks to the high ceilings, there’s no mistaking the fact you’re in a home built in a more gracious and generous era, and there’s an easy flow up the original staircase with polished handrail to a half-landing, where there’s a family bathroom, all freshly tiled and with a large shower. Continue up the next half-flight, and there are four bedrooms, doubles but in

dividually shaped.

The master bedroom has a corner robe, old polished wood floor, and several steps down to an en suite bathroom, again extensively tiled, with a jetted jacuzzi bath, with overhead shower and contemporary wash stand unit.

Another bedroom has two south-facing windows (most, if not all windows are replaced with double glazing), and the varied bedroom mix includes a walk-in robe in one, and a wet room/en suite in another.

There’s a Stira access to an attic (might there be attic conversion potential for a playroom or some such?) and, usefully too, there’s easy access on the stair return to eaves-style storage.

 

The mix of four bedrooms, two en suites, and three reception rooms makes the well-presented Eskbank very useful for any next occupants, as it ticks all the essential boxes — and then some.

Yet, for those who are going to be drawn to the location and the period home roots, there’s more you could do, sooner or later.

It’s extendable in just about every direction, at single or two-storey levels, and a sun-room addition would add to the elegance of this period-era home.

New owners can make their own stamp with simple expedients like changing the exterior wall colour, or doing a second planting blitz in the gardens at Eskbank, and there’s a sheer appeal for sure in just rolling up the drive, swinging the gates shut, and knowing you’ve a private oasis to get stuck into.

VERDICT:

With those gates shut, you could be home, or away, the city world on the doorstep won’t know, and there’s the expedient of a separate, adjacent pedestrian gate for easy comings and goings, walks to town, or to the Marina, to shops and cafes, and to schools, thanks to a bang-on location.

Old Blackrock Road,
Cork City

€875,000

Size: 213sq m (2,293sq ft)

Bedrooms: 4

Bathrooms: 4

BER: E2

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