Cork's gift that keeps on giving
A luxury home in Cork was a present left in a will
Published 18/09/2015 | 02:30
It isn't every friend who'd be generous enough to bequeath you a house. But Woodsgift, at Blackrock Road in Cork, was just what its name implies - a gift from one John Woods to his friend, the city merchant Pope Gray, as contained in his will.
Gray was gracious enough to publicise this extraordinarily friendly gesture by naming the house in honour of it, etching 'Woods Gift' into a plaque outside the house together with the Gray family crest. The family motto, still perfectly legible beneath the crest today, reads, 'Praestare et Prodesse', which is Latin, roughly, for 'To Outstrip and Do Good'.
You might do the same if someone provided you gratis with a plush abode like this one.
History has not been scrupulous in recording to what extent Pope Gray succeeded in doing good, but what we do know is that, when it came to the outstripping side of things, he was no slouch.
One evening in 1869, Gray - by then an invalid - was lounging in his easy chair when Woodsgift was raided by four men armed with revolvers, reportedly Fenians.
They demanded of Mrs Gray that she hand over all arms in the house, and while she gave the impression she would comply, according to one contemporary report, instead she "adroitly slipped a seven-shooter into the hand of her husband".
Gray seized the moment and fired two shots, wounding one of the raiders and inspiring the other three to flee.
The injured man was taken to hospital where he died the next day. So despite the example of his benefactor and friend Mr Woods, Gray was not a man to give something away for free - not without a fight at least.
Sadly, there's no hope whatsoever of getting hold of Woodsgift for nothing these days. Instead it's on the market for the merchant princely sum of €1.75m.
For that you get 3,240 sq ft worth of graceful 19th century five-bedroom house in flawless condition, an adjoining one-bedroom coach house that's been perfectly restored, and 0.68 acres of lavishly planted gardens - all within a 20 minute walk of Cork City centre.
After a careful restoration by the current owners, it still has its period features, including high ceilings with cornicing, antique fireplaces and sash windows, though by now fitted with double glazing.
To that Victoriana has been added modern conveniences such as an alarm and CCTV, so the occupant need never by surprised by marauding Fenians again.
You can enter the property either through a red-brick pedestrian archway - under Gray's plaque - or by means of a curved driveway that takes you past the garden and around to the back of the house. There, a set of double French doors open from a south-facing patio into a glass porch and from there to the entrance hall, which has the main living rooms laid out on three sides of it.
To the left is a dining room, formally arranged, with two sash windows facing the front of the property. This opens into a drawing room with a marble fireplace.
Turning right in the entrance hall takes you into the kitchen, where there's a beamed ceiling, a wooden centre island and a green Aga set into a brick alcove.
The kitchen has a large bay window overlooking the side garden, and that's where the breakfast area is. A glass door in the kitchen leads to a back hall, and from there to the utility room.
Also off the entrance hall, at the front of the house, is a dual-aspect living room with an original fireplace and two bay windows overlooking the gardens.
Up on the first floor are four ensuite bedrooms, including the master bedroom which is directly above the living room below and so also has two bay windows looking east and south.
Above that level is a fifth ensuite bedroom in the attic, with exposed beams and skylights.
The coach house adjoins the main house but has its own front door. It consists of a kitchen and dining room with exposed beams, a sitting room, also with exposed beams, and a red-brick fireplace, a conservatory giving on to the patio, and one bedroom with an ensuite bathroom and walk-in wardrobe.
Above that there are two storerooms in the attic.
The gardens are packed with mature trees and shrubs, with a broad swathe of lawn, raised flowerbeds, and various patios, and with an old stone wall giving it privacy. Also on the grounds there's a garage with its own toilet.
It's an easy walk from Woodsgift to the city centre. A trip to the English Market, for instance, to buy a bit of smoked mackerel from that fishmonger who famously made the Queen of England laugh, should not take more than about half an hour.
Or you can make your way down to The Marina for a constitutional ramble in about 15 minutes or so.
Asking price: €1.75m
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Cork (021) 4273041