€1.5m nineteenth-century marine villa sits right on the Louth coast
This 19th-century marine villa sits right on the coast
Published 28/10/2016 | 02:30
When Samuel Lewis published his Topographical Dictionary of Ireland in 1837, he found himself unable to thank all the contributors individually who had sent him the particulars of every town, village and parish in the country.
He wrote: "To thank them all would present a record of the names of nearly all the most intelligent resident gentlemen in Ireland".
And so the "most intelligent resident gentlemen" (numbers untold) had to be satisfied with that rather limp excuse for not seeing their names in print.
However, the correspondent for Blackrock, Co Louth, doesn't seem to have put himself to a lot of trouble. The entry for the pretty fishing village is not much above 100 words long, although the nameless "intelligent resident gentleman" in this case was quite taken with the place.
The beach, he wrote, was "smooth and soft", and much frequented by "the farmers of the inland counties". And Blackrock might become a more fashionable watering place with the help of some improvements, he mused.
Lewis's man in Blackrock was also taken with Sandymount House, enviably situated down on the seashore, describing it as "a beautiful marine villa" owned by Alexander Shekelton (variously spelled Shekleton and Sheckleton) - the founder and owner of a well-regarded ironworks in nearby Dundalk.
Had Lewis published another Topographical Dictionary a few decades later, he would have reported both the house and the village itself much improved.
In the mid-19th century the denizens of Blackrock began a series of enhancements to draw holidaymakers, building a promenade, a sea wall, several hotels and even, much later, Ireland's first 50-metre swimming pool - filled with seawater and quite short-lived.
Sandymount House, meanwhile, had begun as a blockish symmetrical house when it was built in 1830 but it became much bigger and much more prepossessing some decades later.
A new perpendicular wing was added in the 1880s, making the house L-shaped, with a lean-to conservatory to the south, and giving it a substantial floor area of 4,640 sq ft.
It's on two storeys with a basement under one leg of the L and has original features including windowsills in cast iron - a legacy of Shekelton's ownership and a feature that pleases the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage no end. There are sliding sash windows along with casements, and elegant arched windows on the first floor, but, sadly, some of the windows have been replaced with PVC.
Streetside the house faces due west, with granite steps up to a bowed entrance and double wooden doors. From the street you'll also notice a lovely oriel window on the end of the 'new' wing. On two floors, it gives light to both the kitchen and one of the upstairs bedrooms.
It's when you make your way around to the back, though, that you discover the property's best angle. This elevation faces due east and sits right on the coast, and from here you can look past smooth, curved lawns, over Dundalk Bay towards the Cooley Mountains away to the north.
There's another grand bowed entrance porch on this side, with glazed double doors, and bay windows to the left and right of it. This is where the three reception rooms are, in a symmetrical layout, getting the best of the views.
This porch opens directly into the main reception room, a drawing room, with long sea views. The room is high-ceilinged, with a marble fireplace against the cold. When the weather's clement, though, your feet will likely follow your eyes towards the glass doors and the sea beyond.
There's a reception room on either side of this drawing room, both the same size. To the left is a study or lounge, dual-aspect and with a fireplace. To the right is the dining room, also dual-aspect and with another fireplace - a timber one.
All these rooms give onto a hallway at the 'front' of the house, where there's a marble staircase rising to the first floor. Keep going past the stairs and you'll reach the conservatory. Turn right and you're in the 'new' wing, which has a breakfast room or family room and then a country-style kitchen with an Aga.
There's another flight of stairs in the kitchen, this time going down to the basement, where there's a games room and sauna, along with a utility room.
The five bedrooms are all on the first floor, with the master bedroom corresponding to the drawing room below, and three of them are en-suite.
The property is on 2.5 acres of grounds, mostly in lawn sloping down to the sea, with an abundance of mature trees. Near the water's edge is a sort of brick pavilion for outdoor recreation such as barbecuing or passive sea-gazing. There's also a floodlit tennis court, so you can play tennis by day or night - or both, if you're unusually dedicated to the game.
Blackrock is on the outskirts of Dundalk, about five kilometres from the town centre. Dundalk Golf Club is there, less than a kilometre from the house. Dublin Airport is about an hour's drive down the M1.
Intelligent gentlemen and women who would like to be resident at Sandymount House will pay €1.5m for the privilege through Sherry FitzGerald County Homes and Sherry FitzGerald Carroll.
Asking price: €1.5m
Agents: Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes (01) 237 6300; Sherry FitzGerald Carroll in Dundalk (042) 933 2173