Thursday 25 December 2014

Paddington Bear's dream estate: Beautiful homes in Burnaby

A batch of beautiful homes are for sale in North Wicklow.

Published 04/07/2014 | 02:30

Fairfield House at Somerby Road, the features include sliding sash windows, a characteristic timbered verandah, ornate ceiling work, architraves and finely crafted internal doors.
Fairfield House at Somerby Road, the features include sliding sash windows, a characteristic timbered verandah, ornate ceiling work, architraves and finely crafted internal doors.
Meadowbank is a five bedroom detatched Edwardian dating from 1910 and is on the market for €1.375m
The view from the verandah at Meadowbank

A brace of homes for sale in North Wicklow are part of the tantalising evidence that a Dublin Batchelor pioneered the Garden City Movement, writes Mark Keenan

IF Paddington Bear had to to live somewhere in Ireland, he'd most certainly plump for the Burnaby in Greystones – as quintessentially urbane an estate and (arguably) as traditionally English middle class in its character as the marmalade sandwich.

Combining elements of both progressive and regimented empirical Victorian British thinking in its design, the largely Edwardian North Wicklow residential pocket is also Ireland's very first truly purpose planned modern suburban estate in the Garden City style.

For that reason the Burnaby is very special indeed.

Not only because the Burnaby is the daddy of all of urban Ireland's bog standard semi-d estates with their grass verges, back gardens and public greens/parks, but also because the Garden City movement hadn't been invented when work started on its leafy lanes back in 1895.

The original plans of Fred Batchelor, the Dublin based architect who envisioned the Burnaby, easily predate the British Garden City Movement heralded by the publication three years later in 1898 of Ebenezer Howard's revolutionary planning manifesto: “Garden Cities of Tomorrow.”

It begs the mischievous question: might Howard (whose grand design movement has since spread worldwide) have ultimately been inspired in Ireland during a “kiss me quick” deck chairs and sticks-of-rock seaside holiday spent at Greystones? It was then a popular Victorian resort for both English and Irish city dwellers.

If this wasn’t the case, it still can’t be disputed that the Dubliner had the drop on old Ebeneezer with all of these new and exciting ideas.

Burnaby-House.jpg

Work got under way at the Burnaby in 1895 and concluded in 1910 while the first English based examples of purpose built and planned estates with parks, rural locations and rail links were Letchworth Garden City (1898), Hampstead in London (1906) and Welwyn Garden City (1920).

The Garden City movement, was a backlash against cheek by jowl filthy overcrowded cities and sought purpose planned urbanised country estates with plenty of wide and open spaces linked by rail to the city. Up to this, homes were either built in tightly packed terraces or one or two at a time to no apparent plan.

Big communal green areas (the “garden” bit) were provided while the designs of the homes that resulted were largely the Arts and Crafts influenced “Domestic Revival” style characterised by beamed gables, dormers, ornate and tall chimneys that leant the homes a “mock medieval” appearance. This was certainly also the case at the Burnaby.

The Greystones estate was also rather uniquely developed by a lady – Mrs Burnaby (Elizabeth Hawkins Whitshed) the ebullient widow of a derring-do great-British hero – Colonel Fred Burnaby, after which the estate was named.

Elizabeth was herself a well known mountaineer while Fred, a cavalry officer, famous for his extraordinary exploits as an explorer and a fighter; preferred to take on native hordes in foreign lands wielding only a double barrelled shotgun (he deployed the butt end as well as the barrels).

meadowbank.JPG

He published a series of best selling books on his capers and was widely known in his day as an Allan Quatermain type character. There are also numerous depictions of his heroic Custer-style ending – surrounded by spear wielding Mahdi Sudanese and he with a sabre drawn. He was encicrcled on the way to relieve Gordon at Khartoum and as battle ensued he told a ‘Telegraph’ reporter who later witnessed his death – that he had left his shotgun at home for this trip after a liberal press outrage asserted that despatching Arabs at close quarters with grapeshot was just not sporting.

The first residents at the Burnaby were wealthy Irish based merchants and shop keepers including the Carrolls cigarette family, the Williams of Tullamore whiskey fame and the Brittens who manufactured Austin Morris cars in Dublin's Portobello.

There was a Dr Heuston, who was responsible for introducing the first pekingese dog to Ireland and Eamon DeValera's family lived here for a time.

But in the first half of the 20th Century they were soon followed by a swarm of retired English military officers – both in Colonel Burnaby and Colonel Blimp modes – who came here for a life of leisure (golf and rugby) by the sea in an Ireland where their sterling pensions stretched much further than in their native Blighty.

Some claim the stiff upper lips they brought with them still prevail in the Burnaby's leafy lanes, especially after some recent planning battles.

More recently Burnabites have included Ronnie Drew, Anglo boss Sean FitzPatrick as well as former ‘Sunday Tribune’ editor Peter Murtagh who has been known to give guided tours on the estate's history and its varied menagerie of former residents and characters.

At the top of the boom in 2007 when priced ranged from €1.7m to €3.5m, the values of the substantial gardens here rocketed and some were worth up to €1m at peak.

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This helped spark a conflict between the local nimbys (not in my back yard) anxious to protect the unique historical architectural density of the estate and the dimbys (definitely in my back yard) who were falling themselves make a packet by flogging off half of theirs at the top of the market.

The crash silenced that battle, but with prices now edging up again and with the local authority seeking greater densities, this is a controversy which could reignite.

In the past many who would have given their monocle eye to live in the Burnaby over the years have faced a long wait before a suitable home has arrived to market – but this week two have just come along at once through Sherry FitzGerald, with one pristine in its original condition and the other one full modernised.

Meadowbank is a five bedroom detached Edwardian dating from 1910 which is located at Whitshed Road. It is characterised by high ceilings, decorative plasterwork, genteely rustic timber ceiling beams, casement windows, pitch pine flooring and pitched features in the bedrooms. Accommodation includes a hall, drawing room, family and living room, a dining room, a kitchen, utility room, an office, shower room, wc, five double bedrooms, a separate bathroom and a floored attic.

There's a large enclosed courtyard just off the kitchen and the house comes with its original garden of almost an acre (0.88) for which the estate has become famous. Sherry FitzGerald seeks €1.3m.

Also for sale is Fairfield House at Somerby Road which was built earlier in 1901. Here the features include sliding sash windows, a characteristic timbered verandah, ornate ceiling work, architraves and finely crafted internal doors.

Accommodation includes a kitchen, a family room, a dining room, a drawing room, a library/living room and a conservatory. Upstairs there are five bedrooms and a bathroom with a dressing room off it. The garden here is a half acre with a “secret” hidden wooded garden.

In this case Sherry FitzGerald's Greystones branch (01 2874 005) seeks €1.375m.

Both sales will determine whether Burnaby prices have edged up over the €1m mark again after years in the bunker.

It might take somewhat longer to determine whether Ebenezer Howard took summer hols in Greystones.

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