Sunday 26 January 2020

A Fangtastic Opportunity: 15 The Crescent, Clontarf

15 The Crescent Clontarf
15 The Crescent Clontarf

Dracula creator Bram Stoker spent his formative years in a Clontarf home whose price has been slashed to €675,000. With only a week to go to the centenary of Stoker's death, Louise Hogan stakes out the property

Next Friday marks the centenary of the death of one of Ireland's most famous authors and it may also attract a buyer for his former family home -- 15 The Crescent, Clontarf.

This four-bedroom period townhouse, spread over four floors, is where Bram Stoker, the man who created the most famous vampire in the world, was born in 1847 and lived out his childhood.

What makes the house even more fascinating is that Stoker spent his first seven years practically bedridden inside the house, suffering from an undiagnosed illness which prevented him from crawling, walking or, indeed, playing with his six brothers and sisters.

As a virtual prisoner in his own home, Stoker relied heavily on those around him for help, and on his own vivid imagination for entertainment. Describing himself as "naturally thoughtful", his creative personality was fuelled by the wonderful view of the sea from his third floor bedroom window (inset) where he watched the stormy high tides crashing against the harbour.

Apart from the view, which would entertain him for hours, his mother Charlotte fed his already vivid imagination on a diet of dark, sinister bedtime stories that stimulated his appetite for the macabre.

Fantasy, discovery and adventure were the order of the day from very early on, and this never left him. In fact, some might say that this is the very house where Count Dracula was born.

Remarkably, by the age of seven, Stoker had made a complete physical recovery, even excelling as an athlete in Trinity College.

Following university, he took a position as a clerk in Dublin Castle but found it dull and monotonous. In 1878 he jumped at the chance offered by his close friend, the actor Henry Irving, to become manager of London's Lyceum Theatre.

Stoker married his girlfriend, Florence Balcombe of Number 1 The Crescent, in 1878 and the two moved to London where they lived until Bram's death in 1912. Sadly, Bram died unaware of the enormous impact Dracula would have on future generations of readers and film-goers.

His obituary in The Times on 22nd April 1912 reads "Bram Stoker's chief literary memorial will be his 'Reminiscences of Henry Irving'."

It would have been impossible in 1912 to predict that a century later Dracula would be Bram Stoker's chief literary memorial.

There is little evidence in Clontarf to mark the fact that Bram Stoker lived there. The popular Brams coffee shop at Marino Mart is the only indication of his presence.

The Bram Stoker Society managed to obtain a Dublin Tourism plaque at 30 Kildare Street where Stoker lived as a young adult, but were unable to convince Dublin and East Regional Tourism to purchase Bram's birthplace in Clontarf. The asking price for the house has been slashed from €750,000 to €675,000.

However it does have its challenges as it has no central heating and its refurbishment will need to be mindful of its status as a listed building when upgrading to a comfortable family home which respects its period features.

Alternatively the house might well pay for its own upgrading. For instance a couple might live in part of it, thus saving on rent, while at the same time operating a Bram Stoker museum in other parts of the house thus generating income from which to make it a more comfortable family home or even transform the whole house into a museum.

Its long 150 foot garden also has potential as a mews where the couple might live while devoting the main house to the museum.

They might contact some of the Bram Stoker and Dracula appreciation societies to assist them with this aspect.

Already the Stoker Dracula International Organisation, has signalled that it is interested in partnering with a government agency to buy it but unfortunately the Government cannot afford to get involved.

Judging by the global fascination with vampires around the world, the tourism industry would surely benefit from transforming Bram's house into a museum.

With most original features still intact, very little would have to be done to the house for this purpose. Its originality and authenticity would be an asset rather than a drawback, and minimal repairs would be required. The bedroom where Bram spent a large part of his childhood dreaming up tales that he would later write about would alone attract interest.

Another source of intrigue for museum visitors is the possibility of the house being haunted by the imaginary count. The many crucifixes, crosses and religious statues scattered throughout the interior suggest the current owners sought to ensure Stoker's creation would not become an unwelcome guest in the house.

At 204sqm, the property is large enough to accommodate tours and a gift shop. The basement kitchen, which still has its original beams, could house a coffee shop and there is plenty of room to extend to the rear.

T he hall leads to two interconnecting rooms, modest in size and in decoration.

Towards the front is a dining room which boasts a Victorian-style fireplace. Fold-back doors lead into a bow-shaped sitting room, currently being used as a child's playroom. The whole back of the house is bowed in shape, adding a bit of character to all the other garden-facing rooms.

On the first floor a room with period features benefits from double windows overlooking Bram Stoker Park to the front. The bow shaped room to the rear at this level also has original coving and it has been subdivided to add an en suite bathroom.

On the second floor there is a bedroom with a vaulted ceiling to the front.

The agents are Gallagher Quigley 01 8183000

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