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Do the Merrion Beehive Blitz


The exterior of 75 The Rise

The exterior of 75 The Rise

The home's well-appointed family room.

The home's well-appointed family room.


The exterior of 75 The Rise

THEY certainly don't make defence ministers like they used to. On a summer's day in 1939 – as Europe slid to war – Irish defence minister Frank Aiken sat inside a tiny concrete "beehive" in a field in Kilbride, Co Wicklow while army engineers detonated explosives all around him.

Aiken wanted to show the press that he could vouch for his Government's citizen bomb shelter programme. On that day, the defence forces exploded 500lb bombs within 10 metres of the tiny egg-shaped structure.

When the debris had settled Aiken stepped out, apparently unscathed and dusted himself off. Fellow minister Sean Lemass walked over to enquire with curiosity: "Well, any sensation?"

Aiken replied cheerfully: "None at all – no blast or shock."

Just as well.

In the aftermath of a terrifying destruction of Spanish cities by the new form of aerial bombardment and a pending European war, Aiken had urged the Irish defence forces to prepare a standard bomb shelter design for Irish citizens.

The beehive was Ireland's "Anderson Shelter" – constructed with poured concrete and shaped like the famous ancient "beehive huts" of Celtic-era monstasticism.

A 1930s-built Dublin home at 75 The Rise in Mount Merrion, Co Dublin, which has just been placed on the market for €1.1m, features one of these distinctive egg-like structures in its garden. For the last 70 years, it's been used as a highly unorthodox garden shed and a garden feature with ivy and climbers growing over it.

The beehive was designed to accommodate six people with 32cm-thick walls, two-metre high ceilings and reinforced with steel rods. They had no door but a heavy concrete block was set in front of the entrance to deflect fallout coming from that direction. Meantime, 300,000 gas masks were purchased by the state to help stock them.

Local authorities, who were already building pre-cast concrete homes for social housing, were instructed to provide the beehives for householders who could pay for them.

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Surprisingly, the cost was extraordinarily prohibitive – homeowners were asked for £100 and 10 shillings to have one built in the back garden with six gas masks supplied.

This would make them the country's most expensive property to build on a per square foot basis and probably the reason they weren't constructed in great numbers, except in south county Dublin where Ireland's wealthier families lived.

At 75 The Rise, the owners paid £800 for their four-bed homes in 1934 – putting the cost of the beehive device at more than one eighth of the home's overall value at the time.

The same house has just gone on the market for €1.1m, which sets the modern equivalent price of a beehive at a whopping €137,500.

Curator Lar Joye of the National Museum is currently trying to put together a list of these unique personal shelters to chart their locations. "Those behind public buildings were of limited use, as they could only hold six people – and 70 years later it would be interesting to know who were the six people nominated to go into the shelter and who was to be left outside," he said.

"If you have photographs of a beehive shelter in your back garden, please send them to ljoye@museum.ie."

In fact, the Dun Laoghaire council area, where most of the country's beehives were installed, received only a light bombing, which took place in Sandycove at Rosmeen Park and Summerhill Road.

Otherwise, the most damage was done in north Dublin when 28 people were killed, largely in the North Strand, with 17 houses destroyed and 50 damaged.

The Germans had previously bombed Terenure near the KCR at Lavarna Grove and Fortfield Road and Rathdown Park where two homes were destroyed and others damaged.

They offloaded ordnance on Donore Avenue on the South Circular Road and again in the Phoenix Park. Arklow was bombed, so was Dundalk along with parts of Wicklow, Carlow, Monaghan, Kildare, as well as a creamery in Wexford which produced butter for the British army.

For the most part however the Dun Laoghaire council area – beehive central – remained unscathed.

The owner of 75 The Rise also grew up in the area and from playing in the neighbouring back gardens, says she has come across at least two more. Since the war they have mainly been used as garden sheds and fuel stores on account of the fact that they remain indestructible. This was highlighted recently when one local homeowner tried to have theirs removed with a kango hammer but failed to even make a dent in it.

It also highlights the high quality of 1930s home construction in Dublin and why there is such a huge following today, not just for Kenny built abodes, but also those erected by the other great building dynasties of Stringer, Strain and Crampton during that decade.

Number 75's arrival to market at a price of €1.1m will test values of larger family homes in the area with few going to market in recent times.

In addition to its own bomb shelter and original cool art deco finishes including a double-height bow window column to the front, this residence has two more aces up its sleeve in the form of a self-contained apartment, or granny flat, which links into the main house. It also has its own separate entrance along with two bedrooms, a living room a bathroom and kitchen/diner and could easily be reincorporated back into the main property to enlarge the existing house. It could be used to house an elderly relation but could also be rented out to a tenant for substantial additional income.

The next bonus is a very large converted attic space which has a substantial study/spare bedroom and a storage room, entered separately off a corridor. The attic itself is accessed via a "Stira" foldable steps and the views are spectacular from here across Dublin Bay.

In the main house, accommodation includes a big entrance hall, a kitchen and two good-sized reception rooms both with fireplaces of the period. Upstairs, three bedrooms are double-sized with one ensuite and there is a single bedroom along with the family bathroom.

The kitchen has been extended with plenty of natural light coming and includes a picture window looking over the garden.

The large west facing rear garden measuring (approximately) 78ft x 42ft is laid out in lawn with a sunny patio area, raised garden beds, mature hedging with herbaceous plants throughout and has ample storage space to include a utility room, work shed, Barna shed and green house.

The garden is two-tiered with stone steps leading to a highlevel space – ideal for growing vegetables. Then of course, there's the beehive bomb shelter.

The Rise is a well-renowned tree-lined road in the heart of Mount Merrion featuring a unique variety of 1930s homes. This is one of south Dublin's most desirable locations and handy for a selection of well-established schools: Scoil San Treasa Primary School, Mount Anville, St Andrews and Blackrock College. It's also minutes away from UCD Belfield and shopping centres such at Dundrum, Stillorgan and Merrion Centre.

Agents Sherry FitzGerald (01-2961822) are expecting a blitz of interest and that this one will go like a bomb.

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