Monday 20 November 2017

Downton Abbey in Dublin: This €950,000 red brick still has bells for the servants

An Edwardian in Glasnevin still has bells for the household's servants, writes

Number 20 Iona Park was built by Alexander Strain
Number 20 Iona Park was built by Alexander Strain
The front door opens into the entrance hall with decorative floor tiles
Dining room detail
The front reception room with a bay window
The family room in the extension
Bathroom detail
The kitchen
The kitchen notification panel
Stained glass detail from the front door
Family room detail
Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

Can you imagine the luxury of having an electric bell button placed beside the tub in your bathroom - as you wallow and relax you can ring for a servant when you want some more hot water poured into your bath?

Or perhaps you'd like to summon your hot and cold running domestic flunkies to scrub your back before you finish?

What about a button by the living room fireplace to buzz whenever you fancy a cup of tea and some jaffa cakes as you watch telly?

Or one mounted on the wall in the children's room to summon help when your little tyke won't give up the iPad at bedtime and you fancy someone else taking over? You get the idea.

The front reception room with a bay window
The front reception room with a bay window

The house at 20 Iona Park in Glasnevin was constructed in 1906 by the famous Dublin builder Alexander Strain, during a temporary little period in city's history in which Catholic middle classes in the city regularly employed their own servants. It would be the Celtic Tiger era before live-in help returned.

Catholic Emancipation in the early part of the 19th century had produced a new generation of educated Catholics in Dublin who were, for the first time, eligible for higher education and state jobs. As these began to earn decent money in the later part of the century, builders began to design bigger houses for this market.

And it happened that, like their Anglo merchant class predecessors, they went about employing their own servants - even in relatively modest sized abodes.

The Census of 1911 shows at least one live-in servant in many of the homes on Iona Park. Interestingly the same survey shows a young live-in servant at the home of one Edward DeValera, a school teacher at Blackrock College then living at Morehampton Terrace in Donnybrook with his wife Sinead and then only child Vivian. The patrician bell buzzer later changed his first name to Eamon and famously took up temporary residence in Boland's Mills five years later.

The Edwardian red-brick homes in Dublin 9 and Dublin 11 tended to be targeted at the new Catholic middle class of Joycean Dublin and so they were reasonably compact, but still they generally came with the aspirational electric bell and plate set for summoning servants.

As an interesting historic reminder, some of the bell pushes along with the kitchen notification panel are still in evidence at 20 Iona Park.

The family room in the extension
The family room in the extension

It indicates that back in 1906 servants could be rung to the front door by the doorbell, to the drawing room, the dining room, to any one of the three bedrooms and to the living room. The fact that servants could be summonsed to all three bedrooms suggests that the servants did not live permanently at this particular house.

Also interesting is the fact that this electric servant summonsing system was made just up the road by TW Brady Ltd of Botanic Road, Glasnevin.

These days Strain - along with Stringer-built red-brick houses of this era - are among the city's most sought after types. The renowned quality of the homes built by these two firms combined with the arts and crafts drive of this time means that they are beautifully finished inside, with elegantly ornate cornicing and usually the addition of some ephemeral stained glasswork.

This house spans 1,930 sq ft - almost twice the size of an average suburban family semi.

Upon entering through the original stained glass front door you walk on the original decorative hall floor tiles installed the day the house was handed over to its first resident more than a hundred years ago.

To the left are two interlinking reception rooms separated by French doors; both featuring hardwood floors and the original carved marble fireplaces. One of these is in a wine and white wash and the other is in black marble.

The kitchen
The kitchen

The front room has a deep bay window typical of properties of this era, which allows the owner a projected position from which he or she can look right up and down the street on both sides while also letting in extra light.

An exposed and polished timber floor leads through to the rear of the property where the return has been extended to incorporate a new family room and kitchen.

The family room overlooks the rear garden which has access from the side of the property and comes with a stone patio area for entertaining in the summer months. A guest WC completes the accommodation on the ground floor.

On the next level we find a double bedroom with a fireplace, fitted wardrobes and sash windows. On the return is the master bedroom with its own fireplace, built-in wardrobes and bay window.

The third bedroom also has a feature fireplace and wardrobes and a family bathroom completes this level.

Number 20 Iona Park is close to Griffith Park and the Botanic Gardens with easy access to the city centre and to Dublin Airport.

20 Iona Park

Glasnevin Dublin 9

Asking price: €950,000

Agent: Kelly Bradshaw Dalton, (01) 8040500

Indo Property

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