Peek inside the €2.4m 'Tribute House' on Lover's Walk
Woodhill House, at Lovers' Walk in Cork, was not only one of the city's most important and beautiful houses, it was also one of its most storied, with a history full of melodrama, romance and scandal. It was built in the 1700s by Cooper Penrose, a merchant prince of Cork and a Quaker, though not a very conscientious one.
He was known to be fond of horses, music and billiards - all frowned on by the congregation - and had a fine art collection, including some necessarily shocking (by Quaker standards at least) nudes. The Cooper Penrose collection, including paintings, ceramics, books and furniture, was donated to Cork's Crawford Gallery some years ago.
In 1797, Cooper had a niece staying with him, Mary Pike, who had inherited £20,000. Across the river at Vernon Mount, near Douglas, Sir Henry Brown Hayes felt himself sorely in need of a sum like that.
But instead of courting Mary in the normal way, he mysteriously decided to abduct her instead, forcing her into a sham marriage at gunpoint. For this crime, he received a sentence of death, later commuted to life, and was transported to Botany Bay.
The prosecutor in the notorious trial was John Philpott Curran, father of Sarah Curran, and a friendship developed between the two families. After her lover, Robert Emmett, was executed in 1803, Sarah Curran became very ill and, being unwelcome in her father's house, she went to live at Woodhill. There she languished, heartbroken, for two years, before agreeing to marry someone else.
Woodhill House became derelict in the 20th century, and, in 1989, Cork Corporation granted permission to demolish it. It was replaced by a new luxury dwelling house - not a replica of the original but a tribute to it, and on almost exactly the same footprint.
The original entrance at the Tivoli end of Lovers' Walk remains, consisting of a pair of limestone pillars set in rubblestone boundary walls. Inside, the former estate consists of three acres of grounds sloping down to the River Lee.
The new house, though smaller than the old, is nevertheless a sizeable 5,913 sq ft, and is laid out symmetrically on two floors, with various reproduction period features, including ornate high ceilings and Georgian-style sash windows (double-glazed). Inside the front porch is a rather grand entrance hall with a row of supporting columns and an imposing mahogany staircase rising and turning on its way to a gallery landing above.
Straight ahead through arched double doors is a dining room with French doors to the patio. The other reception rooms are on either side of the hallway. To the right there's a dual-aspect drawing room with a fireplace acquired from a French chateau. A smaller hall leads to a guest toilet and a study, and at the back corner of the house is a conservatory with more French doors to the patio.
The rooms to the left of the entrance hall are more informal, starting with the kitchen, where there are solid oak cabinets and a marble-topped island unit with a sink and breakfast bar. Off the kitchen is a breakfast area, and there's also a seating area at the back, overlooking the garden, with a cast-iron fireplace. Opening off the kitchen is a family room with a marble fireplace and fitted shelving, and there's also a separate utility room nearby.
Upstairs on the first floor, there are six bedrooms, three of them with en-suites. The master bedroom overlooks the garden to the south, and has both a dressing room and an en-suite bathroom with marble flooring and a double jacuzzi bath with a marble surround. There's also a family bathroom on this level.
The first floor is fully carpeted, whereas most of the ground level has white oak parquet flooring with underfloor central heating. The house has a C3 energy rating, which its predecessor would never have been able to achieve.
The three acres of grounds are heavily wooded, allowing for seclusion and quiet in what is already an exclusive neighbourhood. Lovers' Walk is the site of some of the city's most elegant and expensive homes, though it's not as romantic as it sounds. The name is a mistranslation of Siúl na Lobhar, or Lepers' Walk, as there was once a leper colony in the area.
To the front of the house is a driveway and parking surrounded by shrub borders and flowerbeds, while the main gardens are at the back, where the view is.
Directly outside the house is a Liscannor flagstone patio with a balustrade and a flight of steps down to the formal garden below, consisting of a sloping lawn dotted with mature trees, shrubs and flowers.
Woodhill House is now for sale for €2.4m - a merchant princely sum, but not, apparently, an unrealistic one. The Cork luxury property market has been proving these kinds of prices lately: Currabeg, at Woodview in Douglas, sold for €2.3m earlier this year, according to the Property Price Register, having been on the market for €1.85m.
Lovers' Walk, Cork city
Asking price: €2.4m
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald in Cork (021) 427 3041