Friday 20 September 2019

Postcard Modern

Unlike our Hinde postcard cottages, Creech Barrow was imagined in the UK

The exterior of the cottage
The exterior of the cottage
The bathroom
The living room with its vaulted ceiling and exposed beams
The kitchen
The entrance hallway and staircase

Gabrielle Monaghan

It never rains in the idealistic John Hinde's technicolour postcards of mid-century Ireland. Not when the red-haired children are leading a turf-carrying donkey or the Connemara couple are on the bog. And in his depictions of Howth, O'Connell Street, Achill Island, and Bray esplanade, there's not a hint of sideways drizzle.

Indeed, the Somerset-born photographer was often accused of "manufacturing" images that portrayed kitschy Irish stereotypes. But he later countered that he photographed "donkeys and cottages simply because you can't imagine a Connemara bog without a donkey walking across with panniers filled with peat. It's part of the landscape, the same way the Irish cottage is like a living thing which grew out of the ground."

More than 50 million postcards were printed at Hinde's studios in the south Dublin suburb of Cabinteely, designed to entice American and British tourists to the auld sod throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Unlike the vernacular white-washed thatched cottages so beloved by Hinde, Creech Barrow, built in 1953 - shortly before the Englishman started photographing the Irish landscape - is an altogether different beast.

The living room with its vaulted ceiling and exposed beams
The living room with its vaulted ceiling and exposed beams

The home, located in the heart of the quaint north Wicklow village of Delgany, is a copy of a thatched cottage in a Cotswolds estate and was named after a hill in Dorset. It was built for Ada Corballis, the wife of Captain JC Corballis. According to The Landed Gentry & Aristocracy of Co Wicklow, a book written by Turtle Bunbury and Art Kavanagh, Captain Corballis, who went by the moniker "Tommy", served with the Leinster Regiment during World War One and lectured in the National University. He and Ada had lived together at Rossana House, an early 18th-century mansion in the Wicklow village of Ashford. Rossana House was sold after Captain Corballis's death in 1947, so Ada moved to Delgany to her Cotswolds-style cottage.

Creech Barrow is now the only thatched cottage in Delgany, according to the vendor, who is selling up so she and her retired husband can downsize to a more manageable house with a smaller garden in the village. Delgany was home to a stately house called Stylebawn comprised of two joined-up thatched cottages. The 16th-century property was reputedly visited by Sir Walter Raleigh, who brought the potato crop to Ireland. Stylebawn's roof was replaced with slate in the early 1900s and in 2016, as the house laid derelict, it was gutted by a fire.

In the 19th century, up to half of the Irish population slept under thatched roofs. But they began to fall out of fashion after the introduction in the mid-20th century of government grants that encouraged homeowners to replace thatch with easier-to-maintain slates or tiles.

The seller of Creech Barrow says: "People have a certain perception of old thatched cottages. But more modern houses like ours, built in the 1950s, were thatched with layers and layers of reed instead of straw."

Indeed, the new owner of the listed 2,045-sq ft cottage will be entitled to a grant from the Department of Housing towards the cost of any future repairs of its thatched roof. And, fortunately, they won't have to search too far for a thatcher - master thatcher Kyran O'Grady is based in Co Wicklow.

The vendor says: "Kyran checks out the thatch occasionally. We haven't replaced it, but previous owners did, and a thatch can last 40 or 50 years."

The kitchen
The kitchen

Creech Barrow used to belong to friends of the current owners. After visiting the property several times, they fell in love with it, and when Creech Barrow went on the market in 2004, they called their friends immediately to enquire about buying the house.

The vendor says: "Our friends had put in an extension with a living room and a lovely dining room, and when we bought it, we turned an upstairs bedroom into a big bathroom and redecorated the house. I also planted a herb garden in a raised bed just outside the kitchen door, where we also have a patio area.

"My husband used one of the bedrooms as an office, but because it has built-in wardrobes, it could easily be converted back into a bedroom."

The existing owners put Creech Barrow on the market last summer for €850,000, but took it off temporarily due to a family illness. It is now returned for sale at €895,000, albeit through a different selling agent.

Creech Barrow may be a cottage - but with 2,045 sq ft of living space, a 0.33-acre garden, four bedrooms and three interconnected reception rooms, it's a far cry from the cramped thatched cottages of 19th-century Ireland. It is accessed through electric gates, which lead to a large gravelled driveway.

There's also a detached, 820-sq ft mews building on the grounds that's currently used whenever guests come to stay. But because it contains its own kitchen, living room, bathroom and gallery-style bedroom, the prospective new owner could easily rent it out.

In the main house, the three reception rooms are all located to the left of the entrance hall. The sitting room, which has wooden flooring, a beamed ceiling and a brick fireplace warmed by an open fire in winter, leads on to the dining room, where dark rafters lend a country feel. This dining space, which has an atrium in the part-vaulted ceiling, opens on to a bright and contemporary country-style kitchen with a Sovereign Aga-style cooker and grey painted shaker-style units.

The sitting room also leads to a double-height drawing room with exposed duck-egg blue wooden beams that run across the ceilings, a bay window overlooking the gardens, and a feature brick fireplace with a solid-fuel burning stove. There are three bedrooms downstairs, and a master bedroom with a bay-window seating and his-and-hers dressing rooms.

Creech Barrow is just a five-minute drive to the N11, 40 minutes to Dublin Airport, and a 3km walk from Greystones Dart station. While the centre of Delgany is only a one-minute walk away, the thatched cottage retains the sense of rural idyll that Hinde would have been proud of. "It's really in the countryside and just so peaceful," the vendor says.

Creech Barrow

Convent Road


Co Wickow

Asking price: €895,000

Agent: McGovern Estates (01) 2877088

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