Sunday 17 November 2019

Telescopic roof garden views from a D6 mews

4 Observatory Court, Observatory Lane, Rathmines, D6

Asking price: €925,000

Agent: Sherry FitzGerald (01) 4966066

Anyone for cricket? A close-up of the kitchen
Anyone for cricket? A close-up of the kitchen
One of the bedrooms
Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

An Irish invention thought up in a back lane in Rathmines, Dublin 6 has likely caused more people to be wiped out on battlefields and at sea than any other invention before it or since. But Howard Grubb's Patent 12108 filed for the reflector sight was meant to help us see to the stars.

Perfected and patented in 1900 by Grubb, the sight mechanism was intended to enhance huge star-gazing telescopes and to improve construction surveying equipment and camera view finders.

But it also had the effect of increasing the firing accuracy many times over of projectile weapons; everything from rifles, to submarine torpedoes, to fighter plane armaments to big naval and tank guns. All have had their accuracy enhanced by the reflector sight.

Today it's still in use in small arms with the ubiquitous red light-emitting diode systems deployed by modern armed forces (this sticks a red LED dot on its target).

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One of the bedrooms
One of the bedrooms

Before Grubb perfected his invention at his lens factory workshop at Observatory Lane, Rathmines, soldiers using rifles, big guns or machine guns had to peer through a metal crosshair and line it up with a bead on the barrel end.

This required the user to close one eye and press their open one right against the crosshair for any degree of accuracy. When shooting at many fast-moving targets in a battle situation, it was difficult to find the next target quickly, and the fact that the user was concentrating on one tiny confined view meant that they were unaware momentarily of the bigger picture going on around them.

So picking off one soldier in a group of attackers meant taking your eye off all the others for the duration of the exercise.

However, the new-fangled reflector sight provided mirror-reflected crosshairs which could be used standing right back from the weapon and with both eyes open. The user could quickly switch from one target to the next with great accuracy while still being able to keep tabs on what was going on all around them.

In the beginnig, Howard Grubb's father Thomas made lots of money for Bank of Ireland (he invented a new process for printing notes). He started up the Rathmines Photographic Society, which sucked young Howard in.

Soon Howard was designing lenses and by his early 20s, globally significant telescopes. These are still in use all over the world today. Among them is the Great Melbourne Telescope which was photographed being tested at the Rathmines factory (see photo). This is currently being restored after partial destruction by a bush fire in 2003.

Ironically Howard's 1900 patented reflector sight was first used against the Allies by German fighter planes over the trenches in WWI. Before long the Royal Navy had issued the Grubbs of Rathmines with a huge contract for the supply of reflector sights for their naval guns and for periscopes for their submarines. The 1916 Rising shook the Grubbs and by 1918 they had moved their factory to the UK where, as Grubb Parsons, it made world-class lenses and telescopes until 1985.

Howard Grubb has been described as "the Rembrandt of the lens-making age".

There's a commemorative plaque at the entrance beside his former factory site at Observatory Lane, in turn named after the observatory opened and operated by the Grubbs in Rathmines for many years.

It's also the main entrance to Leinster Cricket Club, which moved from Grosvenor Square to Observatory Lane in 1865, and grew with Grubbs.

In the 1970s the site was developed to build the Rathmines Town Centre, a failed shopping centre which traded slackly before closing.

In the noughties it was redeveloped to build a hotel, apartments and town houses. Among the new homes to emerge from this era is 4 Observatory Court, just off Observatory Lane.

A three-storey mews-style home finished in 2007, it has an extra-large roof garden on the top floor overlooking the cricket grounds and the tennis courts.

It would make a fine viewing platform for an outdoor-mounted telescope for astronomy, given the cooling of light pollution around the substantial cricket ground.

Alternatively cricket or tennis fans can while away the summer evenings up here catching the rays, supping a chilled Chardonnay and watching the 'action'.

There's also a small ground-floor garden towards the road which has a patio and lawned area. All in all this is the perfect house for a holding a party.

Built in a mews style, the interiors have been given a stylish revamp in recent years. Situating two of the three bedrooms at the ground floor means the views and light penetration are enhanced on the main living floor (the first).

This has the main living room, finished in a contemporary cosy cross with a wall-mounted fire, and sliding doors lead through to the open-plan kitchen and breakfastroom. This has a Gourmets Pride oven installed with a five-ring gas hob and extractor fan. There's a fridge/freezer and a wine fridge. The island unit offers some additional storage.

There are three bedrooms and four bathrooms. The top floor has access to the roof garden and holds the master bedchamber suite which includes a walk-in wardrobe and a shower bathroom ensuite as well as separate door to the deck.

On the ground floor, bedroom three runs the entire width of the property, with built-in wardrobes and its own shower room ensuite with a white corner shower bath. Bedroom two, also on this floor, has access to a full bathroom.

Out front are two private car parking spaces on a cobblelock forecourt. There's also pedestrian access to the side and the rear garden.

The attractions of a resurgent Rathmines are within 30 seconds' walk, yet this house is well in off the main drag in a quiet location.

Just outside on the main road are Lidl and Aldi; the swimming pool and public library are almost opposite, and there's a range of trendy pubs including Blackbird and The Bowery. Further down is the olde-worlde Slattery's, and Bolands, a lively night spot.

The retro 1920s restored Stella cinema sits opposite the Swan Centre, with a new Fallon & Byrne outlet just opened. Best of all, you're within 20 minutes' walk of the city centre.

Sherry FitzGerald's Rathmines branch is focused on achieving a price of €925,000 for this property.

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