Thursday 18 October 2018

This Sandymount home - named after a great novel - is a 'real party house'

Named after Victorian novel and close to where Joyce penned epic

The exterior of Middlemarch
The exterior of Middlemarch
One of the four bedrooms
The family room
Garden sun-trap
Kitchen and dining area
Curved staircase
Drawing room
Charlotte and Brian O'Neill

Gabrielle Monaghan

How are houses named? Sometimes coincidence makes for a moniker that endures for generations. For example, when Charlotte O'Neill made the winning bid for 8 Newgrove Avenue in Sandymount, at an auction in 1988, her husband Brian just happened to be immersed in the great Victorian literary landscape that is George Eliot's Middlemarch.

So it was no surprise that when the time came to name the Victorian property they'd just bought in Dublin 4, Brian looked to the Eliot novel for inspiration.

"I was reading Middlemarch, and we bought the house in the middle of March, so it was a no-brainer," he says. "I love that [Victorian] era."

The literary masterpiece written by Eliot - pen name of Mary Ann Evans - is set in the fictitious town of Middlemarch, a community in the English Midlands that's densely populated by incompatible characters with complicated lives. In spite of the mixed response to the novel by contemporary critics, Middlemarch gained immediate admirers; in 1873, the poet Emily Dickinson exclaimed in a letter to a friend: "What do I think of Middlemarch? What do I think of glory." More recently, the novelists Martin Amis and Julian Barnes have both described it as probably the greatest novel in the English language.

But back to Middlemarch the house. The O'Neills noticed on the title deeds that part of the site was originally a blacksmith's forge and that the four-bed house itself was built in the 1860s, just a few short years before Evans began writing the two pieces that would eventually form her sixth novel.

While Middlemarch in Sandymount lives up to its name's connotations of gentility and respectability today, it wasn't always so.

Brian says: "When we bought it, the house was in rag order. It had been rented out by a judge and it was in incredibly bad shape. I hadn't seen the inside before my wife bought it, but once I did, I could see its potential."

The period features weren't the only draw - the property's proximity to Sandymount Strand, where James Joyce located two episodes of his epic novel Ulysses, was also attractive to the O'Neills and their three children.

"Being so close to the beach was always a big plus with the kids around - it's just a five-minute walk away," Brian explains.

Now that the O'Neill children are all grown up and have left the family nest, their parents are looking to move to a smaller property in Sandymount.

Middlemarch, which is in the middle of a terrace of three mismatched Victorians, has a pastel-coloured façade with pale-blue louvred window shutters, and wisteria that drapes over a white front door with stained-glass panelling. White railings surround the small front garden.

Inside, the highlight of the hallway is a curved feature staircase, set amid a marble-tiled floor and recessed lighting. Straight ahead is the informal family room laid with solid wooden floors. A lantern roof light in the ceiling and two sets of internal French doors allow in plenty of natural light.

One of the two primary plots in the Middlemarch novel centres around Dorothea Brooke, an orphaned yet wealthy young woman who lives with her landowning-uncle and whose hobby is renovating buildings belonging to the tenant farmers.

Likewise, the O'Neills carried out some renovations of their own. In 2002, they moved out for nine months so they could remodel and extend the house to make more space for their children. The couple added a large kitchen-diner, a utility and a guest lavatory on the ground floor, and a new en suite bathroom extension to the first floor. All these additions boosted the floor area to 2,250 sq ft.

The dining area now has a vaulted ceiling with tongue-and-groove timber and four rooflights, while the kitchen area to one corner is fitted with granite countertops, a Belfast sink to the centre island, and cream-painted built-in wall and floor units. French doors from the dining space open onto a pleasant paved and walled garden that acts as a sun-trap.

To the front of the ground floor is the drawing room with twin cast-iron open fireplaces with slate hearths, and picture wall lights, solid wood flooring, and ceiling cornicing. This room also has a formal dining area.

Brian says: "It's a real party house and we could easily have 15 people over for dinner."

Upstairs are four bedrooms, including a master en suite with walk-in wardrobes. Also on this level is a family bathroom and a Jack-and-Jill en suite that's shared by two of the other bedrooms.

The prospective buyer will get permit parking for three cars with the property, though they'll hardly need to drive at all as the house is a ten-minute walk to the Dart station and a 40-minute walk from the city centre.

Middlemarch

8 Newgrove Avenue, Sandymount, D4

Asking price: €1.1m

Agent: Sherry FitzGerald (01) 667 2244

Indo Property

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