Tailored to Fitts
Detached Edwardian designed in the Arts and Crafts style is a rare find
According to the French proverb, the more things change, the more they stay the same. And just as the Ennis Road in Limerick is sought after by affluent buyers today, the area was also prized by Limerick's merchant classes in the early 1900s.
One of the best-known of these merchants was a well-to-do grocer called EG Fitt. When he set about commissioning an architect for a new abode on the Ennis Road befitting of his status, Fitt's attention was drawn to a young Englishman who had won a 1902 competition to design the Shannon Rowing Club on a manmade island beside the iconic Sarsfield Bridge.
William Clifford Smith, who moved to Limerick after bringing William Morris's Arts and Crafts movement to the city, settled in Ireland for good and formed an architectural partnership that eventually morphed into Newenham Mulligan & Associates, a practice that still has offices in Limerick and Dublin.
When the current owners of Springdale, the two-bay, two-storey detached home designed in the Arts and Crafts style for Fitt, acquired the period home eight years ago, it is somewhat fitting that they sought out Newenham Mulligan before making any changes to the 1910-built house, out of concern they would compromise its architectural integrity. Springdale, which is listed on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, has a host of Edwardian features, such as exquisite ceiling cornicing and centre roses, and timber doors, flooring and panelling.
That painstaking research by one of the vendors, who owns an engineering firm a 20-minute drive away in Shannon, yielded a welcome find: Clifford Smith's original signed drawings for Springdale.
The owner says: "They even had Clifford Smith's carpentry drawings for the fireplaces and balustrades, and they confirmed that nothing had changed in the house apart from an extension in the 1980s. When we were modifying the ensuite and putting in walk-in wardrobes into what was originally a bedroom, we could refer to the original drawings when we got someone to replace the cornicing and architrave.
While the Ennis Road is home to other Edwardian houses - many of them three-terraced or semi-detached - it's rare to find a detached Edwardian home on the market there, let alone one so immediately influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and with 0.6 acres of secluded front and back gardens with specimen trees planted in the early 1900s. The present owners of Springdale were more than aware of this.
"We had lived around the corner on Clancy Strand, so we literally didn't move more than half a kilometre when we bought Springdale. A house like this goes on the market just once in a generation. It's effectively like living in the city centre - but with standalone formal landscaped grounds."
The four-bed property is approached via a private tree-lined driveway fronted by a stone wall and electric timber gates. The bottom half of what appears to be Springdale's facade is in red brick and features a three-sided canted bay window and a full-length veranda supported by timber posts. A dormer gabled bay window and a timbered gable with another window both protrude from the slate roof. However, the main entrance is to one side of Springdale. "Back in the Edwardian period, it was convention to put your best face forward, so the best part of the house would face the road," the owner says. "There is a door there, but it was never practically used."
This side entrance, which is covered by a timber pergola has French doors with stained-glass panelling. These open onto a large entrance hall with a double-height ceiling that highlights the turning staircase - an Edwardian hallmark - and a large feature window off the first-floor landing. The grand hallway is laid with parquet floors, while timber panelling adorns the walls and the ceiling. At the end of the hallway, near the door to the study, sits an original timber-and-cast iron fireplace. To the right of the hallway is a drawing room with a large bay window that commands views of the front lawn. It also has twin feature windows over a timber and tiled fireplace that's surrounded by hand-crafted oak panelling.
Solid timber French doors connect this space to the dining room, which is laid with the original polished timber to the floors and part of the walls.
This dual-aspect reception room, which is currently used as a music room, has another open fireplace with a timber surround.
To the left of the hallway is a dual-aspect room, with double windows on one wall along with high ceilings, coving and a ceiling rose. It's being used by the vendors as a family room but could be transformed into a fourth bedroom.
At one corner of the ground floor is the 1980s extension added by previous owners - two consultants who worked at the University Maternity Hospital, which is just four doors down.
The relatively new addition now houses an open-plan living/kitchen/dining area with large Velux windows that allow light to flow through the space. The room, which has access to a patio and seating area, has solid-timber hand-painted kitchen units and a coordinating island and dresser. The living space, which has a curved timber-floored link to the tiled kitchen area, features a solid fuel stove.
In the master ensuite bedroom, there's an original fireplace and carpet flooring. This bedroom, with its double aspect and coving, also has a dressing room put in by the present owner. There are two other double bedrooms on the first floor, along with a bathroom with a cast-iron free-standing plunge bath that was re-enamelled by the vendors. The bathroom also features a shuttered sash window.
The family has put Springdale on market in favour of an entirely new project: building a Passive ultra energy efficient house at Clancy Strand.
"It was on my bucket list, so I have to do it before I pop my clogs!", one of the vendors says.
Ennis Road, Limerick
Asking price: €1.2m
Agent: DNG Cusack Dunne (061) 209000