Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

 
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Tudor Hall, Monkstown, Dublin
(The White Book, 2007)


With their modest approach to redesigning the interior, the new owners of a 19th century Tudor Revival home have simply modernized the essence of uncluttered Elizabethan simplicity.

Ruined monasteries aside, the south Dublin village of Monkstown did not amount to much until the 1830s when the arrival of the railway saw its rapid conversion into “a profusion of neat and fashionable marine residences”. In the ensuing decade, much of modern day Monkstown was laid out, including the developments along Longford Terrace, The Hill, Pakenham Road and the avenues between Monkstown Road and Seapoint Avenue.

Located on The Hill, Tudor Hall was constructed circa 1841 in the Tudor Revival style. Such houses were characterised by steeply pitched roofs, high chimneys, triple mullioned windows, mock balconies, gabled attic windows and latticework verandas. By the late 1830s, the style was all the rage, boosted by the Gothic Revival underway in England since Pugin’s fantastic reconstruction of the Houses of Parliament at Westminster. The Tudor Revival peaked in Ireland under the architect Sir Richard Morrison, a genius at replicating the simple, rustic concept of an Elizabethan country manor. Indeed, Morrison may well have had a hand in building Tudor Hall itself; he was certainly active in Monkstown at this time.

From 1845 to 1890 the gorgeous four-storey high Tudor Hall property operated as an upmarket hotel. With its views down to the sea, it proved a popular getaway for well-to-do Victorians. Architect Don Henihan, RIBA, FRIAI, rescued both Tudor Hall and the adjoining Tudor House from dereliction in the late 20th century. In 2004, it came to the present owners who moved here from north County Wicklow in order to be closer to the school and office around which their family life revolved. They installed a new kitchen in the basement and two bathrooms but otherwise worked with what they bought. They collaborated with a number of friends to produce an interior at once confident, understated and practical.

A charming portico flanked by mythical dogs marks the entrance to Tudor Hall. Two steps rise to the front door which opens into a large hall-way paved by Classical Flagstones (www.classical-flagstones.com). The walls have been subtly hand-painted to creates the ambience of old stone walls, an effect known as Sandstone Blocking. The paintwork runs into the basement and is the work of Henrietta Bisgood of Faux Fini Interiors and Paint Effects (087 2514286) and Robbie Keating (0876424166).

The main entertaining quarters lie to the rear of the hall. Light pours into this vast double-room through huge, deep wooden windows at either end, framed by lush Mulberry curtains and beholding beech and yew trees in the garden beyond. A local carpenter crafted the curtain pelmets out of broom handles. Surmounting a Connemara marble fireplace, a vibrant woven tapestry from Hines of Oxford dominates the west wall. The tapestry depicts the French Sun King Louis XIV pointing the way to victory over the Spanish at the Battle of Bruges. The French aristocratic theme is inadvertently taken up by an antique sideboard acquired at the Adams Auction Rooms in Blackrock. The sideboard formerly belonged to Josie Macavin, the Oscar-winning set designer for ‘Out of Africa’ and ‘Michael Collins’ who lived in Monkstown until her death in 2005.

By night the drawing room is lit by side-lights from local auction rooms and a pair of Bohemian crystal chandeliers. In the second room, a cheerful semi-formal space, a huge sand-coloured sofa and a pair of armchairs from Greenacre Designs in Rathangan are clad in silk velvet fabric from Andrew Martin and Yours Personally in Dun Laoghaire. The original plan to keep the wooden floor came asunder when the overriding echo created ‘too much of a hall feeling’. A sand-colour carpet from Ulster Carpets was duly laid.

Among Tudor Hall’s earliest occupants was Daniel Cullimore, a prosperous barrister who made his fortune in India before the Mutiny of 1857. In the 1920s it became home to the Coogan family from whom descend the distinguished historian Tim Pat Coogan. His mother Beatrice Coogan was author of “The Big Wind”, winner of the Frankfurt Book Fair’s “Novel of the Year” in 1969. As such, there is a somewhat genteel and intellectual ambience, well-captured in the intimate but spacious sitting room where the family and their pet cat sprawl upon armchairs and sofas from Yours Personally. These are covered in fabrics by Lewis & Wood and Zoffanny. A refined green Strie wallpaper from Zoffany is subtly lit from a large wooden bay window. The room is at once practical and serene, family heirlooms and photographs juxtaposed with modern art, two vivid multi-coloured rugs from Fired Earth and an antique radiator. Family friend Pat Keegan of the Solo Arte Gallery (www.soloarte.ie) in Waterford suggested the artwork, including a painting of the esplanade in Bray by Fergal and a modern take on Jack B Yeats by Declan O’Connor.

A Hynes tapestry of a blue coat Hussar dominates the stairwell leading from the hallway down to the kitchen and office area. The kitchen is a narrow yet appealing room, largely the creation of master carpenter Alan Byrne. “I wanted a kitchen that looked like it could have always been there”, explains the owner. “We were very limited in what we could do with the shape as it’s so narrow and long but Alan did a fantastic job”. The family sit upon New York chairs from Meadows & Byrne with a view to the garden.

The upper floors of the house are reserved for the bedrooms and bathrooms. The master bedroom features wardrobes by Alan Browne and furniture from Blue Bone in Ulster. Silk curtains from the owners’ former house came from James Hare silks and were made by interior designer Sari Winkworth (M: 087-4104159). Double doors and a carefully placed mirror lend the en-suite bathroom a regal flair, spacious yet private. The top floor features a wonderful rambling ceiling on account of the pitches and slopes of the roof above. The area is divided into two bedrooms, a perfect getaway for independent teenagers armed with Scalectrix sets, rugby balls and well-strummed guitars.

The architect Tony Mullen (www.tonymullenarchitects.com) and landscape designer John Durston (www.johndurston.com) collaborated to recreate the large garden, a process that involved removing eighty lorry loads of topsoil from where the lawn is now in order to allow light into the kitchen and bring a better sense of balance to the property. The garden, with its box hedges and an extensive courtyard of sparkling granite flagstones, makes an excellent space for the family dog Dexter to gallop around. It is also capable of holding a sizeable marquee on its lawn. The scene is surveyed by a sprightly beech, planted along with the first bricks of Tudor Hall nearly one hundred and seventy years ago.

With thanks to Brigid Fagan.

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