In the 1930s, when the prolific housebuilder John Kenny bought a field of 9.167 acres at the Churchtown end of Orwell Road in Rathgar, it seems he intended, according to a site plan, to divide it into “sites for 24-26 detached houses”, of which 15 were to front on to the main road and 11 were planned on a cul de sac off it.
The 1937 Ordnance Survey map of the development, named Green Park (perhaps after the racecourse in Kenny’s native Limerick) and designed by architect Rupert Jones, shows the first 11 houses: three fronting the main road and eight, rather than 11, circling the roundabout on the cul de sac. Fewer houses meant bigger plots, and Kenny earmarked an acre at number 14 for his family home, Woodberry House.
The appealing size and aspect of Woodberry, and the quality of Kenny’s finish, have not diminished in the 90-odd years since it was built. Nor has it lost any of its green, or its park, for most of the enormous back garden borders Milltown Golf Club and the house is barely visible from neighbouring properties.
“Whether you sleep at the front or the back, the only thing that’ll wake you is birdsong – or the odd shout of ‘fore’,” says the current owner, who is downsizing nearby after almost 40 years.
“This has been the most wonderful place to bring up a family,” he says. From when they all moved in, in 1985, everything in Woodberry revolved around the children. A rose bed in the centre of the lawn was taken up, the better to play rugby; a swing with a wishing-well roof was built between the many trees they planted to compensate for the roses. “We never grew out of this garden,” says one of the adult children, describing how the grandchildren also relish the freedom of their own park, playing hide-and-seek and endless ball games.
At the far end of the south-facing garden is a hard tennis court, moved from Kenny’s original location by a subsequent owner; beyond this is a triangular “secret garden” alongside the seventh fairway. The edges of the garden are well planted and the front garden, entered through classic 1930s metal gates, has more lovely trees, one a flowering cherry. Other Art Deco details include the brick window surrounds and the fluted finish on the white exterior render.
The owner says for some dinner parties they used to have tables in the hall, which is bigger than any of the four reception rooms
Once through the covered porch – two windows flank a tall wooden door incised with blue glass slots – the house feels both imposing, with a double-height hall reaching 6m, and welcoming, with all the ground-floor rooms visible from the centre. The stairs wind around to the left, under a decorative metal chandelier apparently original to the house, giving the sense of a medieval banqueting hall.
In fact, the owner says, for some dinner parties they used to have tables in the hall, which is bigger than any of the four reception rooms; 10 years ago they hosted a family wedding, with a harpist playing here for the champagne reception, and guests gravitating towards the marquee in the garden.
A long garage of almost 50sq m has potential, subject to planning permission, for development as separate accommodation or could be connected to the house
It’s hard not to be drawn in that direction, and the clever design, with perfect symmetrical balance, means the three reception rooms at the back, with 3m ceilings, are connected from the outside and the inside, opening through original glass doors to the brick-patioed porch under a long balcony. From this spot, as the owner notes, “you cannot see a single other house”.
The diningroom in the middle has double doors out; the livingroom and the drawingroom at either end are dual aspect and have handsome fireplaces and simple stepped architraves and cornices. At the front is a family room, floored in blond parquet.
In the middle is a corridor to the side door, off which are a wet room and a cloakroom showing Kenny’s timeless, considered design – a perfect place to deposit boots, coats, sports gear, schoolbags and dog leads.
To the left off the hall is a wide kitchen with wooden units and a large window looking out to the front garden. Off this are a utility room; a passageway out to the yard, past the boiler and a storeroom; and a capacious pantry that was subdivided at some stage to create a guest toilet.
Upstairs, a wide landing gives on to six bedrooms, of which five are doubles and three are en suite. The main bedroom has a large walk-in wardrobe and, like the bedroom at the other end, doors to the wooden balcony. There is a family bathroom with separate toilet that could easily be amalgamated, as well as a shelved hot press and an office with a window to the landing.
With 366sq m (3,940sq ft), there is no shortage of space, but there is potential at both sides to extend, as some newer neighbours have done (two houses in the cul de sac, and two on the road, have changed hands within the past seven years, and another is sale agreed). A long garage of almost 50sq m has potential, subject to planning permission, for development as separate accommodation or could be connected to the house. As part of a general upgrade, while putting their stamp on this “idyllic family home”, new owners will need to address the F Ber, but will find a warm, neighbourly community – “supportive, but never intrusive”, says the current owner.
Woodberry House at 14 Green Park is in Dublin 14, close to Rathgar and Dundrum villages, across the road from the wooded walk to the Dropping Well pub in Milltown and handy for the Luas and the M50. It is for sale through Sherry FitzGerald, seeking €2.95 million.