Dating from 1830, The Courtyard in Clonsilla incorporates the Carriage House, the winner of RTÉ’s Home of the Year in 2020. Back then it was described by architect and competition judge Peter Crowley as “something out of an Enid Blyton novel”. It was once part of Luttrellstown Castle estate, where farm managers and stable workers lived alongside the horses that carted around the Big House occupants.
Today it is home to Ethna Dorman, who purchased the entire property in 1999. After four generations of the family – her father, her, her children and her grandchildren – began living in The Courtyard, she decided to convert an old carriage house, which was a former tea room for the adjacent Shackleton Gardens, and it subsequently took the Home of the Year title.
Residential buildings occupying The Courtyard include a 60sq m (645sq ft) one-bedroom gate cottage, a 90sq m (970sq ft) two-bedroom garden cottage and the converted two-bedroom Carriage House that extends to 120sq m (1,291sq ft).
Dorman engaged Victoria and Michael Kavanagh of architectural firm MVK to advise on the conversion of the Carriage House. Builders Des Egan and Sons, who Dorman describes as “great craftsmen”, gutted the place, installing insulation, a heating system, underfloor heating and all works required to turn the place into a unique two-bedroom home. Details such as exposed walls in the bedrooms and upstairs corridor have since been repointed with lime render in a nod to their near two-century existence.
In addition to the three residential buildings (offering 270sq m of accommodation in total), a great hall and a workshop are included in the sale. The great hall in its heyday would have housed two tack rooms, almost a dozen horses and a couple of stable workers. Extending to an additional 218sq m (2,350sq ft), planning permission has been secured to turn the space into a three-bedroom unit. It was recently used for a family wedding and has a multitude of potential uses, depending on the new owners’ requirements.
The cut-stone workshop measures 71sq m (767sq ft), has a barrelled, galvanised roof and is extensively fitted with power points. It is surrounded by the curtilage of the Shackleton Gardens, which is operated by Fingal County Council and opened to the public in 2021 after an ambitious restoration project. They have been described as one of the important herbaceous gardens in Ireland and were developed by plantsman David Shackleton. Of interest in The Courtyard are two important roses: a Lady Banks rose drapes over the gate cottage, the tag of which reads: “A gift to David Shackleton from Robert Lloyd Praeger”, the naturalist, author and librarian; and a Lady Hillingdon rose that climbs over the Carriage House.
There is rental potential with some of the accommodation while the possibilities are endless for the grand hall.
Dorman loves the total tranquillity of the place: “You will never hear a car yet we are minutes from the M50, Dublin Airport and the Maynooth line to Dublin [a 20-minute train ride, in the process of being upgraded] lies at the end of the quarter of a mile driveway.”
As four of her five children and nine of her grandchildren now live in the United States, she is selling up, as the properties are too much for her needs. She has placed her impressive home, which is Ber exempt, consisting of five buildings, on the market through Lisney Sotheby’s International Realty, seeking €1.95 million.