Monday, 5 August 2013

Remembering Samuel Beckett and the
Arts and Crafts Movement in leafy Foxrock

Cooldrinagh, on the corner of Kerrymont Avenue, is the best-known house on Brighton Road, for this was the childhood home of Samuel Beckett (Photograph: myhome.ie)

Patrick Comerford

With an hour or more on my hands between two celebrations of the Eucharist in Tullow Parish Church on Brighton Road, Carrickmines on Sunday morning [4 August 2013], I took the opportunity for a quiet and contemplative early morning walk along Brighton Road, between the church and Foxrock Village.

This section of Brighton Road has a sylvan feeling to it at this time of the year, with an overarching canopy of trees providing a gentle ceiling of foliage between Foxrock Village and the leafy suburban residential areas.

The overarching canopy of trees provides a gentle ceiling of foliage on the walk along Brighton Road to Foxrock Village (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Along the footpaths, there is a mixture of soft and hard boundary treatments, with mature planting and hard edges that are generally made up of tall granite walls, and with a consistently good quality and continuity along the edge.

The narrow footpaths on both sides of Brighton Road contribute to the rural character of this area, complemented by residential lanes leading to some back land developments.

The original soft roadside boundary has been lost at Hollybrook (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

One noticeable exception is the recent development at Hollybrook, where the original soft roadside boundary has been replaced by a low granite wall and railings, opening up unrestricted views into the development.

Many of the houses on Brighton Road stand on large, irregular plots of land, and some plots are exceptionally large. Some of the houses are embassy residences, and the houses have a variety of architectural styles, with the older, late 19th century houses standing at the mid-section on both sides of the road, and the later 20th century houses at either end of the road.

The first phase of development took place along the eastern side of the road before the development of Foxrock as a garden suburb. These large detached houses are set in substantial grounds well back from the road.

Lis-na-Carrig is the sole survivor from this period. It is a large, detached, two-storey house with a central three-bay section that is flanked by lower two-storey ranges to the side and rear. It has a centrally placed door-case with classical detailing and fanlight.

Cooldrinagh … now hidden behind trees and fencing (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

One of the best examples of the Arts and Crafts period is Cooldrinagh, standing at the corner of Brighton Road and Kerrymont Avenue. This is the childhood home of the Nobel Laureate for Literature, Samuel Beckett, who was born here on Good Friday, 13 April 1906.

The house and garden at Cooldrinagh, as well as the surrounding countryside where Beckett often went walking with his father, the nearby Leopardstown Racecourse, the Foxrock railway station and Harcourt Street station at the city terminus of the line, all feature in his prose and plays.

Cooldrinagh was built by the playwright’s father, William Beckett, in 1903, and was designed by Frederick George Hicks.

Cooldrinagh has features that are typical of the Arts and Crafts style, including clay rooftiles, and a timber porch and veranda.

The architect, Frederick Hicks (1870-1965), was born in Banbury, Oxfordshire, a son of Joseph Hicks, a linen draper. He went to Taunton School and received his architectural training at the London Architectural Association School and at Finsbury Technical College, while he was articled to John William Stevens.

In 1890, at the age of 20, Hicks came to Dublin to take up a trial appointment in the office of James Rawson Carroll, where Frederick Batchelor was then the chief assistant. He remained with Carroll for 2½ years. After a year in the office of William Henry Byrne, and 3½ years as chief assistant to Thomas Drew, he set up in practice on his own in Dublin in 1895. He was working from the same premises as Frederick Augustus Butler at 5 Saint Stephen’s Green until Butler’s death in 1903, the year Cooldrinagh was built.

Carrickbyrn, on the opposite side of Brighton Road, was designed by Frederick Batchelor (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

In 1905, Hicks went into partnership with Frederick Batchelor at 86 Merrion Square, and the partnership of Batchelor and Hicks lasted until 1922, when Batchelor retired. Hicks then worked on his own until he retired in 1945.

Hicks also exhibited frequently at the Water Colour Society of Ireland’s exhibitions and at the Royal Hibernian Academy, and had a good bass voice, singing at concerts. He died at home at The Tower, Malahide shortly before his 95th birthday, and was buried in of Saint Andrew’s Church of Ireland churchyard, Malahide.

Brighton Road also has a group of three 1890s houses that are in the Arts and Crafts Style. They share a number of common features, including the off-centre front entrance. Houses of this period usually have their doorways placed off-centre, and in many cases they are placed in a more discreet and less formal manner behind verandas and porches.

Carrickbyrn was designed by Frederick Batchelor for Sir William Ireland de Courcv-Wheeler, President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Cloncarrig ... with rock-faced granite walls and brick dressing that are rarely found in the area (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Another grouping of houses dates from the 1890s to 1930s. They have characteristic elements of houses of this period, each in its own unique way. A notable exception within the group is Cloncarrig, with its squared rock-faced granite walls and brick dressing, a treatment of the elevation rarely found in the area.

There is a group of houses dating from the 1930s on that show a variety of architectural styles and boundary treatments.

Some of these houses have a quality that adds to the rich architectural tapestry of Foxrock, but their boundary treatments and entrances do not maintain the sylvan character of the area.

The Gables, formerly Findlater’s grocery shop, opened in 1904 and was designed by William Kaye-Parry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

At the end of Brighton Road, Foxrock village stands at the junction with Westminster Road and Torquay Road. The village retains a certain rural character, with its mixture of small-scale businesses.

The best-known landmark at this junction is The Gables, the former Findlater’s grocery shop, which opened in 1904.

This building was designed by William Kaye-Parry (1853-1932) and has many features that are characteristic of the Edwardian period, including a high gabled pitched roof covered in red clay tiles, incorporating a third storey. The timber shopfront has fluted timber piers at ground floor level. The finishes include red brick at ground floor level, with dashed render to the upper floors and half-timber cladding to the gables.

William Kaye-Parry’s father, William Parry, owned the Salthill Hotel in Salthill, Co Dublin. He was articled to John McCurdy (1870-1873), and then studied for a degree in engineering (BAI) in Trinity College, Dublin (1875).

He was surveyor to the Kingstown Estate (1889-1903), and entered into partnership with George Murray Ross in 1898/1899. He was a founder member of the Dublin Sanitary Association, which developed into the Dublin Artisans’ Dwelling Company. He died in London after a long illness in 1932.

Brighton Terrace ... a collection of single-storey artisan cottages that add to the rural village atmosphere of Foxrock (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

In stark contrast, Brighton Terrace is a collection of single-storey artisan cottages. This was originally one terrace of 12 cottages and two terraces of four cottages, but five of the cottages were demolished to facilitate access to Brighton Lodge, a late 20th century housing development.

The communal space in front of the cottages is lined with vegetation, providing a rural village atmosphere, complemented by the of the overhanging high tree canopy from the garden plot on the opposite side of Brighton Road.

The other buildings in Foxrock village date from the mid-20th century. Although they are well maintained, they have poorly designed shopfronts and signs.

But here I also found a welcome double espresso before strolling back to Tullow Parish Church for the Parish Communion.

On the way back, I noticed a tranquil site that looks like a rural backwater. Its tranquillity has been preserved and its seclusion protected, possibly, because it backs onto Leopardstown Racecourse. But there is an application for planning permission for a major development here too. Another quiet corner of Brighton Road may be about to disappear.

Another quiet corner of Brighton Road may be about to disappear (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Later, two of us had lunch in Pod’s Pizza, next door to Vanilla Pod in the Iveagh Mall at the Park, Carrickmines. We had a Superfood Pizza (with Feta Cheese, Tomato, Broccoli, Walnut, Sweet Potato, Figs and Spinach), Risotto, a glass of wine, an Americano and a double espresso. It all came to less than €32, the place is family friendly, and we promised ourselves a return visit.

We stopped briefly at Leopardstown Park, to photograph the house that was the birthplace of the great Cambridge theologian, FJA Hort of Westcott and Hort fame, before continuing on to Portrane for the second day of the great August bank holiday sale in aid of Heart to Hand.


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