Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Homestead: a house in Dundrum
with interesting architectural links

Homestead … an early 19th century house associated with the M’Comas and Collen families and the Pallottine Fathers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

On my way home from work one day earlier this week, I took a slight diversion to look at Homestead, an early 19th century house off Sandyford Road that is now the Irish headquarters of the Pallottine Fathers.

Homestead, which stands on the old road from Dundrum to Balally, was built ca 1825. In the previous century, a house called Runneymede stood on the same site in grounds extending to 15 ha of land.

The new house, Homestead, passed through a number of families. By the 1870s and 1880s, it was the home of Henry M’Comas, a churchwarden in Christ Church, Taney, in 1879-1880, who presented to the church a reredos that is inscribed with the words: “Come unto me, all that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you,” “This do in remembrance of me” and “So God loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.”

Richard Henry Archibald M’Comas of Homestead, Ballawley, was a son of Archibald M’Comas of Cliff Castle, Dalkey, and Elgin Road, Dublin, and his wife Jane (Jones). He was educated at Trinity College Dublin and practised as a barrister. In 1875, he -married Susannah Alice Goodman of Lansdowne Road in Saint Mary’s Church, Donnybrook, and they had nine children.

From 1910, Homestead was the home of Joseph Collen (1856-1941), a distinguished builder who maintained extensive gardens at Homestead and who won frequent prizes at the Royal Dublin Society show for his flowers.

The family began in business in Portadown, Co Armagh, as railway and building contractors. The firm was developed during the 1860s by John Collen with the eldest of his five brothers, Thomas Collen. In 1872, a branch was established in Clanwilliam Place, Dublin.

During its early years, the firm worked with some of the great Irish architectural figures of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including George Coppinger Ashlin at Saint Anne's, Raheny, at All Saints’ Church, Raheny, and at Portrane Asylum; James Rawson Carroll at Elm Park, Co Limerick; Thomas Drew at Seagoe Church, Co Down, and the new law library at the Four Courts; James Franklin Fuller at Gallaghers, Hawkins Street, Dublin; and Thomas Newenham Deane and Son at the National Consumptive Hospital in Co Wicklow, and at the Great Southern Railway Hotel in Mulranny, Co Mayo.

Other early contracts included Renmore Barracks, Co Galway (1876-1880), the Sligo and Leitrim Light Railway (1880), and the main hall of the Royal Dublin Society (1884).

Joseph Collen, a brother of Thomas Collen, who was also active in the firm. Joseph Collen emigrated to Australia in 1857 but returned to Ireland four or five years later with capital and experience. During the 1860s, he and his brother Thomas Collen developed the family business in Ulster and in 1872 opened an office in Dublin.

The building of Killarney House in Killarney, Co Kerry, was the most extensive project undertaken by the firm for a private client in the late 19th century.

In 1861, Valentine Browne (1825-1905), Lord Castleross and later 4th Earl of Kenmare, was host to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Kenmare House in Killarney. The royal visit put Killarney on the map as a tourist resort and set the scene for the prosperity and popularity it enjoys today. Kenmare House was demolished in 1872 by Lord Kemare, and was replaced by Killarney House, a much more impressive aristocratic residence on a nearby site.

The new house was originally designed by an English architect, George Devey, while William Henry Lynn of Belfast provided architectural expertise on the site. Joseph Collen, who began to work for the firm in his early 20s, took charge of the building project.

This was an Elizabethan-Revival manor house and cost over £100,000 to build. The design was chosen by Lady Kenmare, a granddaughter of the 2nd Marquess of Bath, and inspired by Longleat, Lord Bath’s Elizabethan seat in Wiltshire. The house had many gables and oriels, the interior was panelled and hung with Spanish leather, and it was considered one of the finest mansions in Ireland.

The house built by Joseph Collen was accidentally destroyed by fire in August 1913 and was never rebuilt.

Meanwhile, Joseph Collen and his wife Hannah Moira came to Homestead in 1910, the same year the Collen firm worked on reroofing and renovating Saint Nahi’s Church in Dundrum.

Their son, Lieutenant William Stewart Collen was killed in action on 7 August 1915 at Suvla Bay at the age of 26. He was educated at the Leys School, Cambridge, and Trinity College Dublin. A keen golfer, he had competed in the Irish Close Championship in 1914, and a t the outbreak of war he volunteered and obtained a commission in the 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Two other sons followed Joseph Collen into the business. JB Collen managed the Northern Ireland branch of business, based in Portadown, while T Harcourt Collen directed the southern branch, which had moved to East Wall Road, Dublin, by 1915.

Hannah Collen died on 4 March 1935, and Joseph Collen continued to live at Homestead until he died on 25 July 1941; they are buried in Kilgobbin Cemetery. In 1948 the northern and southern branches of the family business became two separate companies, and both are still active.

The Collen family continued to live at Homestead until 1965, when the house was sold to Home Rentals, a company owned by the property developer Fianna Fail TD James Gallagher.

James and Mary Gallagher lived for a time at Homestead before signing an agreement with the Pallottine Fathers, who exchanged their student residence in Stillorgan for Homestead. The agreement was completed in 1978, seven years after the Pallottines had decided to move their provincial house from London to Dublin.

The Pallottine Fathers were founded as the Union of Catholic Apostolate in 1835 by Saint Vincent Pallotti (1795-1850) and came to Ireland in 1909. From 1979, up to 70 students came to Homestead to study for ordination to the priesthood. In 1983, the surviving Pallottine trustees transferred Homestead to the Saint Vincent Pallotti Trust (Ireland).

The basic fabric of the original house remains largely unaltered, with many of the original features still in place. From one side, there are views out onto the rose garden and the conservatory, while the other side faces out towards the redbrick student house, Pallotti House, which was built ca about 1979 in the old kitchen garden and orchard.

The grounds of Homestead include the garage and the coach house with the old stables, which may have been used as a dairy on the old Homestead Estate.

The old conservatory in the grounds of Homestead … a reminder of Joseph Collen’s prize-winning flowers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

For other postings on the architectural heritage of South Dublin see:

Berwick Hall.
The Bottle Tower, Churchtown.
Brookvale House, Rathfarnham.
Camberley House, Churchtown.
Dartry House, Orwell Park, Rathfarnham.
Ely Arch, Rathfarnham.
Ely House, Nutgrove Avenue, Rathfarnham.
Fernhurst, 14 Orwell Road, Rathgar.
Fortfield House, Hyde Park, Terenure.
No 201 Harold’s Cross Road, the birthplace of Richard Allen.
Homestead, Sandyford Road, Dundrum.
Kilvare House, also known as Cheeverstown House, Templeogue Road.
Knocklyon Castle.
Laurelmere Lodge, Marlay Park.
Marlay Park.
Mountain View House, Beaumont Avenue, Churchtown.
Newbrook House, Taylor’s Lane, Rathfarnham.
Old Bawn House, Tallaght.
Rathfarnham Castle.
Sally Park, Fihouse.
Scholarstown House, Knocklyon.
Silveracre House, off Sarah Curran Avenue, Rathfarnham.
Synge House, Newtwon Villas, Churchtown, and No 4 Orwell Park, Rathgar.
Templeogue House.
Washington House, Butterfield Avenue, Rathfarnham.
Westbourne House, off Rathfarnham Road.

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