Friday, 26 February 2016

Sally Park: part of the architectural
heritage of Firhouse and Knocklyon

Sally Park … a once-elegant Georgian country house off Ballycullen Road (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

As I walked down to the polling station on Ballycullen Avenue late this afternoon, I stopped to look at Sally Park, once a fine country house in the Firhouse and Knocklyon area and in the townland of Tymon South. Sally Park is now a nursing home at the end of Sally Park Close, off Ballycullen Road, but at one time the entrance was at the junction of Knocklyon Road and Ballycullen Road, close to Knocklyon Castle.

Sally Park is a detached four-bay three-storey Georgian country house, built ca 1770 by Sir John Meade (1744-1800), 1st Viscount Clanwilliam, who became the Earl of Clanwilliam in 1776. It probably incorporates the structures of an earlier fortified house.

For three or four generations, Sally Park was associated with the Hancock family, although the house also has associations with the 20th century architect Thomas Joseph Cullen.

The house has a granite Doric entrance portico with an offset double-leaf glazed timber door. The two-storey wing to the west has a single Wyatt window on each floor.

When Lord Clanwilliam, built Sally Park, he had a Dublin townhouse on Saint Stephen’s Green that is now part of Newman House. His lavish lifestyle and his gambling debts forced him to sell extensive estates in Co Kilkenny, Co Tipperary and Co Cork, and in 1796 he sold Sally Park to Mathew Handcock (1758-1824), the first of the Handcock family to live in Sally Park. He was descended from a William Handcock who came to Ireland with Cromwell’s army and settled in Twyford, Co Westmeath.

In 1772, Mathew had been appointed Deputy Muster Master General to His Majesty’s Forces in Ireland, and he held this a post for 50 years. His office in the lower yard of Dublin Castle was broken into in 1794 and debentures to the value of £1,790 and £550 in cash were stolen. Handcock personally lost over £1,000 in the robbery.

During an investigation, in 1795, into a robbery at Cyprus Grove House, the thief, identified from sword cuts received during the robbery, confessed to both crimes and led to the recovery of some of the debentures.

In 1797, Mathew Handcock was appointed Church Warden in Saint Maelruain’s Church, the Church of Ireland parish church in Tallaght.

Mathew Handcock extended Sally Park, made improvements to the grounds and planted over 7,000 trees of various species, including a large number of beech trees, which earned him praise from the Royal Dublin Society in 1801. He also provided trout ponds, gardens and conservatories.

‘The Primrose Walk’ … part of the legacy of Handcock’s tree planting near Sally Park (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Sally Park was a considerable estate with stables, a coach house and a dairy, and it provided employment for many local people. Some of Mathew Handcock’s trees still remain, a reminder of bygone days, but many have been cleared to make way for the surrounding housing estates, roads and the new motorway. Some of the trees survive behind Homeville, near the original entrance to Sally Park. The line of trees at the entrance to Monalea Park Estate was known as “The Primrose Walk” and the two fields near the house were known as “The Nine Acres.”

When Mathew Handcock died on 2 August 1824, he was buried in Donnybrook old churchyard, as was his widow, Margaret (Butler), who died in 1827. They were married in 1778 and had 14 children. Their children erected a monument to them in Saint Maelruain’s Church, Tallaght.

Sally Park was inherited by Mathew’s son, William Elias Handcock. His eldest son, William Domville Handcock (1830-1887), was the author of the History and Antiquities of Tallaght, first published in 1876, with important source material on the history of Tallaght.

William Domville Handcock was educated at Nutgrove School, Rathfarnham, and at Trinity College Dublin, graduating in 1852. He studied law for some years and became a solicitor. Later, he became the Dublin agent of the Scottish Union Life Insurance Company and the London and Lancashire Fire Insurance Company, and the Foreign Passport Office at 52 Dame Street.

In 1862, Handcock married Eleanor Olivier Rooke, daughter of Major Thomas Slator Rooke of the 12th Madras Light Infantry, a descendant of Thomas Slator, who ran a paper mill in Templeogue.

Large trees surrounded Sally Park (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Handcock describes his home at Sally Park as follows:

The house is very old. Apparently about half of it was first built and occupied, as the walls of this part are thicker and of a different style of building. The other half was subsequently added, thus making it square … it was very well wooded, many of the trees being very large. There are trout ponds, gardens, conservatories and everything to make a place comfortable, many thousands of pounds having from time to time been laid out here.

Handcock was a magistrate for Co Dublin, presided at Tallaght Petty Sessions, and was also a guardian of the South Dublin Union. There is a memorial to him in Saint Maelruain’s Church, the Church of Ireland parish church in Tallaght.

The stone spheres at the entrance to Sally Park came from ‘Carthy’s Castlw’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The stone spheres, which stand on the piers of the gateway into Sally Park, were bought by Handcock from a Mr Carthy in 1880. They had been on the piers to Dollymount, also known as Carthy’s Castle.

Carthy’s Castle neither a castle nor a home to a Carthy family. What remains on the slopes of Montpelier Hill is the West Tower and some outbuildings of the once remarkable but long-ruined Dollymount House or ‘The Long House.’

Dollymount House was built in the late 18th century as a hunting lodge for Henry Loftus, Lord Ely, who lived at Rathfarnham Castle. It was named after the society beauty, Dorothea ‘Dolly’ Monroe, an aunt of Lord Ely’s first wife Frances Monroe.
The large stone balls that adorned the arched gates were sold to Handcock for decorative use at Sally Park by a man named Carthy in 1880. The remaining tower is now isolated partially covered in ivy.

William Domville Handcock died on 5 June 1887, and there is a memorial to him in Saint Maelruain’s Church in Tallaght. He and his wife Eleanor had no children, and the widowed Eleanor Handcock continued to live at Sally Park with his niece, Mary Butler White, who revised and republished her uncle’s History in 1899.

Eventually, when Eleanor Handcock died in 1920, Sally Park was inherited by Gussie Hargrave, a companion and house keeper. It is said that Ellen Handcock wanted Gussie to marry her nephew, the Revd Charles Vaughan Rooke (1869-1946), who played international rugby for Ireland from 1891 to 1897. His test debut was against England 125 years ago at Lansdowne Road on 7 February 1891 and he was on the first Irish team to win The Triple Crown in 1894. However, this hoped-for marriage never transpired, Charles emigrated to New Zealand, where he died in Wellington, and Gussie married a Major Medicott.

Sally Park was bought by the Dublin architect Thomas Joseph Cullen in 1936/1938 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The house was later sold to the Knox family, who were descended from Major Lawrence Knox, who was the founding editor of The Irish Times in 1859. A daughter of the Knox family, Raby White sold Sally Park in 1936.

By 1938, Sally Park was the home of a leading Dublin architect, Thomas Joseph Cullen (1879-1947), probably a cousin of Anne Cullen, the first wife of my grandfather, Stephen Edward Comerford (1867-1921).

Thomas Cullen was born on 9 December 1879, the eldest of the three sons of William Cullen of 10 Mountpleasant Square, Rathmines, who ran a grocery shop in Upper Leeson Street, and his wife Elizabeth (Chambers).

He spent his last school years at Clongowes Wood College (1896-1897). After a three-year apprenticeship with John Leslie O’Hanlon, Cullen spent three further years as a pupil in the offices of Ashlin and Coleman (1904-1907), and then worked there as an assistant.

He set up his own practice in 1908, working from his office at 25 Suffolk Street for the rest of his career. In 1908, he was proposed for membership of the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland in 1908 by George Coppinger Ashlin, and was seconded by Charles James McCarthy and Thomas Aloysius Coleman. He was elected a fellow (FRIAI) in 1922.

As a young man, he was active in nationalist causes as a member of the National Volunteers and the Irish Volunteers, and he stood as a nationalist candidate for Rathmines East Ward in the local elections in 1914 and 1920. He also served on the governing body of University College Dublin. His wife, Dr Mary Kathleen (Delany) was a medical doctor by profession and the daughter of a Cork building contractor.

After much of O’Connell Street had been destroyed in the 1916 Rising, Cullen was commissioned in 1917 to design a unified façade for No 29-34 O’Connell Street in the destroyed area. Later, after independence, the new Irish government appointed Cullen and Patrick Hartnett McCarthy in 1922 as the architects for rebuilding of Cork City.

But Cullen’s main work tended to come mainly from public and religious bodies, for schools, hospitals and convents, and he also worked on factories and shops.

Through his association with Ashlin and Coleman, Cullen must have absorbed a keen appreciation for the work and legacy of AWN Pugin. This is reflected in his work on Gothic additions to Loreto Abbey, Rathfarnham, work on Saint Peter’s College, Wexford, Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey, and Saint Aidan’s Cathedral, Enniscorthy, where he designed a new nave roof (1936).

He also built a new mortuary chapel for Bride Street Church, Wexford, and worked on the Saint John of God Convent in Wexford.

His other works included the Hope Memorial Chapel in Coole, Co Westmeath, New grandstand for Old Wesley and Bective Rangers rugby clubs in Donnybrook – he was an enthusiastic rugby player – and Landore, an interesting house on Orwell Road, Rathgar.

He also converted the Tivoli Theatre on Burgh Quay, Dublin, to offices and printing works for the new Irish Press.

Cullen lived at 10 Mountpleasant Square (1901-1914), Castlewood Park, Rathmines (1921-1927), and 14 Herbert Park, Ballsbridge (1927-1938), before moving to Sally Park, Templeogue, where lived until he died on 22 January 1947. His practice, now named Cullen Payne Architects, continued at his original premises at 25 Suffolk Street until a recent move to nearby Drury Street.

The O’Moore family turned Sally Park into a nursing home in 1975 later it was sold to the Brady family in 1988, who continue to run the nursing home. They added a one floor extension in 1997 and added a second floor extension and one storey building to the rear in 2005.

The former elegrance of Sally Park is remembered in the names of the surrounding housing estates (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.

A journey through Lent 2016
with Samuel Johnson (17)

The Johnson Memorial in the Market Place in Uttoxeter (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During Lent this year, I am taking time each morning to reflect on words from Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the Lichfield lexicographer and writer who compiled the first authoritative English-language dictionary.

In 1780, when he was in his 60s, Samuel Johnson did public penance in the Market Square in Uttoxter, standing in the rain for a number of hours, bareheaded and without a hat.

The story is recalled in one of the panels at the base of Johnson’s statue in the Market Square in Lichfield. The architectural historian Sir Niklaus Pevsner has compared these bas-relief panels on the plinth with the work of Donatello.

Why did Johnson do this public act of penance?

Once, as a boy, he had refused to go and look after the bookstall his father ran in Uttoxeter. Later, on his last return visit to Lichfield, he left his friends and family early one morning and went back to Uttoxeter. When he got back to Lichfield late in the day, he apologised for his absence and told his host:

Madam, I beg your pardon for the abruptness of my departure from your house this morning, but I was constrained to it by my conscience. Fifty years ago, Madam, on this day, I committed a breach of filial piety, which has ever since lain heavy on my mind, and has not till this day been expiated. My father, you recollect, was a bookseller, and had long been in the habit of attending Uttoxeter market, and opening a stall for the sale of his books during that day. Confined to his bed by indisposition, he requested me, this time fifty years ago, to visit the market, and attend the stall in his place. But Madam, my pride prevented me from doing my duty, and I gave my father a refusal. To do away with this sin of disobedience, I this day went in a postchaise to Uttoxeter, and going into the market at the time of high business, uncovered my head, and stood with it bare an hour before the stall which my father had formerly used, exposed to the sneers of the standers-by and the inclemency of the weather, a penance by which I trust I have propitiated heaven for this only instance, I believe of contumacy towards my father.

‘Johnson’s Penance’ is remembered in a monument in the Market Square in Uttoxeter. It is so large, that inside accommodates a newspaper and ice cream kiosk. The act is also remembered every year in Uttoxeter as ‘Johnson’s Penance’ with a special ceremony. Nearby, Ye Olde Talbot boasts that Johnson must have been a regular visitor.

Ye Olde Talbot in Uttoxeter boasts that Johnson must have been a regular visitor (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s reflection.

Continued tomorrow.