Sunday, 18 March 2012

LIOS AN UISCE - 1 Rock Road, Blackrock, Dublin.

Formerly Peafield Cliff House, (Elm Cliff?), then Lisaniskea, now Lios an Uisce.

LOIS AN UISCE, is a superb residence dating back to the 1700's when it was built by the Denny family. Lady Arabella Denny (daughter of the first Earl of Kerry and granddaughter of the famous Irish surveyor, Sir William Petty) married Colonel Arthur Denny and the couple lived at Lios an Uisce for many years. The house was one of Blackrock's finest and was described by Rev John Wesley in 1783 as 'one of the pleasantest sights I ever saw'. It could even have been the finest residence in Blackrock before the railway was constructed, making Lios an Uisce lose its sea-frontage.

The house has an infinite amount of history, undoubtably covered by many sources, so I won't delve in to deep into this very distant history. The next - or one of the next - residents after Arabella was William Smith, a solicitor at 15 Merrion Square, South, who lived in the home c. 1836 and obviously before and after this date also.

Fast forward a few years, in 1905, the Killpatrick family resided at 'Lisaniskea'. After them, Mr. Kevin O'Higgins rented the property in the 1920's before moving to nearby Cross Avenue, Blackrock. In 1956, a man named 'Niall Higgins', who listed Lisaniskea as his address, announced his marriage to Nuala Keegan of Richmond Avenue, Monstown. In November 1962, it was announced that Pierce Higgins of Lisaniskea had died.

In 1966, a wedding occurred between Olwyn O'Herlihy to Leslie James. The held the reception at Olwyn's parents', actor Dan O'Herlihy and Elsie O'Herlihy's, home which was listed as Lisaniskea, Blackrock. The O'Herlihy's rented the home from Niall Higgins before he and his family moved in.

However, a 1979 death notice declares that Nuala Higgins (née Keegan, as already mentioned) passed away. She was a wife to Niall, and mother to children; Pierce, Fergus, Desmond, Kevin, Ronan and Daire. Her address is listed as Lois an Uisce, Blackrock. In 1982, Niall Higgins published the book named 'Lios-an-Uisce: the story of a house and its occupants from 1753 to the present day'. I don't possess a copy of the book, however, I would imagine that it would give a much clearer and accurate story than this post due to my limited knowledge of the property and sources.

In 1999, a Mr. Niall Higgins applied for planning permission to erect a two-story dwelling in the existing orchard. It was initially refused, but then appealed and as we can see; the house has been built today near the entrance of Lios an Uisce. The house, however, has had its plans drastically changed since the initial application. Mr Higgins, in his application, declares that the property has been in the family since 1935 and that he acquired in in 1988. This final development of the site was somewhat uncalled for, in my opinion, as the house's lands had already been so heavily developed in the past. The man who applied is supposedly the widow of Nuala Higgins. This new modern two-story house took 0.226Ha (0.55 acres) of the grounds that were left and shares an entrance with Lios an Uisce.

The house came up for sale, finally, in 2004, which could have possibly ended the 69 year Higgins reign over Lios an Uisce had it sold - which I believe it didn't. The description at the time tells us that the home had, as follows; 0.45Ha (1.1 acres), approx 516 sq.m (5,554 sqft), reception hall, 3 reception rooms, kitchen/breakfast room, 'party room', 5-beds (1 ensuite, 2 baths (3 incl ensuite), detached mews. The house is split over various levels; 'ground floor, lower ground floor, first floor, first floor return'.

The house failed to sell at auction the first time around and was withdrawn. I believe it first came on the market guiding €5,500,000 and when it failed to sell at auction, Lisney then sought €8,500,000 for the property.

By 2006, the house was being stripped down and the contents were auctioned off, which is one of the reasons I assume it was sold. The auction seemed to be successful, with 90% of the lots sold and a total of €450,000 raised.  The most controversial sale was a mantlepiece guiding 18k-22k selling for €110,000. Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Council halted the removal of the fireplace as they claimed it was an 'essential feature' of the protected structure, even though it had actually been installed in the 1970's. It has been claimed that the fireplace is still in situ.

The house has been for rent lately for for €5,000/month and seems to be still available on with McNally Handy Properties. The photos of the house show that it has been perhaps unchanged since its attempted sale in 2004.

The fact is that this property was possibly once Blackrock's finest property, but now needs some love and care to upgrade it again. However, I don't think this is likely to happen at the hands of a renter unless they take the property for a very long term lease. The property is very spacious and has the added benefit of the separate mews house with its own living area/bedroom kitchen and bathroom. This is ideal for live-in staff such as perhaps an au pair.

It is difficult to think that a property that was once so magnificent and celebrated, is now sitting stagnant on the renal market. The loss of the home's original lands and sea-frontage, along with the construction of the busy main road very close to the rear of the property have all combined together to cause trouble for this property. The fact that it is bordering a public park on two sides isn't really a big problem because the property sits on such an elevated position over the park so safety probably is fine, however this may be problematic for families as the property appears to not be walled-in at all (as per the Bing map images), which I could see as being hazardous for families with very young children who could easily wander off into the park. But the fact is that the property does need work, and probably lots of it. The kitchen especially is completely outdated and in bad condition for a property seeking this much money per month. With a new kitchen, new carpets throughout and fresh paint, I think the property would be much easier to let. The property is a victim of the Celtic Tiger in that it has lost half an acre recently and the crash of the Celtic Tiger soon after the property's contents auction made it unviable to completely refurbish the property which is what it badly needs. Other than the mere aesthetic changes needed, it may be necessary to replace the windows with better glazing (for heating and to keep out noise from the main road) and maybe even the plumbing and wiring might need changing - but that's pure speculation, they could be in perfect condition. Also, walling in the property would be ideal in order to attract the high-end family renters that this property should appeal to.. once renovated.

I really hope that the property is refurbished in the coming years, as it is still a fantastic property on impressive grounds, but just badly needs to be taken into the 21st Century. Once these changes have been made, I have no doubt it will be one of the best houses in Blackrock again.

In 2013, the property hit the open market asking €3,000,000 and is still represented by McNally Handy.

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