Dunkathel, County Cork

During the late eighteenth century, successful Cork merchants built a string of elegant villas along the banks of the Lee Estuary. Many of these have now disappeared, but one which still survives intact is Dunkathel, alias Dunkettle, a solid neo-classical house with an idyllic parkland setting Iying just below the mouth of the Glanmire River.

Dunkathel was built around 1785 for Abraham Morris in the Palladian manner, with a two-storey nine-bay centre block linked to office wings by screen walls with rusticated niches. Although stylistically in the manner of the Sardinian architect Davis Duckart, the building was almost certainly designed by his pupil Abraham Hargrove of Cork. It replaced the early eighteenth-century mansion of the Trant family, part of which still survives, notably some plasterwork in one of the courtyard ranges behind the house.

The fanlighted front door, flanked by engaged Tuscan columns, leads directly into the entrance hall which occupies the whole centre of the building. As at Florence Court, this room is divided into two parts by a segmented archway, thus allowing the magnificent bifurcated staircase of Bath stone with its attractive iron balustrades to be admired immediately upon entering the house. A huge round-headed window over the half-landing lights both the hall and the bedroom landing above. The outer portion of the hall retains its early nineteenth-century marbled Siena-like walls and its ceilings with painted blue sky and clouds. On the left is a fine marble chimney-piece and opposite, a magnificent gilt mirror - one of a number in this house. Close by is a grand piano and against the wall in the staircase hall stands a rare barrel organ, designed by Imhoff and Muckle in 1880 and still played for visitors with much musical vigour.

The main reception rooms flanking the hall are entered through polished wooden doors with lugged architraves - a rather late feature for a house of this date. To the right is the dining-room whose green painted walls are lined with the ancestral portraits of the Russell family, now the owners of the house, and their relatives the Wise-Gubbins who purchased Dunkathel from Jonas Morris around 1870. For many years the house was the home of the five Gubbins sisters, all of whom were deaf, until the Russell family inherited when the Gubbins line ran out of heirs. In the drawing room on the opposite side of the hall are some of the unique Victorian watercolours by Beatrice Gubbins, an indefatigable traveller. Like other rooms in the house it has a bright, spacious feel, though perhaps rather oddly is currently used by the family as a fabric shop.

Located 3 1/2 miles from Cork on the Waterford-Rosslare Road (N25). NGR: W 732730.
Open May to mid October: Wednesdays to Sundays or by appointment.
Antiques and gifts for sale.
Afternoon teas available. Toilet facilities.
Admission charge. Special group rates available.
Tel: (021) 821014.