A centuries-old tale of two threesomes in Rathfarnham

3 Willbrook Street, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14 Selling Price: €450,000 Broker: Sherry FitzGerald (01) 495 1111

n his most elegant fountain pen hand, James Galvin, the head of household at No3 Willbrook in Rathfarnham, proudly declares on the 1911 household census form that he and his whole family can ‘read and be right’.

Close James. But no cigar.

Coincidentally, this year’s census is a snapshot of the incipient transformation of a Dublin village from a rural suburb to a full-fledged suburb.

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The exterior of 3 Willbrook Street, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14

The 1911 results show us two different Willbrook addresses of No. 3 in Rathfarnham Village, and the marked differences between these two households in that year tell us where Rathfarnham came from and where it went.

In a #3 we have “Van Man” Galvin (42) and his family of six living in a house that has been classified as a “second class home” with only two rooms. Essentially a workers house.
His son William (18) is also a van driver and his other son James (15) is a telegram messenger. In this section of Willbrook there are many delivery truck drivers (horse drawn) but also many “motorists” whose job was to repair machinery.

Unlike the working class before them, these people were reasonably educated and wealthier than their parents. And while the census tells us that not all parents in that Willbrook stretch could “read and read correctly,” the records show that all of their children can. This is probably thanks to the schooling provided free of charge in the area by the famous Loreto Abbey.

This particular Willbrook does not appear in the previous 1901 census so these cottages were fairly new at the time.

In contrast, at the other listed address in Rathfarnham Willbrook we find older and larger houses. Here #3 is listed by the meter as “First Class House”. Its owner is Richard Crampton Walker, 79 years old, who simply describes his job as “gentleman”. His No. 3 has many outbuildings, suggesting a dual agricultural function for his home.

His wife Elizabeth (76), his two daughters Elizabeth (38) and Francis (35) live here. There are also resident nurse Rose O’Riordan (23), cook Ellen Crone (40) and housemaid Theresa Fleming (17).

Times have moved on again in Rathfarnham as almost all the houses in both Willbrooks have been refurbished and expanded in recent years, with smaller families now living in larger rooms.

Galvin’s two room cottage is now 3 Willbrook Street. And while the delivery truck man with the handsome handwriting would certainly recognize it from the outside, inside it has been remodeled with extensions and open floor plans and gallery spaces. It’s twice as big today as it was when he filled out his census form.

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Jean Foody sells. Photo by Bryan Meade

Owners Jean Foody and David Haslam were fascinated by the social history of these houses. “One of the neighbors whose family has always lived here says they were originally built for mill workers. We have the Whitechurch creek behind the property,” says Jean, a community nurse. In fact, the Willbrook Flour Mill (long ago demolished) was operated by the Gibney family and later by the Maddens.

The couple bought No3 after returning from Australia in 2016 and looking for a place to base themselves in their hometown of Dublin. “We wanted something a little different,” says Foody.

“We noticed it straight away. The people who owned it before us had already opened it. To this point it has been expanded twice, first in 1994 with a large kitchen and again in 2004 with additional living and dining areas.”

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A double room with mirrored wardrobes

The couple had the great advantage that David is a professional architect and could ascertain that the house was in good condition throughout. “We installed two ovens in both reception areas. They are versatile and keep the place really cozy and cozy. We have properly insulated the roof and fitted new triple glazed windows and a new front door but we have retained the original sash windows to the front. We painted the wood colored kitchen gray and installed mirrored slider robes in the bedroom.”

Like many cottages in what were once rural areas, this one has a large rear garden. Originally it would have allowed residents to grow their own vegetables and maybe keep a few chickens for eggs. This has allowed the house to be expanded twice and also made room for a barna shed to the rear and a sun deck overlooking the creek.

And it still has a decent turf after all of that.

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A dining area with a fireplace overlooking the garden

In the years since they moved into #3, the couple have had twin girls, Violet and Daisy, and with the family expanding, David and Jean need a little more space.

“I’d love to stay here but there’s really no way to add an extra bedroom and expand further without taking up too much of the garden. So we’re selling and looking for a house in the area to trade.

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Remains of Willbrook Mill

“It’s a really convenient location. David cycles to his office in Merrion Square every day. We have the Yellow House close by along with Rathfarnham Castle and Park, we have St Enda’s Park and Bushy Park and the River Dodder is within easy reach. There is also Rathfarnham Village itself.

“I will really miss this house and will be very sad to leave. It’s a really cozy cottage set back from the main roads and it has this lovely open greenery to the front.”

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The garden and the back of the house

No3 was launched via Sherry FitzGerald for €450,000.

With 3.5m high ceilings, the accommodation comprises an entrance hall, living room with integrated storage, a brick fireplace and a multi-burner stove.
Both are equipped with a polished wooden floor. The open plan kitchen and dining room has an integrated dishwasher, Bosch gas hob and Candy oven and grill. It also comes with a multi-burner stove.

There is a bathroom with a tiled floor and partially tiled walls with a bath and an electric Mira shower. Bedroom one is a double with sliderrobes and its original fireplace. Bedroom two, also a double, has a walk-in closet with a multi-burner stove and double doors to the rear garden.

The home will likely attract a working couple looking for a starter home with some character that’s definitely not off the shelf.

https://www.independent.ie/life/home-garden/a-century-old-story-of-two-number-threes-in-rathfarnham-42046646.html A centuries-old tale of two threesomes in Rathfarnham

Fry Electronics Team

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