Raising the roof on a railway house in Sutton

19 Railway Avenue, Sutton, Dublin 13 Retail Price: €695,000 Agent: (01) 839 4022

It’s every home renovator’s nightmare; Find the right historic home, save up the money to restore it, then get stuck only to discover an unexpected hidden horror that’ll break your budget for six.

It’s this stuff that draws viewers to hordes of cross-country skiers Great designs TV series and renovation shows like it.

While it’s fun to watch on TV, it’s no joke when a hidden horror shows up in your own project house. In the case of David Gahan and Anne Ryan, the roof came into their plan for 19 Railway Avenue in Sutton, Dublin 13, a historic railway cottage built in the early 1900s to house Great Northern Railway (GNR) workers near Sutton Station.


The railway station at Sutton

“We bought it in 1997,” says David. “It was in original condition and needed updating, but it didn’t seem to require that much work.

“It was small, alright, you went straight into the living room. There were three bedrooms with fireplaces, an attached kitchen and an attached bathroom that must have been added later. But we really liked it.”

Anne adds: “As soon as we entered the cottage we felt at home. We’ve had that feeling ever since, before and after the renovation, and we still have it today.”


Anne Ryan and David Gahan outside their home at 19 Railway Avenue, Sutton

Dubliners were delighted to find a home in Sutton, close to the sea and transport hubs, and a historic house at that. They had plans to expand it and make some updates.
On Railway Avenue in Sutton there are eight railway workers’ cottages built by the GNR in the early 1900s for workers at its works near Sutton Station. The two-story houses built for the managers are nearby.

In the past, the original occupants of this home would have worked every day on the giant steam locomotives, repairing boilers, axles and giant wheels, and generally keeping the engines and the company’s running stock in good shape.


The entrance at 19 Railway Avenue, Sutton

In the evenings, the workers went home together in the same row of houses and at the weekend they worked the vegetable gardens at the front that were once intended for them. Like most Rail Cottages of the time, they were designed to make a statement of quality and comfort befitting the Rail brand. While this was the crème de la crème of workers’ housing, the downside was that residents had to stay on the good side of their employers. If they lost their jobs, they also became homeless.

“We wanted to modernize it, but at the same time stay true to its time,” says David. “For example, we kept all the original sliding windows.”

The couple lived in it for seven years while preparing for the major renovation. They hired the late Tom Gibbons as their architect, who came up with the idea of ​​a fully rounded bay window in the extension. The plan was to add a new front entrance and hallway, a modern kitchen, bathroom and utility room, and a large front living room to the side of the original house.


Reception Room at 19 Railway Avenue, Sutton

“So we got stuck and found the beams in the roof were rotten at the base. The problem was not outwardly apparent and although our original surveyor went into the attic, the bases were hidden,” says David. “That meant we had to replace the roof. When they got up there and watched them take off the original slates, they just crumbled. So we would have to replace them too. We thought we would add an extension, modernize the original house a bit and that would be it. But now we had to take the roof off.”


Double room at 19 Railway Avenue, Sutton

The shocking revelation meant the couple saw the project budget skyrocket by more than 20 per cent and they were forced to take out a loan to ensure they could cover the unexpected costs.
“In the end we also had to remove the original floors as they were also rotten. So unexpectedly, only the walls and windows were left standing at the end,” says David.

Aside from the new roof, which also required obtaining matching tiles in the style of the period, they redecorated the house, re-tiled and rearranged the accommodation with new interior walls. They installed new floors and a new front door.

“We had the walls and ceiling smoothed out in the traditional way. The builder told us that just replastering our house used 25 tons of sand and 108 bags of cement,” says David. The period-style cast-iron fireplace with hand-painted tile detailing has been moved from the original living room to the new kitchen. This came from a supplier in Dorset Street and an artist from Waterford decorated the tiles.


The open fireplace gives the kitchen a cozy atmosphere

It was high on the couple’s wish list. “When I was a kid, we had fireplaces in our bedrooms and my mom used to light them on Christmas Eve,” says David. “The kitchen is where we bring everyone together, so it’s the main part of the house. It just seemed right to put it there.”

Anne adds: “Growing up we had a fire in the kitchen. I think it just adds to that cottage feel and coziness.”

While most railway huts of the era are made of red or brown brick, theirs are plastered. But the couple discovered that their house also had brick under the plaster during renovations.
This plastered facade meant their architect could get away with a 1930s-style bay window that doesn’t look out of place given that so many 1930s houses were also plastered. This circular bay window is not only used to flood the living room with light, but as a practical security feature it also ensures that you can always see who is at the front door.

Meanwhile, the couple bought an antique-style polished sandstone mantel from a supplier in Dundalk.

The couple have two children aged 13 and 15 and it was the perfect home for them. David is an investment advisor whose hobbies are flying, motorcycling and sailing (Howth’s Yacht Club is just around the corner). Meanwhile, Anne, a tech worker in the finance sector, has her office in the family’s sizeable shomera in the garden.
“I love the garden the most,” says David. “It’s totally private and peaceful and you can sit outside in the evenings and not hear a thing.”
But Anne’s favorite aspect of the house is its atmosphere. “I just love how it feels, just cozy and beautiful. And to be honest, I had a hard time deciding to sell.”
As David and the kids expand their many hobbies, more outdoor and hobby-centric space is needed.

Now they are looking for a suitable business in the area. Sherry FitzGerald demands 695,000 euros for them.

https://www.independent.ie/life/home-garden/raising-the-roof-on-a-railway-house-in-sutton-42028021.html Raising the roof on a railway house in Sutton

Fry Electronics Team

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