The Wexford Prison Paramedic’s Haven was brought to life after the architects overhauled the 1930s structure

White Walls, Sea Road, Ballymoney, Co. Wexford Asking Price: €950,000 Broker: Savills

ack, when the death penalty was still in vogue in Ireland, a prison doctor had to attend to the prisoners’ health before they were hanged.

In 1933, Dr. William Cooke as the prison doctor at Mountjoy Prison which had 16 executions in 10 years.

The paramedic would have previously been required to monitor nutrition and administer sedatives (usually alcohol) and was also tasked with confirming and certifying death at the scene.

In addition to this somber role, Dr. Cooke faced the same dangers at Mountjoy in the 1930s as any modern prison orderly.

Prisoners are more likely to suffer from addiction and may be more difficult to treat, while contagion spreads faster in crowded prison quarters. Back then, TB was a killer.


White walls before the transformation

These were also troubled times with blueshirt gangs openly fighting with the IRA in the streets. So it’s likely that Dr. Cooke valued his time off from work more than most.

To this end he built White Walls in 1933 in the sunny south-east overlooking the sea on the beach at Ballymoney in a contemporary International Modernist style, earning it an entry today in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage as an Important Irish Home.


The kitchen and breakfast bar

When architect and builder Colm Nolan tackled it as a renovation project, he found all the foundations needed to develop a 21st-century home with an A2 energy rating. The massive concrete walls played a key role in the design and the rise to the top of the energy ladder.

The house was designed by its architect, Samuel Dean of Higginbotham and Stafford for Dr. Cooke was built according to a “cubic plan”.

And in 2018, some 85 years later, architects at Circa Design, led by Nolan and his wife Jackie, an urban designer, were brought in to renovate and revitalize White Walls.

“Basically, nothing has been done to the house in the almost 90 years since it was built. It consisted of solid concrete walls, single-glazed windows and a flat bitumen roof,” he says. The client’s brief was light, open spaces, energy efficiency and adaptation to the standards of modern family life.

“It was all mass concrete, 9″ to 10″ solid concrete walls, we suspect, using local stone from the beach. What was there and available was used. You could see how it was done when we pulled it back.


An aerial view of White Walls and the sea

“We kept the outer walls and a partition ball in the middle, everything else was more or less taken out.

“While the concrete mass was the most difficult to work with, it also had very good structure and was ideal for insulation.

“When we build passive houses today, we do that, we insulate with concrete and an outer shell. By default, the concrete mass automatically makes it airtight.

“It was like putting on a coat. how do you keep warm You’re putting on a coat, so we’re essentially putting a big coat on this house. It’s more difficult in more modern homes,” he says.

They also used original wooden beams for the first floor. “Believe it or not, wood was better in the 1930s than it is today. The first floor structure has been fully maintained.”


Balcony with white walls and garden view

The only other external structural changes were the addition of a viewing area or upper rooftop lounge. “So we put in new joists to support this because the others under the flat roof were damaged. We also extended the corner windows to the floor and the downstairs windows to let in more light.

Internally the brief was to create an open plan kitchen/living/dining area on the ground floor as well as utility rooms and a bathroom.

Developed on the first floor are three double bedrooms and an en-suite master bathroom and on the second the viewing lounge with access to a roof terrace overlooking the beach and sea.

Heating is via an air-water system with underfloor heating.

White Walls is a set on 1.2 ac grounds approximately 100m from Ballymoney Beach, 6km from Gorey and 20km from Arklow.

A gravel driveway leads from the guarded entrance to the house. The entrance hall features a floating staircase leading to the upper floors while the hallway gives access to the open plan kitchen/dining/living room.

The kitchen is arranged around an island, with storage provided by floor and wall units. It has a Belfast sink, as well as a double oven and two-hob hob.


White Walls Lounge overlooking the patio

The living room overlooks the garden. A pantry and a utility room are located next to the kitchen with a wet room also on the ground floor. On the first floor is the master bedroom with walk-in closet and en-suite bathroom.

On this floor there are three further bedrooms and a family bathroom.

The addition of a second floor in the form of a viewing lounge was the only external structural addition to the original building.

This captures the sea views from a rooftop living room fitted with a modern fireplace and the al fresco roof terrace which wraps around to allow for views from all angles.

And 100 yards away is a five mile stretch of sandy beach. White Walls at Sea Road, Ballymoney, Co Wexford, is offered for sale by Savills with a guide price of €950,000. The Wexford Prison Paramedic’s Haven was brought to life after the architects overhauled the 1930s structure

Fry Electronics Team

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