Cliff House, Killiney Hill Road, Killiney, South County Dublin
Completed in 1862, Cliff House is now the largest house in Killiney at over 15,000sqft. Originally called “Green Hill”, the house was designed by prominent architect Benjamin Woodward (of Deane and Woodward). The home’s construction coincided with that of neighbouring homes designed by the same architects – South Hill, Palermo, Fernside and Illerton (now The Neale/Alloa). Woodward died halfway through the construction of Cliff House, which commenced in 1961, the year of his death, and as such the house was brought to completion by his partner, Sir Thomas Newenham Deane.
Cliff House’s site was sold by Robert Exham, who built neighbouring Fernside, to Joseph Robinson c.1860. Robinson was an opera singer, and Cliff House was constructed for him.
The home was known as Greenhill/Green Hill up until the 1920s, when its name was changed to Cliff House. The house was sold in 1931 with its new name and the family of Richard Meredith moved in soon thereafter. The house was offered for sale in 1945, and was purchased by Arthur Rashleigh, who resided in the house until his death in 1953, and Edith Rashleigh.
In 1963, the house was acquired by Harold Spiro and Elvina Iris (Vina) Spiro. Harold owned Imco Cleaners and Vina was an avid bridge player. The Spiro family added an unattractive modern two-storey flat roof extension to the side of Cliff House during their ownership. The couple later moved to Spain, and the house came on the market in 1970. The property may or may not have sold, however it re-emerged on the market in 1974 and was acquired then by James Pugh and Dorothy Pugh, who owned the home until Dorothy’s death in 1985.
Peter Schmidt, a German businessman involved in ship repairs, and his wife, Loreta Schmidt, purchased the house from the Pughs in 1986. They paid a price believed to be well in excess of IR£160,000 for the house after auction. Schmidt had business operations in Dublin and Dubai, and as such the house was rented out now and again. Actor Mel Gibson rented the house while he was in Ireland to film Braveheart, and rock band Simple Minds also rented the house and used it to record music. The Schmidts only parted ways with the house in 1996, however it was on the market in both 1987 seeking IR£275,000, just one year after they bought it, and again in 1991 seeking IR£600,000 (later reduced to IR£475,000).
Simple Minds clearly enjoyed their time at Cliff Castle as their guitarist, Charlie Burchill, acquired the house in 1996 for IR£900,000 (€1,140,000) from Schmidt. He was just one of a number of high-profile musicians and celebrities, such as Enya, Bono, The Edge, Lisa Stansfield, Pierce Brosnan, Frances McDormand, Eddie Irvine and Maeve Binchy to have bought or rented in Bel Eire (Killiney/Dalkey) at the time, securing its reputation as the go-to destination for the rich and famous. The house was reportedly also occupied at one time by Burchill’s fellow bandmember, Jim Kerr, who also lived across the road road at Killiney House with then-wife Patsy Kensit.
The Burchills decorated the house in a Morrocan and French theme, with the reception rooms decorated in a distinctive Louis XV style. The house had been renovated many times on the last century by various owners and an extensive renovation carried out by the Burchills in 1998 eradicated all original plasterwork above basement level.
In 2004, the house came on the market again and was snapped up for €5,300,000 by the current owner, a solicitor turned hedge fund adviser. Straight after purchasing the house, he removed non-original extensions and extended the house to over 15,000sqft. The house in its current form was designed taking into consideration how Deane and Woodward would have originally designed a house of this size, had it been their brief, taking inspiration from neighbouring houses and other buildings across Ireland designed by the duo. In particular, Venetian and Byzantine gothic features were incorporated across the new extensions.
The end result is an extraordinarily large and impressive home. The garden level contains a huge indoor swimming pool, sauna, gym and billiard room among others. Above are four large reception rooms, orangerie and kitchen, six bedrooms and four bathrooms. The exterior is equally impressive thanks to Cliff House’s large motorcourt, double garage and 1.5 acres of perfectly landscaped grounds. Its grounds run down to meet Strathmore Road, to which there is pedestrian access.
Now the largest private home in Killiney, it is clear that the efforts of the current owner to enlarge the house in a sympathetic fashion have launched the house into the 21st Century and have lead to the creation of one of the finest residential properties in Dublin.