Sorrento House, 1 Sorrento Terrace, Dalkey

Often described as Dublin’s finest maritime residence, Sorrento House is a wonderful end of terrace Victorian home on Ireland’s most prestigious terrace block.

Sorrento House was built c. 1829 and the terrace was originally intended to comprise 22 houses in total, but these plans were interrupted by the famine in Ireland at that time, meaning that construction ended after a mere 8 houses were constructed. The terrace was designed by architect Frederick Darley. Sorrento House was the first house to be constructed on the terrace and it is the finest house on the row due to the significant additions made by its present owner and the wonderful grounds that the house sits upon.

The home was built by the father of Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell, a Trinity College Dublin provost. The home originally sat on 5 acres of lands and also included the lands we now know as Sorrento Park, a now public park which faces Sorrento Terrace. The MacDonnell family officially opened Sorrento Park in 1894, however it was used for various public events prior to this date. Lady MacDonnell and Sir Richard MacDonnell were the heads of the household. The Dalkey township acquired some of Sorrento Terrace’s lands c. 1887 and expanded Peoples’ Park (Dillon’s Park), constructing a road that joined Sorrento Terrace and Coliemore Road at a cost of £1,000.

Sorrento House was owned by Judge T.G. Overend, Q.C. by 1890. The MacDonnell family likely retained their grounds at Sorrento Hill as in 1894 Lady MacDonnell officially handed over Sorrento Park to trustees. Judge Overend was a prominent figure and he continued to host the Dalkey regatta on grounds of Sorrento House as the MacDonnells did before him.

Following Judge Overend’s stint at Sorrento House, it was occupied by Edward R. Wade, Esq., from 1912 at the latest. The Wade family also continued to host the Dalkey regatta. Their time at Sorrento House was short lived, with Mr James Robert Cresswell, a solicitor, and Mrs Bessie Jane Cresswell taking residency at the home from 1924, if not before. Their eldest daughter was Alicia Mary Cresswell, who married a Mr Thomas Herbert Kenny of 16 Ulverton Road, Dalkey. In 1945, James died unexpectedly in February at Sorrento House and three years later, in 1948, the Cresswell family put Sorrento House up for auction.

The 1948 buyers were likely the family of eye surgeon and professor Frank Lavery. During his ownership, Frank Lavery was (fortunately) denied permission to construct three further homes on the lands of Sorrento House. Dorothy Lavery, the widow of Frank Lavery, eventually sold the property in 1998 at the age of 96 for a record £5,900,000 (c. €7.5m). Bidding for the property was fierce and the winning bidder outbid AIB’s Lochlann Quinn in order to secure it.

The buyers were Terrance (Terry) Coleman, who was originally from Dublin but made his fortune from the car alarm business in the UK, and his wife, Anita Coleman. The Colemans resided at Franklyn, Macclesfield Road, Alderley Edge, Cheshire, SK97BW at the time that they purchased Sorrento House. Alderley Edge is renowned for being one of the most expensive areas in the UK outside of inner-city London, with an abundance of beautiful country homes on sizeable plots.

For years, the Coleman family applied for planning to bring Sorrento House up to modern standards, but failed to secure planning initially. There are no less than 15 separate planning applications between 1999 and 2003 in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council’s records seeking permission for various modifications to the property. During the four year period the house had been transformed from a rambling old home, that was described as uninhabitable, into a lavishly renovated mansion extending to twice its original size, blending Celtic Tiger trappings with original features. The renovation is said to have cost in the region of €13,000,000 – certainly one of the most expensive renovations of a privately owned residential property in suburban Dublin.

According to the listing agents, Lisney, the main house extends to 7,685 sqft including 6 bedrooms, all of which have en suite bathrooms, and the garage also houses a fully equipped separate one-bedroom apartment. One of the most interesting modern features of the property is the state-of-the-art parking system in the garage, which is a three-bay garage with three separate lifts providing covered parking for 6 cars – although unfortunately Mr. Coleman’s silver Ferrari F430 is not included in the sale, presumably. This system is practically unheard of in suburban residential property in Dublin and is more commonly seen in high-density inner-city townhouses such as in London. While undoubtedly very costly to install and maintain, this a big plus for minimising the footprint of the buildings within the site and maximising the magnificent maritime gardens.

Back in the main house, Lisney’s photos show that the house has been meticulously restored and updated, with an abundance of original features, such as the fabulous intricate coving in the halls, reception rooms and master suite. The presence of vents in every room in the ceiling and dotted around in the coving suggest that the property is fully air-conditioned, and indeed a source has confirmed that this is the case. Between the air conditioning throughout and the underfloor heating, there is a distinct lack of visible radiators, which is unusual but pleasant. My only critique of the home is that some of the décor was fad and now, 10 years on, the glossy wood-panelled ceilings in the kitchen, cinema and office are, in my opinion, outdated. The entire office, boat-style desk included, is the worst victim of early noughties décor, but is thankfully nowhere near as tragic as earlier nineties décor. For a house of this pedigree I believe that sticking to the original design as much as possible always pays off, and any aspects which deviate from the classic design that usually attracts people to houses such as this nearly always end up being replaced. The astronomical renovation costs indeed lie in the level of detail, from the custom silk panelled walls to the Japanese-influenced touches throughout, all of these bespoke features are sure to have been expensive and will unfortunately not offer much of a return financially as the next owner may likely change the house to reflect their tastes.

The most unique feature of the home is clearly the totally uninterrupted and spectactular view. The near endless vista offered by the home and gardens includes Bray Head, Wicklow Mountains, Killiney Bay and Dalkey Island (probably also Howth Head from the gardens). There are possibly some other homes that feature similar views on higher ground in Dalkey, however this one has direct contact with the sea, which is a rarity in Dublin. My favourite room in the entire house is the orangerie, which enjoys breathtaking panoramic views. As I sit here wishing I had the hefty €12,000,000 being asked for the property, it is this room (which photographed beautifully) that is drawing me to the house.

There is no better word to describe the home than ‘unique’. It is completely a once
-off home that will hopefully appeal to some very lucky, deep-pocketed buyer. It will, however, probably not be an easy sale as the €12,000,000 price tag would blow practically every other residential sale out of the water. Only time will sell of the home sells or not, but for now I will continue to salivate over the photos, and live in hope that somebody gives me €12m in the very near future.