Thorndene, 20B Shrewsbury Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4

Thorndene, formerly owned by Blacktie’s Niall O’Farrell, is a recently constructed home on Shrewsbury Road which sits on approximately 0.2 acres


The house was constructed on a site cut off from the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland’s property, also known as Woodside. In 1998 it was announced that the Society was auctioning off the 0.41 acre site with a guide of £750,000 – however, it was estimated by property experts at the time that the site would sell for as high as £3m. At this time it was difficult to put a price on Shrewsbury Road as many sales took place privately for undisclosed sums. In 1998 when the site was due to be auctioned, the last property that had been on the open market on Shrewsbury was Pitcairn in 1996, a wreck which was bought by businessman Des McEvaddy for £1.55m. Since then, the sale of the Japanese Embassy on Ailesbury to developer Bernard McNamara (who demolished it) for £2.95m meant that large detached Shrewsbury Road homes should now be worth in the region of £3-£5m each.

Record Sale

The 0.41 acre site, which had 140ft frontage onto Shrewsbury Road, sold in 1998 for a record £3.6m to Niall O’Farrell who immediately submitted applications to construct two large homes on the site. It was reported at the time that the estimated cost of building the ‘extremely large’ 4,000sq.ft homes would be in the region of £600,000 each, bringing the total cost of each home to £2.4m each. In fact, Thorndene definitely went a long way past 4,000sq.ft and now extends to approx 9,300sq.ft, as does the second house, Ouragh, which is just marginally smaller. Judging by the proportions of the house and the quality of finish, such as the indoor swimming pool, etc., it would not be unlikely that O’Farrell had to spend many multiples of the original estimate of £600,000 in order to build the new mansion.

The exceedingly high price paid by O’Farrell for the site meant that the price of the Chester Beatty site, which lies behind Thorndene, made £7.2m (approx €9.14m) at auction only a few months later. The one acre site was bought by Galway developers, O’Malley Construction. The site is still empty to this day despite been granted planning permission in the past.

A year later, O’Farrell cunningly sold half of the 0.41 acre site to developer Sean Dunne for a price in the region of £3m. This was a remarkable deal, meaning that O’Farrell’s half of the site had technically now only cost him £600k. Dunne took O’Farrell to court regarding this deal as he claimed that O’Farrell had breached terms of the contract and was trying to get Dunne to accept a smaller plot than previously agreed. Eventually Dunne won the case and O’Farrell had to pay the legal fees incurred. This was their first introduction to neighbourly disputes on Shrewsbury.

Round Two

O’Farrell made a move in 2005 to try and outsmart the market again, hoping to replicate the success of his first Shrewsbury Road development. He purchased No. 28 Shrewsbury Road for €7.5m-8.0 million, near the Ailesbury/Shrewsbury junction with plans to develop two red-brick edwardian stlyle semi-detached houses on the site. His plans were rejected and eventually applied for planning for a very similar house to Thorndene, a 9000sqft+ mansion with lifts, swimming pools and numerous bedroom suites. Unfortunately these plans have yet to materialise.

2012 Sale

O’Farrell attempted to flip Thorndene in 2009 for the sum of €14m, despite the fact that the market was collapsing. After a three year stint on the market, the property was sold to an unknown buyer for €5 million in December 2012, who have further invested in the property and added a new set of stone steps from the hall-level kitchen out to the garden.

Thorndene is truly luxurious, with every possible feature from its 50ft heated swimming pool, to underground parking, saunas and a cinema. The house was constructed under the watchful eye of famed architect Sam Stephenson, with great attention to detail visible throughout, such as the 300-year old wood floors. While the size of the home and its interior are not out of character on Shrewsbury Road, the plot is one of the smallest on the street and, as such, the rear garden is very much a let-down compared to many homes on the road. Given this issue, the house is more likely to appeal to foreign buyers, with buyers from the likes of London (who are very actively purchasing in this pricey locale) not phased by small gardens.