(IRISH INDEPENDENT, November 27th, 2015)
James Joyce, as we know, was a man of many parts. Of Dublin that is. Both in terms of the many places the peripatetic Joyce family lived in during the author’s formative years and those places associated with his great works of fiction. Like the southside suburban village of Sandymount.
At the opening of the third chapter of Ulysses we encounter Joyce’s literary alter ego Stephen Dedalus mid-thought and mid-stride on Sandymount Strand. And later in the book Leopold Bloom finds himself sitting on rocks overlooking the strand observing a young woman, Gertie McDowell, and, let us say, fantasises about her.
By the early 20th century this strand, which stretches south to Merrion Gates, had became popular with city dwellers on a day out and the village itself, just 3km from the city centre, was a prosperous coastal suburb, and looked pretty much as it does today, largely residential with its houses an eclectic mix of architectural styles covering the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras, and including detached and semi-detached dwellings and short terraces.
Many of these mainly two-storey buildings, with facades of red brick and render predominant, still have their original timber sash and casement windows, colourful tongued and grooved doors, often with elaborate fanlights, and their original slate roofs and terracotta tile detail intact.
At the heart of the village is the distinctive triangular railed Sandymount Green park, surrounded today by restaurants, a Spar supermarket, and retail and business outlets including independent book company Books on the Green and the well-known Ryan’s Sandymount House pub.
The unusual castellated houses along the south side of the Green are part of what once was Sandymount Castle and the roads behind this bear that name.
Sandymount’s road layout derives from the network of small roads developed through the fields, marshes and sand dunes in the 15th to 18th centuries to link the small settlement then known as Brickfield Town, on land owned for generations by the FitzWilliams of Merrion, to surrounding Ringsend, Irishtown, Ballsbridge, Donnybrook and Merrion.
Brickfield Town came from the major brickworks established by the FitzWiilliams in the 18th century, the produce of which which went into many of the fine buildings in Dublin’s Georgian squares.
Houses were built around what is now Sandymount Green to house the brick makers and their families. Brickfield Town evolved from these and as its social prestige grew, the name was changed to Sandymount in 1810, with Lord FitzWilliam hoping to make it more attractive to prospective buyers for the suburban villas he had built here.
A major catalyst for Sandymount’s expansion was the construction of the Dublin to Kingstown Railway in 1834, Ireland’s first railway line.
The wide sweeping view from Strand Road across to Poolbeg peninsula on the left, with its twin red-and-white striped chimney towers, and farther along to Howth, and south to Dun Laoghaire, contributes to the sense of space and openness, which is a vital part of the character of Sandymount.
The city streets are near and yet so far, the Poolbeg chimneys a reminder of the port and the city beyond. Halfway along the promenade which runs along Strand Road is a Martello Tower, constructed in 1804.
To the north, Sandymount begins where Newbridge Avenue meets Herbert Road and stretches over to Church Avenue at the coast, and west along the DART rail line and south to Merrion Gates.
Sandymount’s seaside location, fine houses and village character, focused around Sandymount Green, has long made this suburb a very desirable place to live. Large houses on Strand Road or Park Avenue, with their south west-facing gardens could set one back anything up to €2.5 million.
Out here, mid-range means between €500,000 and €700,000, for a substantial 1970s property on Merrion Strand or in St John’s (off Park Avenue), while a one-bed apartment would go for around up to €250,000, while a two-bed apartment, for example on Seabury, would go for up to €500,000.
Joyce isn’t the only literary figure connected with Sandymount. In the Village Green there is a bronze bust of William Butler Yeats, who was born in the village. Seamus Heaney lived here for many years and he once observed: “The view over the bay, outlook over waves and shore and shipping, is very heart-lifting and head-clearing”.
The Green is the focal point for many events, such as the Summer Festival
and the lighting of the Christmas tree, organised by the Local Residents Association and Dublin City Council. Events such as these help to maintain Sandymount’s distinctive village ambience.
The area is served by the DART, with stops here at Sandymount and Sydney Parade, and by Dublin Bus routes 1, 18 (Sandymount to Palmerston) and 47.
The Aviva Stadium is nearby and Ryan’s pub is a great place to watch big rugby games if you don’t manage to get a match ticket. Mulligans, on Sandymount Road, also does really good food.
Rugby is hugely popular in this neck of the woods, as one might imagine, but for those who like their rugger without the biff and bash of the ruck and maul, Sandymount Touch Rugby play every Monday at Monkstown RFC.
The GAA are also well represented here by Clanna Gael Fontenoy, who attract many from Sandymount to their Sean Moore Road base and pitches and field close on 50 teams in football, hurling and camogie at juvenile and adult levels.
There are plenty of good places to eat out in Sandymount.
Brickfield Town, part of Mulligans, is a gastropub that counts rabbit, guinea fowl and raie au beurre noir (skate with black butter sauce), among its offerings, which has to be has to be a great addition to any neighbourhood.
The award-winning Dunne and Crescenzi branch on Seaford Avenue offers the same warm, Italian experience as its noted South Frederick Street outlet, while Brown’s Deli and Cafe on Sandymount Green serves the usual sandwiches, wraps and ciabattas by day and turns into an Italian restaurant by night. It serves excellent duck confit.
Also popular are the Itsa4 restaurant, the Indie Spice (signature dishes fish curry, Bangladesh prawn and mahi mahi), and Butler’s Pantry, all on the Green. Mario’s Italian on the Green does a very good thin crust pizza.
Primary schools locally include Star of the Sea, Scoil Mhuire, an all-girls, Catholic school, and St Matthews. There is also a Sikh Gurdwara on Serpentine Avenue. There is also Marian College secondary school for boys.
Houses in Sandymount are always in demand, even if, as Mark McGrath, managing director of local auctioneers Bennett, notes there has been a slowing down in the market at the upper end.
“Up to around the €900,000 mark, things are still moving well, but above that, things have definitely slowed. and I would say prices are down maybe 5% on earlier in the year.”
As mentioned, Park Avenue is the high end of the high end out Sandymount way, with Strand Road and its period piles also hugely desirable, and also Gilford Road and down to Sydney Parade, where a serious detached or semi-detached property would fetch well over the €1 million.
Felicity Fox has the three-bed terraced 10 Sandymount Court for €595,000; Janet Carroll Estate Agents is looking for €850,000 for the three-bed terraced 24 Merrion Strand; and Bennetts has put Linden Lodge, a large four-bed detached property, on the market at €1,570,000.
- Proximity to the city
- Beautiful architecture and ironworks, including railing and period street lamps
- Lots of pubs, restaurants and sporting amenities close at hand
- Traffic congestion around Sandymount Green an issue
- Street furniture inconsistent in style, quality and condition.
- Sandymount has only a few publicly accessible open spaces for
- recreation, primarily the Green and the beach/promenade