Ireland

Arresting style – the former RIC barracks that’s been converted to a €1.15m family home in Greystones

Glen Lodge, Church Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow Asking price: €1.15m Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Greystones (01) 2874005

uring the War of Independence, historical documents show that IRA leaders were critical of the fact that none of its units had ever bothered attacking Greystone’s RIC barracks. Among the country’s barracks it almost uniquely emerged unscathed from the conflict in which the neighbouring barracks at Bray was the subject of large scale grenade and firearms attacks, even despite the presence of 100 soldiers and 60 Black and Tans in the town.

The 1911 Census shows just four policemen living at Greystones barracks, denoted on the form by their initials only, as was typical for security reasons back then.

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The property has been totally renovated by the current owner who also added an extension to the rear, bringing the floor space to almost 2,000 sq ft.

But Greystones did have associations with the conflict. Éamon de Valera’s escape from Lincoln Gaol in 1919 is the stuff of rebel legend. But less well known is how he came to be captured in the first place.

He and his wife Sinéad and children had lived in Greystones. And although released following an amnesty granted to rebels in the wake of the 1916 Rising, by 1918 the authorities were planning to re-arrest many prominent republicans.

Travelling home on the train on the evening of May 17, 1918, a party of constables boarded at Bray and sat in an adjoining compartment. The driver came down to inform Dev of the police presence and offered to slow the train down so he could jump off and escape. But Dev declined and was arrested when the train arrived at Greystones. He was driven to Dun Laoghaire (then Kingstown) and shipped off to jail in England.

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A party of Wicklow RIC men pictured in August 1921

Following this, Michael Collins regularly visited Greystones, calling on Sinéad de Valera during her husband’s absence to ensure she was supplied with funds. In a statement to the Bureau of Military History, Robert Brennan recalled that when she told her husband of Collins’s kindness, Sinéad added: “I am quite in love with him,” to which Dev, ‘with some show of temper,’ responded: “That’ll do. There are enough people in love with Michael Collins.”

And of course Greystones was also where Collins’s proposed to Kitty Kiernan in the town’s Grand Hotel (later the La Touche).

Famed for his mastery of intelligence, Collins would doubtless have been keenly aware of the presence of the local RIC barracks located on Church Road, then as now, the town’s main street. Yet despite the escalating conflict the building was left alone, perhaps a blessing for its later owners.

Decommissioned as a police facility in 1922 and renamed as Glen Lodge, it is now a striking, double-fronted Victorian
home filled with period features serving as reminders of those turbulent times.

When the current owner, Mary Joy, bought the house in 2005, she noticed that the wall next to the front bay window in the upstairs bedroom had a tiny window at eye level, only about 18 inches square.

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Mary Joy acquired the property in 2005

“It was most peculiar,” says Mary. “I later discovered that the RIC had it installed as a lookout on Church Road.”

Mary and her family lived in the house for a while to get the feel of it before putting their own stamp on things.

“The kitchen was way too small to function as a family space,” she says. “I hired an architect to design a rear extension for a spacious kitchen/breakfast room with two sets of double doors leading out to the garden. I also had the house rewired and replumbed and replaced uPVC windows with Victorian style sash windows.”

Soon after the building work began in March 2006, however, the floors downstairs and one in an upstairs bathroom were found to be close to collapse and needed replacing.

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The bedroom with the RIC’s tiny spyhole

“We had no kitchen for months, but I didn’t mind,” recalls Mary. “All the more reason to frequent local eateries like the Happy Pear café and Bochelli Italian restaurant.”

The restoration and extension resulted in a 1,959 sq ft home with a drawing room and living room off the front hallway, both with cast-iron fireplaces and reclaimed pitch pine floorboards. These lead on to a dining room, lobby with guest WC and the extended kitchen/diner. On the first floor return are two double bedrooms and a family bathroom and on the floor above are two further double bedrooms – the master with that small lookout window intact – and a separate shower room.

Dev and ‘The Big Fella’ wouldn’t recognise the place today with its modern marina, the La Touche revived as a gleaming residential scheme and the main street buzzing.

Glen Lodge is now for sale for €1.15m through Sherry FitzGerald. A buyer won’t miss anything that happens on main street, thanks to that RIC spy window installed more than 100 years ago.

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