How an iconic church in Dublin 8 became four city residences

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No1 Kingsland Park Church, Portobello, Dublin 8 Asking price: €825,000 Agent: DNG (01) 4794088

ou never heard of Kingsland Park, Liverpool Road and Bloomfield Place in Dublin City? That’s because the names of these streets were changed in the 1860s as part of an extraordinary one-man rebranding campaign; to relaunch the Dublin 8 ‘brand’, increase property values ​​and eliminate the lingering red-light district reputation that had diminished them.

Politician-builder Frederick Stokes was so successful that not only did upper-class buyers bite on the houses he was building, but suddenly all creeds wanted to build a church here. Among them were the Primitive Wesleyan Methodists who funded Kingsland Park Church, built between 1865 and 1871 with a small adjoining primary school. And Stokes has to build it too.

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Exterior of No1 Kingsland Park Church Portobello, Dublin 8

Exterior of No1 Kingsland Park Church Portobello, Dublin 8

The old church (the congregation removed it in the 1950s) was more recently purchased by Harcourt Developments and after 18 months of restoration and repurposing, has been converted into three A-rated apartments and a new mews house. This week, one of these apartments was put up for sale. It is expected that one more and the house of mews will be offered in the future.

Since retiring, it has been used since the 1950s as the basis for the Women’s Only Employment Exchange, helping women advance in a field that a century before had denigrated them.

From the 1830s, Kingsland Park was known for the magnificent Portobello Royal Gardens which grew out of the Kingsland Estate. The houses in the neighborhood were fashionable. But with ever-increasing numbers of British soldiers stationed at Portobello Barracks (now Cathal Brugha) and Wellington Barracks near South Circular Road (now Newman College), increasing numbers of prostitutes began to work in the area and the crime soon followed.

Dublin City already had the largest red light district in Europe with the famous ‘Monto’ located around Summerhill and Foley Street, containing around 1,600 sex workers.

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Oculus feature lets light in at the front gable end


Oculus feature lets light in at the front gable end

Oculus feature lets light in at the front gable end

And with prostitution taking hold near Portobello Barracks, many of the upper class living around Liverpool Street and Kingsland Park began to move out and property values ​​quickly fell. This has prompted businesses in the area to urge that the redevelopment become a tool to recreate the area.

So was the stage builder Frederick Stokes, an Englishman who was also the chairman of the Rathmines Township Commissioners. With significant holdings in the area, Stokes realized that if he could come up with a comprehensive rebranding for these streets, he would also benefit immensely.

In the 1860s Stokes began to build new houses. Then he changed the street names to give them a new identity. Kingsland Park became Victoria Street, Liverpool Road became Portobello Road and Bloomfield Place was renamed Windsor Terrace. Many of its new homes were adorned with elaborate busts of Queen Victoria to convey that this area had returned to proper Victorian values. It worked like a dream.

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Original architect John McCurdy


Original architect John McCurdy

Original architect John McCurdy

And as soon as respectable buyers began to return, the various churches began to show interest in settling here. Among them was the Wesleyan Methodist Church. In the 1860s, Dublin 8 had a great mix of religions – being equally popular with congregations of Jews, Catholics, Church of Ireland, Presbyterians and Methodists. The Presbyterians built their church off the South Circular in the 1860s and the Church of Ireland followed with St Kevin’s in 1882. Then came an officially opened synagogue in Lennox Street in 1887 (although recorded as operating since the 1870s).

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Architect Tim Darmody of Darmody Architecture who was selected to propose a plan for the new project


Architect Tim Darmody of Darmody Architecture who was selected to propose a plan for the new project

Architect Tim Darmody of Darmody Architecture who was selected to propose a plan for the new project

To build Kingsland Park Church (they retained the original address), the Methodists engaged the services of well-known architect John McCurdy, who had just designed the magnificent Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire. For the corner site he sketched a gabled design with a three-bay nave containing a single-storey transept to the south.

The school section, which later became offices, was designed to run perpendicular to the main building in a simple neo-Gothic style. A big feature of the church is its oculus, the large ornate rounded window at the end of the front gable.

And the builder called upon to build it in granite and cut stone brick was none other than the great rebrander himself, Frederick Stokes, who personally laid the foundation stone in 1871.

Over time, many different religions in the region have evolved. The Jewish congregation moved to Rathgar and Terenure as the Methodist population dwindled. In the years that followed, the Lennox Street Synagogue became a museum, the Donore Presbyterian Church became a mosque and St Kevin’s was converted into apartments in the 1990s, leaving only Kingsland Park Church to find a new breath. It was put up for sale by Methodists in 2009 and at one point £1.3million was wanted. By 2012, the price had dropped to €850,000. Recently it was acquired by Pat Doherty’s Harcourt Developments and architect Tim Darmody was hired to come up with a new plan to revive the buildings as a smart pocket city residential project.

“Although it is not a protected building, the big challenge was to stop the decline of the structural fabric. It was in pretty bad shape and hadn’t really been busy for a few years. It had a 40 year old heating system and many chimneys had been installed and removed over the years. All four houses are built to an A3 standard with underfloor heating.

No1, the first to hit the market, measures 1,012 square feet arranged “upside down” over two floors with the living quarters upstairs. There is a ground floor entrance hall and two bedrooms, both with en-suite bathrooms. There is also a toilet. Upstairs has a large open plan kitchen and living room with vaulted ceilings that stretch up to 25 feet, ornate church architrave detailing and a large stained glass window. The price is €825,000 of DNG.

A second, slightly larger apartment and the two open plan bedrooms will soon be available.

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