Life is simple in Howth
Seamount. Balscadden Road, Howth, County Dublin. Starting price: €2.225 million. Agent: Gallagher Quigley (01) 818 3000
Designed in 1897 and first built and launched in 1898, the Howth 17 Footer is the world’s oldest one-design keelboat racing class still racing today to its original design.
It’s exactly the same vintage as Seamount, a grand five-bedroom 5,000sq ft Victorian house overlooking the sea on Balscadden Road in Howth. It is located on the outskirts of the village of Balscadden and you can see Ireland’s Eye and the island of Lambay through its windows.
At the time Seamount was built, local man and avid sailor Walter Herbert Boyd was also working on the design of a sailboat that is now at the center of the world’s oldest class of one-design keelboat racing.
Boyd, son of the famous judge and member of the Privy Council Sir Walter H Boyd, was an amateur boat designer and developed his prototype in 1897, adapting it specifically for Howth and Dublin Bay sailing. Five of the boats were launched in 1898.
In 1907 the Dublin Bay Sailing Club adopted the 17 Footer as their racing class. In the meantime, Boyd then inherited his father’s knighthood and became Sir Walter Herbert Boyd, 2nd Baronet of the Boyds in 1916.
Peter Courtney, owner of Seamount with his wife Helena, also has a strong association with the water and is the proud owner of his own Howth 17 Footer, ‘Oona’, built in 1909 and stored at Seamount when not race.
There are only 19 of these craft and all are located in Howth. It joins the currach and the Galway hooker as a trio of unique Irish craft and it featured on a 29p postage stamp in 1982 as part of a series commemorating famous Irish boat types.
These days the 17 Footers are in the water for the summer around Howth when Peter runs Oona twice a week.
“The Howth keelboat is 17 feet long at the waterline,” Peter explains, “from the point where the bow hits the water to where the stern hits the water, it’s the traditional way of measure boats.It’s about 21 and a half feet on deck.
“In scratch racing, there is no need for handicaps or weighted competition, because all boats are exactly the same. With the same spars and sails, the one that crosses the finish line first is the All Howth 17 Footers are built to the original design and in accordance with the original plans drawn up by Boyd.
Seamount also has a long Howth heritage. According to Peter, records show that the site on which it was built was identified for construction in the 1870s and that a house was definitely on it in the 1890s.
In its current state it is perfectly habitable. But like an old boat, it needs restoration. To that end, the property has pending planning permission for a renovation project which will see a sweeping refurbishment to include its 2,000 square foot extension. At 7,000 square feet, this would make Seamount one of the largest homes on this famous stretch of coastal sailing. .
“For the winter, I keep the boat at home, where I also store a friend’s. Much of the ground floor of the house is used for storage of equipment and materials for the 17 footer,” says Peter.
The Courtneys have lived in Seamount since 1983. “The house had been in my family since 1925, but after my grandmother died in the early 1980s it was put up for public auction. The 1980s were a bad time for property and prior to the sale Seamount seemed to be failing to reach its probate value so at the last minute we came in and made an offer on it.
They raised their two children in the beachfront home with its expansive gardens that include stands of trees and a lily pond. Originally on a much larger site, over the years portions have been sold for private accommodation. Part of the house was once a coach house with stables downstairs for the horses and pasture paddocks to the side. Now it’s too big for the Courtneys and they’re going down.
“There is a lot of free space for people to develop what they want for themselves.”
Although there are around 20 rooms, the current dwelling comprises five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a dining room, a living room, a living room, a library and a kitchen. Peter and Helena intended to completely renovate the place and hired architects, Tyler Owens, to work with them on the design of the project. Full clearance has been obtained.
The new design also provides for the development of all spare capacity within the current building with the addition of a two-level bow-shaped extension facing the sea.
The heart of the proposed building is an open-plan living space comprising a living room, kitchen, dining room and sunroom. The new incarnation will include the addition of additional sleeping accommodations as well as bathrooms, a games room, a gym and a cinema.
Subject to approval, new owners have the option of modifying the design.
“It was a great place to raise children with lots of space for them to play in and located right by the sea,” says Helena. “My favorite times of the year here are spring and summer. The house seems to take on its full meaning in these seasons. My favorite piece is the bookcase in soft colors. I love sitting surrounded by books with a view of Ireland’s Eye from one window and a view of the garden from the other.”
“We think it’s time for the new owners to put their own stamp on it,” said Peter. A price of €2.25million paid through Gallagher Quigley will sail the Courtneys and Oona into the sunset to drop anchor in another port of their choosing.