We were on a mission to buy our first old VW Campervan when we happened across the strange, fantastical sight of the ghost estate St. Johns Wood in Stradbally, Co. Waterford back in 2014. The gearbox in the camper was shot so we didn’t buy, yet it wasn’t an entirely wasted trip as we explored the strangely intoxicating silence of this ornate ghost estate.
I’ve often lamented the lack of craftsmanship in modern estates. After spending years looking at the beautifully crafted old brick cottages of Dublin city center that have lasted the test of time – the unimaginative, throw-away lego housing estates of the boom years leave me cold. So it was such a shame to see an estate that so much thought, planning and care had been put into gone to ruin.
These ornate cottages with flowing Wexford style traditional thatched roofs like mod haircuts topping heritage coloured walls create a beautiful profile. Their trellised porches, stone boundary walls and hobbit style windows are otherworldly – a playfully beautiful fantasy. Broken down decks and fences allowed us to wander the fairy tale gardens that had become wild and started reclaiming the estate for their own.
My feeling was that these houses had slighted missed the brief – too large and fanciful to be squeezed into an estate at such close proximity to each-other. Everyone of these cottages wanted to be free with a haggart and a range of outhouses scattered around it just peeping over the tops of trees at the next cottage an acre away. Less cottages in a more scattergun layout might have worked better but who knows, their release missed the market and the crash sealed their fate as a ghost estate… until now…
The second coming of St. James Wood
It seems that they have been picked up by some Waterford Business men and are back on the market again – restored to their original glory and at a much reduced price of €300,000 (down from €800k originally). Isn’t money a strange thing sometimes?
I really do hope that this is a project that succeeds despite all of the heartache that was undoubtably endured by the originally developer. Mistakes were made but I would like to think that his heart was in the right place originally. He has created a truly original estate that celebrates the legacy of the undulating thatched roofs of the south east and that is a service to us all.
The craftsmanship of the builds endures as these thatches get their second chance at the market and some lucky pioneers will get to live a fairytale life at the mouth of the beautiful copper coast drive in Waterford.
St. James Wood Gallery