St Anne’s is perched on a narrow, sloping site on “The Hill” in Dublin’s Monkstown. Along with its conjoined twin, Woodville, its unusual collection of architectural features make it a curiosity. Depending on what direction it is viewed from, it could be three different houses. From the east an ornate but unremarkable suburban building. From the north a narrow angular structure dominated by a tower. From the west an expanse of red-brick wall that can look either bleak or beautiful depending on the time of year. The architect and first owner of this eye-catching house was William Caldbeck, a popular 19th century Dubliner best known for his work on banks and department stores. He was also responsible for much of the development of “The Hill” itself from the 1850s.
William Caldbeck was baptised to Francis Cope Caldbeck and Ann Curran on the 1st of September 1822, at St Mary’s Pro- Cathedral, Dublin.(1.)According to The Peerage his father was the son of William Caldbeck and Dora Graham - the owners of Moyle Park Gunpowder Mills at Clondalkin. His uncle was thus William Eaton Caldbeck, the prosperous owner of Caldbeck Castle and Larch Hill, both located in the Dublin foothills. Uncle William was to play a major role in Caldbeck's career, as patron and early client. On his mother’s side, William Caldbeck was a grand-nephew of politician and barrister to many of the 1798 rebels, John Philpot Curran (1750-1817). The Caldbeck surname is thought to be derived from a place in Cumbria translated from the Old English as “Cold Stream”, and although it is uncommon in Ireland, the name is concentrated in Laois.
Having trained with William Deane Butler, (1793-1857), a prolific gaol and court house architect, Caldbeck launched his own practice in 1844. "This is the day I command business on my own account”, is the proud entry in his surviving account book for Feb 21st, 1844.(2.) This document, which is held at the Irish Architectural Archives, gives great insight into how Caldbeck’s practice evolved from small-scale jobs, where “Uncle William” featured as a loyal and perhaps essential client until his death in 1855, to larger commissions from department stores and banks. Caldbeck's office, which was based at 24 Harcourt Street, earned an income of £150 in 1846, and he included a gold watch valued at £50 in his earnings for that year. Caldbeck was doing work at the time for Swiss watchmaker John Scriber of 20 Westmoreland Street, official watchmaker to the Queen and the Lord Lieutenant. It is likely that Scriber (or Schreiber) was the source of this quaint payment. Some years later, Caldbeck drew up plans for a country house for John Scriber at Knockmaroon Hill, Chapelizod. The resulting villa, Castlemount, an attractive castellated structure on three acres, hasn’t been attributed to Caldbeck but perhaps it should be. The house was first listed in Thom’s Directory in 1857.
Nothing went to waste in the running of the business. Caldbeck rented out the stables at the back of 24 Harcourt Street to various Dublin cabmen. And his account book shows that he was also in receipt of rent money for properties he owned at South Cumberland Street, purchased from "Uncle William". After some lean years, his earnings topped £1,000 for the first time in 1859.
Other commissions included:
Tinode house, Blessington, Co. Wicklow.
Plans for houses on Leinster Road, Rathmines in 1847.
The original premises of Brown Thomas Department Store in Grafton Street.
Mansfields Shop also of Grafton Street.
McSweeney and Delaney, Drapers, Sackville Street (later Clery’s, destroyed in 1916).
Todd Burns shops in 1850. Here was a double opportunity as Caldbeck also worked on Todd's residence in Rathgar.
Bloomsbury, Kells, Co. Meath, 1853-54.
Plans for a house for Dr. Dwyer of the Cow-Pock Institution in 1858.
Works on Emo Court, Co. Laois, circa 1860.
William Caldbeck's signature is seen on many houses in Rathgar and Rathmines. One particular residence beside the church on Rathgar Road displays nearly identical features to those of the architect's own Monkstown house.
Caldbeck also got many commissions in Clondalkin due to his local family connections. One example was the neo-gothic Church of the Immaculate Conception and St Killian at Convent Road. He did a great deal of work for the National Bank, founded by Daniel O’Connell in 1834-5 . He catered to the bank’s patriotic leanings by including numerous celtic details in his architectural designs. The National Bank at Ennis is a good example of the “Caldbeck Hybrid”. This was a style best described as being like an “Italian tourist in Irish Romanesque garments".(3.)
The same might also be said about St Anne’s on “The Hill”, Monkstown, the summer residence that the architect built presumably for his own use in the late 1850s and which he originally simply called The Hill. Again Caldbeck’s account book indicates that he was doing quite a bit of work for domestic clients in the Monkstown area leading up to this time and this is how he may have seen the potential of becoming a developer there. He went on to develop most of the other land lots on “The Hill”, which he purchased in 1858 from local ground landlords, Michael, Earl of Longford and Thomas, Viscount De Vesci.
Caldbeck’s new house overlooked the old twenty-four bed Monkstown Hospital and the well-known local source of well water, “Juggy’s Well”. He took an active interest in this well and in 1864 he suggested plans to the Kingstown Commissioners for an Italianate statue to be erected over the well’s entrance, which was rejected.Caldbeck’s own house was built of red brick with a tower topped by cast-iron railings. The popularity of stain-glass windows and heraldry at the time is reflected in the west-facing window, where roundels containing what look like bird figures below a coat or arms is seen. The Caldbecks were not an arms-bearing family and it is difficult to identify who these arms might belong to. The distinctive timber eaves of the house are painted black and white. One notable feature is the appearance of several carved, bearded heads on the exterior walls and there is at least one ornamental panel. The ground rent arranged with Viscount de Vesci was £10 per annum. Caldbeck spent £800 on the building and on the sloping gardens of St Anne’s, dominated by a summer house of matching red brick with an unusual hexagonal roof of patterned slates. (4.)
St Anne’s was not free standing however. It incorporated a separate house called Woodville. As Peter Pearson points out, the house is “semi-detached but the whole building reads as one”. (5.)Were St. Anne’s and Woodville meant to be all one house originally? Or was there a deception at play? Perhaps so. A deed relating to "The Hill" and dating from 1872 stipulated that if any additional house was erected without consent in future the punitive sum of £50 additional ground rent would be levied.(6.)
In 1866 Caldbeck married Anastasia(or Annabella) Hugo at the RC Parish of St Andrew’s, Dublin.(7.) Hugo was the daughter of a Guernsey-based dentist with Cornish roots, Samuel Hugo, (1803-1855) and his Cork-born wife, Mary F. Walsh. The couple had four children, one of whom,George, died young. After six years of marriage William Caldbeck died suddenly at Harcourt Street on 30th of March, 1872. He is buried at Glasnevin Cemetery, appropriately just a few meters from the large sarcophagus of his grand-uncle, John Philpot Curran, at Curran's Square.(8.) Caldbeck died without leaving a will and it appears that Anastasia Caldbeck sold the lease of St Anne’s to a local builder, Christopher Stapleton, for £450 a year after her husband's death (9.) She continued to occupy the house. In 1877 Anastasia Caldbeck married Charles Borromeo Jennings, a Tipperary-born army surgeon, and she had at least three more children. Her association with St Anne's continued into the 1890s, when she moved to the unusual Netley on South Hill Avenue, Booterstown. She died at the Southampton Hotel, Surrey, in 1928. Anastasia Hugo's “one sentence will” in 1929 and the interpretation of the words "use of all my money" in the document led to legal action among her two-family descendants, which was covered extensively by the newspapers.(10.)
Other occupants of St. Anne's included Edwin Lapper, English-born non-practicing doctor and Professor of Chemistry at the Royal College of Surgeons, who lived there in the 1890s. In the late 1920s the house was associated with Arthur Panton Watkinson, who had an interior decoration business on St. Stephen’s Green.