Auburn House, a golden-brown three-storey, eleven-bedroom mansion located within a wooded demesne adjacent to Malahide Castle, was one of the finest residences built in the eighteenth century. In 1996, Auburn House became home to a couple, who with the help of Deaton Lysaght Architects, completed a remarkable and sensitive restoration of the house. Auburn House received the RIAI building excellence award in 1996.
Auburn House forms parts of the ancient barony of Feltrim, the stronghold of the once wealthy Fagan family. The house was built in about 1779, probably to mark the marriage of its owner, James Crawford, with one of the Vernon girls from Clontarf Castle. It is presumed that the pretty courtyard, coach-house and walled gardens also date from this time.
In 1906, when the house was in the possession of the Murphys, the ecclesiastical architect Charles Homan Murphy commissioned architect Richard Orpen, the elder brother of the painter William Orpen, to design a new billiard room, or Ballroom, to the side of the house.
The ambience of the Auburn House interior is unmistakably French thanks to the latest resident’s strong links with France where she gathered furniture, fabrics, wallpaper, dressings, lighting and, above all, ideas.
The new cantilevered cedar-wood conservatory adjacent to the kitchen was designed by John Deaton, and built by a team from Ballivor, Co Meath. John Deaton also renovated the Orpen ballroom, which involved exorcising an outbreak of dry rot, removing a series of partitions, stripping back the plasterwork and replacing the windows and one of the overhead trusses.
Irish companies to have worked on the houses include John Keane of Lantern Antiques in Dublin, Irish Fine Art Plasterwork, who created the simple cornicing in the front hall, and JP Glass, who upholstered the drawing room sofas.
A flight of fifteen granite steps leads from an elaborate wisteria-entwined portico down to a half-moon of gravel that curves around the front of the house. The flow of these elegant steps continues with a second flight that runs beneath watchful lion sculptures to a circular pond with water gushing from a central fountain which John designed to cater for a wedding in the family. Some of the Crawfords’ original beech trees have already reached maturity and are starting to fall; luckily the present owners have planted many more. Secreted beneath stately sycamores and fern bushes is the entrance to the lower farmyard and three walled gardens. The gardens have also been renovated, with a tennis court installed and a plantation of plum and pear trees beside the orchard. A romantic granite folly, built in the 1840s, had its granite and railings expertly restored by Paul Page Ironworks as part of the work of the 1990s.
The old workers’ cottages and existing outhouses, originally used as sheds and animal feeding barns, have been restored, extended and converted into four- and five-bedroom luxury dwellings with solar panels and under floor heating. The conversion of these outhouses was completed in 2003.