Vernon Mount was one of the many magnificent houses built around Cork harbour during the prosperous trading years between 1770 and 1815. This villa was built circa 1790 by Henry Brown Hayes at Curraghconway, just south of Cork city. Hayes, the son of a wealthy merchant, was made Sheriff of Cork in 1790. As an admirer of George Washington and his role in making America independent from British rule, he named Vernon Mount after Washington’s Mount Vernon residence.
Vernon Mount was built on an elevated site with panoramic views of the lower Lee valley and estuary. The unique curvilinear façade of Vernon Mount marks this house out among other great houses. The interior included another unusual feature on the first floor: an oval atrium with eight Corinthian columns, leading to doors painted with trompe-l’oeil imagery. The interiors were also very distinctive and included ceilings decorated with paintings on canvas by Nathaniel Grogan, the Cork landscape painter. The uniqueness of Vernon Mount makes this house particularly significant in Ireland’s built heritage.
Since the mid-20th century, the condition of the house has deteriorated, mainly due to wood rot, roof damage, rain ingress, and vandalism. Occasional efforts have been undertaken by Cork County Council to arrest the decline. While much of the former 160 acres around the villa has been built over, the Grange Frankfield Partnership, founded in 2010, is endeavouring to focus public attention on the importance of restoring the house and redeveloping the remaining green areas around Mount Vernon, including the nearby Tramore Valley Park.
We are grateful to Brendan Kelleher of the Grange–Frankfield Partnership for allowing us to digitize a number of photographs of Vernon Mount shown below. Photographs show people, including children — two of whom were called Florence Harrison (the illustrator?) and Tony O’Herlihy. A series of families resided there during the War when their menfolk were away.
See also Tramore Valley Plan