Sunday 22 October 2017

A sense of history and taste

Set on 10 acres and with a mile-long avenue, Annaghmore House holds strong links with two of Offaly's famous brewing families and hit the headlines just last year for three rare finds, writes June Edwards

The extensive buildings at Annaghmore House
Bow-shaped gables benefit the interior dining rooms
An example of the delicate craftsmanship at the house

Like any grand dame who has known better and brighter times, but still manages to retain her original style and elegance, Annaghmore House at Ballyboy, Tullamore, Co Offaly, is a 'Big House' with a faded but interesting past.

It is on the market with an asking price of €550,000.

Set on 10 acres, its mile-long avenue winds its way to the front of the house which has links to two of Offaly's most famous brewing families, the Egans, and the Williams of Tullamore Dew fame.

Earlier owner, Major Barry Fox of Longford was married to one of the Edgeworths of Grove House, and author Maria Edgeworth makes reference to Annaghmore House in her letters.

No doubt she enjoyed taking many a 'turn' around the gardens at Annaghmore.

Local solicitor and historian Michael Byrne says the house dates back to the 1790s, and was built by the Curtis family.

"But when Major Barry Fox bought it in the 1830s, he carried out a lot of improvements, and added the Victorian block to the front around 1835."

"When he died in the 1860s, Annaghmore was taken over by his son Maxwell Fox, who was the High Sheriff of the county. Maxwell kept a diary which has been published and it gives an interesting account of what life was like for a country gentlemen," added Mr Byrne.

By 1919 the house came into the hands PJ Egan, a Cumann na nGaedhael TD for Laois/Offaly in the fourth Dail, 1923-27.

The Egans were a merchant family who owned local breweries, pubs and malting houses.

A later marriage to one of the Williams family, who owned Tullamore Dew, further cemented the brewing connection to Annaghmore.

The house stayed in the Egan family until 1968, when an American couple bought it as their summer home.

The couple were both university professors, and they came to Annaghmore most summers.

The property also hit the headlines last spring when a Sotheby's representative discovered three rare sculptures at a sale of the house's contents.

Die Spinnerin by German artist Rudolf Schadow, Venus Italica and Hebe from the workshop of Antonio Canova (1757-1822) caused vast excitement in the antiques world.

Die Spinnerin, a sculpture of a girl spinning, was commissioned by Henry Patten for his Westport home.

Similar sculptures were also done for the Prussian King and Ludwig of Bavaria.

It sold in July at Sotheby's for almost €295,000. The two Canova statues were valued at between €73,000 and €98,000 each, but failed to reach their reserve.

While future owners will need to carry out some necessary restoration work, Annaghmore's interiors are still awe-inspiring.

In fact, the first thing you see when entering the house is the magnificent hall with six Doric columns and central staircase which accesses a wrap-around gallery landing from both sides.

Particularly impressive is the plasterwork with ornate cornicing and centre roses.

The hall and upstairs gallery all have plaster moulds adorning the walls, which give Annahgmore a sense of luxury and elegance.

The main reception rooms are in the front Victorian section of the house. Bright and well-proportioned, they are a fine example of early Victorian architecture and contain large period marble fireplaces and ornate plaster ceilings.

Original mahogany panelled doors with decorative architraving are all intact and feature intricate craftsmanship. The drawing room has a bow-ended wall, two double glazed windows with shutters, white marble fireplace and directly accesses the library with its built-in bookshelves, recessed and shuttered windows, and marble fireplace.

Similarly impressive is the formal dining room also featuring a corniced ceiling, bow-ended wall, double- glazed windows with shutters and a grey marble fireplace.

With a floor area of more than 793sqm, it accommodates eight bedrooms.

The ground floor also comprises a smaller study with marble fireplace and built-in bookcases.

The spacious kitchen features built-in units and a marble fireplace.

A back staircase provides access to a ground floor wing with former kitchen, pantry, and servants quarters.

The rear courtyard has an arched entrance with bell tower, four lofted coach houses, three stables and a tack room along with storage rooms.

The grounds include a walled garden, lawns, fields and woodland.

Joint agents Knight Frank 01 6623255, and Sean Joyce, 057 9329442

Irish Independent

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