Monday 24 April 2017

Dower house built for a duchess is the full Monty on auction for €4m

Former home of the High Sheriff of Kildare goes to auction.

Ravensdale, the house that the 'Irish Monty' rebuilt: the great hall with its trophy heads
Ravensdale, the house that the 'Irish Monty' rebuilt: the great hall with its trophy heads
Ravensdale gallery
The hardwood-carved fireplace surround
Ravensdale billiard room
Ravensdale dining
The double fronted exterior of Ravensdale
Ravensdale ghost
Ravensdale living room
Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

The name Montgomery will always be synonymous with Monty, the zealous and slightly potty British general, hero of El Alamein but also architect of the disastrous parachute invasion of Holland.

Not only did Bernard the bereted bulldog hail from a military family which participated in almost every British Empire scrap since time begot, but his stock was Irish - Dad was from Donegal, where the family were 'rotten borough' MPs.

In fact, there was a whole slew of nutty military Irish Montgomerys who were somewhat less successful in battle, but splendidly talented at doing up big houses.

When Thomas Montgomery of Donegal disinherited his son (also Thomas) for marrying an English lady of "no family" (he was left one shilling), the Montys were also dispersed into Leinster via the new "prodigal branch".

Army man Thomas Junior remodelled Charles Haughey's former abode - Abbeville - at great expense to what we see today.

Grandson Richard was killed in an attack on Quebec, leading a failed British invasion of French Canada and descendant Hugh Montgomery got pulverised by Russian guns while brandishing the banner of the 13th Dragoons at the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854.Hugh Wyndham Montgomery joined the 17th Lancers who surrendered to Smuts in the Boer War and after languishing in trenches for years in WWI, the Lancers were finally horsed up for the Battle of Cambrai, where they learned to their chagrin that the spear-toting cavalry would be relegated to supporting the world's first ever full-on tank assault. The tanks won the day.

The double fronted exterior of Ravensdale
The double fronted exterior of Ravensdale
Ravensdale gallery
Ravensdale, the house that the 'Irish Monty' rebuilt: the great hall with its trophy heads
The hardwood-carved fireplace surround
Ravensdale billiard room
Ravensdale dining
Ravensdale ghost
Ravensdale living room

Next Monty's regiment ended up in Mallow in the War of Independence where they and their barracks were captured by the IRA under Liam Lynch. The Lancers assaulted Mallow's toffee factory in reprisal.

But in 1903 Major Hugh Montgomery decided to take it easy for a time and moved to Leixlip where he acquired Ravensdale House, a grand but rather run down mini-mansion next door to Carton House and believed to have been built in the 18th century as a dower house for the Duke of Leinster's mother, the former Duchess.

The Major got stuck into refurbishing Ravensdale and remodelled it into the three-floored wood panelled extravaganza we see today.

From here he served as High Sheriff of Kildare, the King's representative in the county for two years in 1911 and 1912, but there was speculation that the political situation became too hot for him to live in such an exposed property.

He sold up in 1917 and Ravensdale was acquired by the Bruton family of cattle farmers who have owned it ever since. Now, in an executor sale, the property has come to market for the first time in 99 years since the last Irish Monty beat his retreat.

Since then, the Brutons (relations to that famous big farm family of political warhorses) have maintained the Montgomery touch. Inside the house is heavily colonial in feel.

With its plush billiard room and trophy head-filled oak-panelled gallery hall, it would be easy to imagine a few red coats with handlebar moustaches and monocles puffing cigars and quaffing brandy.

From a grand stone-pillared set of gates, the house is approached via a lengthy driveway through its 223 acres of prime tillage and grazing land.

The double fronted exterior of Ravensdale
The double fronted exterior of Ravensdale
Ravensdale, the house that the 'Irish Monty' rebuilt: the great hall with its trophy heads
Ravensdale gallery
The hardwood-carved fireplace surround
Ravensdale billiard room
Ravensdale dining
Ravensdale ghost
Ravensdale living room

Most impressive is the grand entrance hall, a double height affair with stout-carved staircase leading up to a railed gallery by two ornate-stained glass windows.

The drawing room looks across the estate's parklands, there's the aforementioned billiards room with snooker table, a dining room with a solid oak floor and the so called "bluie room" with a marble fireplace.

Upstairs there are seven bedrooms. The house also has two staff bedrooms and a study, and its floor footprint is mirrored in the basement with 10ft high ceilings.

This was once the servants' nerve centre and this has the kitchen, boot room, dairy, pantry, scullery, bottle room, meat room, box room, parlour, another servants' bedroom and a servants' dining room.

The property has three additional residences including a gate lodge, two walled gardens, and a two-storey courtyard block with stables.

While apparently structurally sound, the house will require a new heating system, rewiring, replumbing to the tune of a few hundred thousand euros to do the job properly.

It's rare a house this large with an estate comes to market this close to Dublin. A good comparison would be Abbeville estate itself which sold in 2013 for around €5.5m.

Ravensdale will be auctioned by Coonans on June 9 with a guide price of €4m and is expected to get overseas interest.

Ravensdale

Leixlip, Co Kildare

Asking price: €4m

Agent: REA Coonan (01) 6286128

Indo Property

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