Extensively renovated 19th-century rectory on the market for €800k
19th-century rectory has been extensively renovated
In 1848, 11 years before Darwin's On the Origin of Species appeared, a Church of Ireland curate in Co Kilkenny published a meticulous theological reading of the first book of the Bible, called Lectures on the Book of Genesis.
It consists of nine lectures, and comes to 321 pages, and it's likely the faithful members of his congregation were relieved that it had emerged as a book instead of a series of sermons. That way they were saved the discomfort of listening attentively for hours on end, on hard wooden pews, and instead could read the lectures privately, in their own armchairs, or - and this was surely a popular alternative - not read them at all.
The author was the Reverend Wolfenden Kenny Burroughs, curate of Grange Sylvae near Goresbridge, and though his reading of Genesis is both humane and scholarly, he must have been dismayed at the era that Darwin's much more famous book would usher in. "Learning and intellectual science are but handmaids to religion," Burroughs opined in Lecture IV, "and though occasionally presumption and self-conceit will arrive at conclusions contradicting revealed truth, yet time and better information have exposed presumptuous ignorance, and justified the word of God."
Religion had of course been good to Burroughs. By the time the Irish Church Act was passed in 1869, disestablishing the Church of Ireland and abolishing the payment of tithes by Catholics, Burroughs was enjoying a very comfortable living at Grange Sylvae. He was able to secure an annuity of £339, five shillings and tuppence by way of compensation for the loss of income occasioned by the Act.
The house, also known as Duninga Rectory, had been built as the glebe house of the parish around 1800, and stands about three kilometres north of Goresbridge, close to the banks of the River Barrow and the Carlow border.
It lost its ecclesiastical function many years ago and is now in private residential use, and it has been extensively renovated since Burroughs' time, including the addition of uPVC windows.
It's otherwise a handsome house with a phalanx of venerable old trees marching up one side of the avenue that leads to it. A flight of granite steps rises to an elegant arched doorway with a fanlight, and there's a hipped roof with a row of chimneys lined up at the apex.
Inside, the floor area is around 5,360 sq ft, on two storeys with a basement, and the layout is symmetrical and practical.
The entrance hall on the ground floor - cruciform in shape - still has its original staircase, and there are formal reception rooms either side of it, at the front of the house.
To the left is the drawing room, a dual-aspect room with windows facing due east and south. This room measures roughly 18ft by 20ft, and has a carved marble mantelpiece.
On the other side of the hall is the dining room. Also dual-aspect and about the same size as the drawing room, it has a ceiling rose and another marble fireplace.
At the back of the house, facing west and south, there's a second sitting room, or study, which has a solid-fuel stove; and at the opposite corner of the ground floor is the kitchen, which has an oil-fired Aga and French doors giving onto the courtyard out the back.
There's also a guest toilet in the entrance hall, while the family bathroom is on the first floor. It's a sizeable room measuring just under 18ft by 14ft, and there's a separate toilet as well.
The five bedrooms are also on this level, although there are none en-suite, so it's possible the smallest of the bedrooms might be converted.
The basement has the original kitchen of the house, complete with cast-iron stove, where the cook must have dressed Wolfenden Burroughs' mutton. Elsewhere the basement has half a dozen other rooms - former servants' quarters - that haven't been put to use and are ready to be restored.
Grange Sylvae comes with 13 acres of land, mostly in pasture. Prodigious trees surround the house, and look old enough to have possibly abetted some of Reverend Burroughs' musings on the fruit of the tree of knowledge. There's plenty of space to plant your own garden of Eden on these grounds.
Behind the house there's a courtyard with a workshop, a double garage and a couple of storehouses. Beyond that there are more storehouses and a modern shed.
The village of Goresbridge, which has a primary school, pubs and shops, is in walking distance of the rectory. Kilkenny city itself is a little over 20 kilometres away, and you can drive to Dublin in about an hour and a half via the M9 motorway.
Goresbridge Co Kilkenny
Asking price: €800,000
Agent: Colliers (01) 633 3700