Hall of oats for €1.6m: country mansion boasts 11 stables
1820s mansion built by a steam-powered porridge baron
Funky porridge, new fangled steam power and a fortuitous shipping accident combined to make the grand fortune that built Beamond House at Bellewstown in Co Meath - a country mansion constructed for a 19th-century global oatmeal baron.
The story of Beamond House, the opulent country seat of "super miller" John McCann, began in 1800 when a young McCann arrived in the locale four miles from Drogheda and hacked out a millrace to divert water from the River Nanny and built a grain mill. His first clever step was a careful selection of local oats which produced a "nuttier" taste - greatly appreciated by porridge consumers.
McCann was also on the ball with progress and installed a steam engine on site at a time when the technology was in early gestation for industrial uses. While many scoffed at McCann's geekery, they were soon silenced when it emerged that only McCann could keep milling when the river water was running too low to drive a wheel. Capitalising on the extra capacity, McCann was soon steaming ahead of his competitors with the only mill that could run around the clock.
Finally the McCann Oats fortune was slam dunked when an American ship arrived in Drogheda with a cargo for the milling magnate. The captain asked for an exchange cargo to use as ballast for the return journey. All Mr McCann would offer was oatmeal. The schedule strapped captain reluctantly accepted. When the cargo was sold in the USA, its natural nutty taste proved a sensation. Before long McCann's nuttier porridge oatmeal was being shipped to markets in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, San Francisco, Montreal and Vancouver. Ker-ching!
The brand moved to Drogheda, was bought by Odlums in the sixties and is still going today. Since the McCann's moved out Beamond House has had a variety of owners - with the present incumbants taking it on in the mid 1970s. They went to work refurbishing the house room by room and this took more than 10 years. Later they undertook a second three year programme to sort out the disused the garden level - once kitchens and service rooms - to convert them for guest accommodation.
They also made good use of John McCann's millrace by installing a hydro electric generator which produced the big house's entire electricity needs for many years until Hurricane Charley damaged its foundations. It seems the generator remains in usable condition and new owners who can fix the supports could once again help themselves to free lecky - no small matter for a house this size.
Having raised a family of four here, the current owners have an empty nest and are now downsizing to a more manageable abode. Beamond is a three-storey, five- bay, early Regency residence approached by a curving driveway and entered through a grand Doric portico into the main hall. There are five key reception rooms here because the main hall would have been utilised as an entertainment area by the McCanns - as indicated by the stairs recessed behind it. After this comes a drawing room, a sitting room, a morning room and a curve ended dining room with a view of the river and where the mill used to stand. There are five bedrooms on the upper floor with two bathrooms and the master chamber occupying the bow front looking at the river.
Downstairs at garden level there's a kitchen/living room, three more bedrooms, a bathroom and a utility room. The house comes with 31.5 acres and includes a courtyard with 11 stables, a five-bay shed, a lamb shed, a three bay hay barn, five stalls and an all weather sand arena. The house is two minutes from the Bellewstown Racecourse and five from the beach at Laytown/Bettystown.
Bellewstown, Julianstown, Co Meath
Asking price: €1.6m
Agent: Ganly Walters (01) 6623255