Home of flying hero to fetch €5m
ONE of the biggest Irish country estates to be placed for sale this year has just come to market with a price tag of €5m.
The 360-acre Newhall Estate near Ennis in Co Clare is the former seat of an MP and more recently the home of a World War II flying hero. The property includes a 17th Century mansion of 15,000sqft with 360 acres of land attached.
Agents Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes expect Newhall to attract a wealthy overseas buyer with odds that most of the interest will be coming from the USA.
That country has produced a slew of buyers for country estates through the last 18 months including the billionaire John Malone of Liberty Global who acquired Humewood Castle for €8m because "it captured my wife's fancy."
Others include financier Charles Noell who shelled out €4.9m for Ardbraccan Estate and Crown Worldwide's Jim Thompson who acquired an estate for €7m near Stradbally.
Americans of Irish linkage – either born here or descended from Irish stock – are now accounting for 40pc of the big country homes market with foreigners overall swooping on 90pc of properties – beating the broke Irish-based contingent into a tiny 10pc share – the exact reverse of the situation 10 years ago.
The home – which comes with gate lodges, woodlands, parklands and lakes – is being sold by the family of late Patrick Francis Joyce who occupied the property until recent years.
Newhall was also the birthplace of his brother, lieutenant commander Tobias Joshua Aloysius King Joyce – or Spike, as he was more commonly known to his wartime colleagues.
Spike King Joyce was a derring-do British forces naval aviator whose flying skills with experimental aircraft would become essential in the development of the new British jet-era fighter aircraft of the post-war era.
The energetic scion of the Newhall was typical of the adventurers that Ireland's big country houses produced for the British armed forces.
During the war, he made his name flying sub-standard and cumbersome Blackburn Rocs off the decks of the Ark Royal aircraft carrier on dangerous cover duty for munitions destined for Malta.
He survived the sinking of the carrier by a German U-boat 25 miles off Gibraltar but was soon back flying by the seat of his pants as a test pilot for top secret concept planes including those on the early British jet programme.
Spike King Joyce's luck ran out as he was test piloting the concept version of the British Navy's first ever jet fighter – the Supermarine Attacker.
The tail collapsed causing him to crash and led to a complete redesign which enabled this fighter to be safely introduced to service the following month in time for the Cold War faceoff with the Soviets.
His birthplace will also need a significant overhaul if it is to endure into the 21st Century. While the structure, including the roof, appears to be sound according to agents Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes, the interiors will require a major overhaul, most likely to the tune of an additional €1m.
Like a lot of "big house" families today in Ireland, the King Joyces have found it tough keeping up with repairs and heating costs in the recession for a house which is more than 15 times the size of the average Irish abode and was originally designed to have a score of staff keeping it in shape and the rents of a tenanted estate to keep it funded.
The current house was built to a design by Francis Binden in 1765 for Charles MacDonnell MP and set on to the front of a much older dwelling from the 1650's.
Agent Robert Hoban adds: "While this house really does need a lot of work, what's really remarkable is that so much of its original features are still intact and have not been changed over the years."
The house has been noted as being unusual for a number of reasons. The layout in a long 'T' sees the frontage attached to an incredibly long service wing. The frontage itself has been worked in a front central three-sided bow with two wings either side.
The octagonal entrance hall has a Doric cornice and frieze with grinning masks and the MacDonnell family crests. It is in this room that the home's strangest feature is to be found. What appears to be a giant full-sized organ in the baroque style and of the sort typically found in churches of the age, is in fact a deception. In reality, it is a giant drinks cabinet.
Another period curios is the rent collection room where tenants of the MacDonnells would line up to empty their pockets to a clerk in charge of a large book of records.
There's a staircase in the Bindon style with carved timber work, a balustrade half planted in the outer wall masonry.
The service quarters are straight out of television's 'Downton Abbey' with ancient kitchens and wine cellars, a dairy and a butler's pantry.
A pump room has an authentic hand water pump and this is the kitchen of the original 1650 house with its old inglenook fireplace.
There is also evidence here in the masonry that the older house was itself possibly constructed on an even earlier medieval structure.
While there are currently 15 bedrooms, there is room for many more in the numerous ancillary rooms on all floors which include a children's nursery.
Agent Robert Hoban adds: "There is obviously a chance that Newhall will attract an Irish buyer but to be honest, the odds are against it.
"Around 90pc of country estates have been bought by foreign business interests – most from Irish-born business people based in America or those of Irish American descent.
"But there is also interest from the UK – European appetites for Irish country estates seem to have reignited this year and there is even some interest from Asia."
The estate will please those in search of a view with its scenic backdrop of the Galtee Mountains and the Shannon Estuary.
Those with sporting interests will enjoy the 157 acres of private forestry in mature deciduous timber.
This gives it potential to those interested in pheasant shooting. The 28 acres of lakes means a buyer won't have to spare the rod.
The land also includes the ruins of Killone Abbey, first built in the 1180s as an Augustinian nunnery by Donal Mor O'Brien, the local chieftain and is among the best example of the late Romanesque style in Munster. It was dissolved in the 16th century.
The property is located three-and-a-half miles from Ennis town centre, 25 miles from Limerick and 151 miles from Dublin. Perhaps most important of all for its prospects, it is just 16.5 miles from Shannon International Airport.
The house also has an extensive courtyard and a range of farm buildings and a set of twin "folly" gate lodges – each comprise two rooms, have recently been reroofed but need complete refurbishment.
Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes (01-2376300) Clockwise from above: An aerial view of Newhall Estate in Co Clare; the estate's previous owner