Jailhouse rocks - Peek inside this €695k Kildare home which was once a barracks
Renovated landmark property has a corner tower
You'd better watch out if you're calling into the Victorian Gothic home of Clodagh Linnane and James Smith at Straffan in Co Kildare. The house was designed with more than a score of rifle portholes put there to shoot hostile callers from every possible angle.
That's because the building is a former RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) Barracks which was purpose designed and built in the 1870s to act as an impregnable mini fortress of the British Empire, back when the Lilywhite county was chock full of whiteboys, ribbonmen, defenders, Fenians and croppies.
An application was made in the 1830s amidst an explosion of local agrarian agitation, to build a suitably robust stronghold for the police here. The money eventually came through, albeit decades later, and work began in 1871.
The barracks was designed with rifle portholes, many of which cover its front door.
Its piece de résistance is the front right corner round tower of protected gun slits which cover all frontal attack angles.
Straffan Barracks was also designed thus for strategic reasons - the village was an important junction on the Great Southern & Western Railway. For many years it was manned by a Constable John Drum. However, the Barracks saw little action until its closure around 1905 to 1913, giving Constable Drum time to carve his name and the date, 1892, into the stonework.
Life in a rural RIC barracks like this one was an extraordinary mix of long stretches of dreary humdrum official duties combined with periods of serious danger. At many points throughout Irish history, local RIC units found themselves isolated and attacked by armed Fenians, and at these times the walls and windows of their barracks provided their only defence. Many barracks buildings were handed over to the Gardai at the foundation of the State, but Straffan's unusually went on to become a private family residence which was later handed down through generations of the Allen family.
"When we bought the place in 2002 it was badly dilapidated. There were holes in the roof and there was damp through much of it," says Clodagh Linnane. "Our first child was just six months old, and in restoring it we might just have bitten off a bit more than we could chew."
"The work took us almost a year to get through," adds James Smith. "The entire had to be refloored in parts upstairs, replastered inside, rewired, replumbed and reroofed. We had a great builder, Declan Bolger, who we couldn't have done without."
"I remember there was woodworm all over the place," Clodagh recalls. So what was the biggest challenge restoring such a landmark building?
"As an historic building it was protected so the repointing had to be done by a specialist, who worked on historic buildings like Christchurch, says James. "But the worst part was a whole week that the two of us spent up ladders doing nothing but cutting and pulling out the climbing ivy which had covered the building completely over the years, lifting the roof tiles and working its way into the pointing. Our hands were in bits after it.
"Then we had to take off the bars on the downstairs windows which once helped secure the building but were an obvious fire hazard for us."
The previous owners, the Allen family, still live on either side. And as children, their father made them practice rope climbs down from the then unbarred upstairs windows.
"We have had such happy years here," adds Clodagh, "but our four children are fast becoming teenagers and we have outgrown the place."
The property includes a decent sized reception hall, a living room with the characteristic turret tower vantage, a dining room, rustic-style kitchen and pantry with hand-built units and a feature wood-burning stove as its focal point.
There's a guest wc and a family bathroom with a free-standing tub and a power shower, which once was the barracks cell for prisoners. The master bedroom is triple aspect (also designed for vantage views) and there are three more bedrooms.
The rear garden is enclosed by stone walls and includes a sun-facing patio area.
Access to the upstairs is via a wraparound staircase and original features here include the tapered Gothic entrance, original windows, fireplaces in many of the bedrooms and 10 foot high ceilings. The heating here is oil fired.
The house is in the heart of the village and the local GAA club's pitches are right opposite. The K Club is 900 metres away and Dublin is easily commutable at 29 kilometres. Maynooth and Naas are handy.
The historic building is for sale at €695,000.
Former RIC Barracks
Straffan, Co Kildare
Asking price: €695,000
Agent: French Estates, (01) 6242320