Modern Jacobite charm right in the heart of Mayo for €875k
From special bricks to top end fittings, no expense has been spared here
Published 22/01/2016 | 02:30
Not a lot happens in Balla, a small, sleepy town in the middle of Co Mayo consisting of one street, along which some 7,500 vehicles travel every day on their way to and from Claremorris and Castlebar.
Balla had its share of romance and scandal, though, in the past. The local big house, Attavally, was the seat of the Lynch-Blosse family, one of whom - Sir Henry Lynch-Blosse, the seventh baronet - supplied plenty of gossip for his neighbours in the 18th century.
Henry lived at Attavally with his mistress, Sibella Cottle, and their seven children, causing a great scandal. Their story was fictionalised in a play, 'The Spancel of Death', by TH Nally, which was to have been performed in a matinee at the Abbey on April 25, 1916 but had to be cancelled because of the Easter Rising.
Legend has it that Sibella was so worried that Henry might abandon her by making an honest woman of someone else, she consulted a local witch to secure a love charm. Her instructions were to make a spancel - a strip of skin flayed from a corpse - which would keep him bound to her forever.It's not clear whether or not Sibella ever used the charm, but Henry did remain loyal to her, and when he died in 1788, he looked after all seven children in his will, witchcraft or not.
Attavally is now the site of Balla secondary school and the Lynch-Blosse estate has been carved up. But within the former Attavally demesne is a modern house that pays a very considered - and doubtless very expensive - tribute to history.
The Gables is a large, detached property built in 1991 in an energetic homage to Jacobean architecture (Lynch-Blosses were Jacobites). Its internal features include beamed ceilings, wall panelling and flagstone flooring, while externally it's constructed in brick that had to be especially fired in England to achieve the 17th-century look.
The owners also borrowed from other English architectural styles they found pleasing, and they didn't hold back on the expense on the fittings and finishes anywhere in the house - from the top-end kitchen to the Gerry Daly-designed gardens.
It's 3,713 sq ft in size, roughly forming an L shape, and has two storeys with an attic. You enter through an ecclesiastical-style front porch leading to a stained-glass double front door. This gives into an entrance hall where there's an oak floor and a hand-made oak staircase (closed-string though).
The wing to the right of the hall consists of a guest bedroom with a walk-in wardrobe and en-suite, a small study and a cloakroom. The wing to the left, meanwhile, is where most of the living is done.
The first of the reception rooms is a drawing room with a beamed ceiling and oak-panelled walls, and there's a fireplace angled into one corner of the room with a solid-fuel stove in it.
The drawing room opens into a second hallway, where there's another flight of stairs, and from there through more double doors to a second sitting room with another beamed ceiling and fireplace.
The kitchen, at the corner of the house, is fitted with luxury Smallbone cabinets commissioned through Harrods. It has a terracotta-tiled floor and a dark blue oil-fired Aga set into a brick alcove. Off the kitchen there's a sunroom with a French pine floor, as well as a utility room.
The first floor has four bedrooms, and the carpeted master bedroom has a pair of walk-in wardrobes and an en-suite shower room. The main bathroom is also on this floor, and has a French pine floor and a free-standing roll-top bath. Above that, at attic level, there are three floored rooms.
The Gables is on four-and-a-half acres of grounds, and the gardens were designed by Gerry Daly. The house itself stands at the end of a longish avenue, with grassy paddocks fenced off either side, and there are plentiful mature trees about the place.
Out the back of the house is a vast, cobbled courtyard which you can cross to reach a double garage finished in the same brick as the main house. The garage itself is a substantial 1,350 sq ft on two floors, and the selling agents point out it could be converted readily enough to guest accommodation or an au pair's flat.
The house is not much more than 10 minutes' walk from the main street of Balla, where there's a credit union, church, a playground and sports clubs, various shops and pubs, a sixth-century round tower, and the aforementioned secondary school that was Attavally House.
Westport is about half an hour's drive, and you can reach Galway city in less than an hour and a half by car. Knock airport is 30 kilometres away.
Balla, Co Mayo
Asking price: €875,000
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Crowley in Westport (098) 29009, and Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes in Dublin (01) 237 6300