Nineteenth century estate in Obama's 'home town' for €1.5m
House with history on the Offaly border on the market for €1.5m
Published 04/03/2016 | 02:30
The only character that could have been hated more than the Irish landlord in the 19th century was the Irish landlord's agent.
History recalls them as self-serving, corrupt, ruthless, and petty, and they seem to have been unable to turn their backs on the neighbours without risking an encounter with the business end of a blunderbuss.
Take George Garvey for instance. A former naval captain, he established himself at Thornvale House near Moneygall in Co Offaly in the early 1800s and became agent to Lord Bloomfield, who lived at nearby Laughton House (now owned by former TD and Minister for Children James Reilly and for sale for €2.75m).
In fact, Garvey was so successful in his job that he became agent to no fewer than seven landlords. He must have been popular with his employers, but the same can't be said for the tenantry. They took so many potshots at him that he had to have an armed escort at all times.
And yet, as NUI Maynooth historian Dr Ciaran Reilly tells it in 'The Irish Land Agent 1830-1860', the peasants kept missing their man. The Earl of Norbury was shot and killed in 1839, though his agent Garvey was the intended victim. Garvey's under-agent was shot dead in 1842, and in 1847 a police constable was badly wounded by a pair of assassins whose target was Garvey.
Fittingly for a man widely denounced as a "devil", Garvey had a nice view of the Devil's Bit mountain away to the south of his property. He and his descendants continued as agents in the locality until the 1940s, according to Reilly, and their former home, too, has survived largely intact over the past two centuries.
It's on 25 acres of grounds right on the border with Tipperary. In fact, you cross the Tipperary border on your way down the avenue, so can feasibly support one hurling team in the living room and the other at the end of the garden.
At the top of the avenue there's a flight of stone steps up to the front door, with its stained-glass fanlight. Inside there's a porch, with stained-glass double doors leading to the main entrance hall, which has an ornately plastered ceiling and a timber floor.
There are five main living rooms on the ground floor. Two are formal - a drawing room papered in dark rose, with a white marble fireplace and bay window, and a dining room with another white marble fireplace and recessed sash windows.
There's also a south-facing TV room with yet another white marble fireplace and a door to an anteroom behind it, known as a 'prayer room', where there's a black marble fireplace. Finally there's a family room with part-panelled walls and a wood-burning stove.
The kitchen and breakfast room is at the back of the house and has granite countertops, two Belfast sinks, an island unit and an Aga, as well as a breakfast bar in the dining area.
Also at the back of the house are some utility rooms, including a laundry room, cloakroom, guest toilets and storerooms.
At the top of the mahogany staircase is a gallery landing which is used as a library, complete with mahogany bookshelves and a fireplace.
The six bedrooms are on this level, and five of them have fireplaces in - naturally enough - marble. The master bedroom has an en-suite shower room and two dressing rooms (for when modesty demands it), and one even has a fireplace, this time in timber, and a bay window.
That's the only en-suite bedroom, but there are also two shower rooms on the first floor, and a family bathroom with a jacuzzi bath.
The main house has a total floor area of 6,320 sq ft, and there's also a 931 sq ft guest cottage with a living room, kitchen and bathroom on the ground floor and three bedrooms upstairs. This cottage is accessible both from the family room in the main house and from one of the two courtyards outside.
The house courtyard is surrounded by out offices, including one that's been converted to a billiard room on the ground floor and has two rooms upstairs.
The other courtyard leads to an old schoolhouse building, which measures 767 sq ft and has seven rooms. There are also storerooms and stables in this yard, and a building used as a gym. In addition, there's a workshop measuring around 1,000 sq ft, with two concrete-floored rooms, and a farmyard with a hay barn and lean-to.
As for the garden, it's been lovingly tended over the years, and still has venerable old trees dotted about - just the kind of trees, in fact, behind which a reviled land agent might have ducked to dodge a bullet.
The old walled garden is still hard at work, with vegetable beds, a polytunnel and greenhouse. And the front garden, to the south of the house, leads down through terraces to a lily pond and the remains of two teahouses.
Thornvale is about four kilometres from Barack Obama's ancestral village of Moneygall. It's for sale with Savills Country Homes (01) 663 4306 and has an asking price of €1.5m.
Moneygall, Co Offaly
Asking price: €1.5m
Agent: Savills Country Homes (01) 663 4306