Friday 9 December 2016

Our own Downton Abbey

The persuasiveness of a husband ensured the survival of the €4m Kilteelagh House, writes Valerie Shanley

Published 14/10/2011 | 05:00

The popularity of the series Downton Abbey here shows that life in the big houses of old continues to fascinate. Kilteelagh House, a restored, seven bedroom Victorian residence near Nenagh, Co Tipperary, may be on a slightly smaller scale than the fictional television mansion, but for owner Colette Carey it initially proved something of a period drama too.

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Although set on 25 picturesque acres with views of Lough Derg and lake frontage across Dromineer Bay, she was put off by the amount of work the house would require when she first looked at it 20 years ago.

But if she was daunted, her late husband Gus and their architect Cathal Crimmins were both hugely enthusiastic about its potential.

"We had planned to build a brand new house elsewhere, but Gus had fallen for Kilteelagh. We went back for a second look with Cathal, who was equally taken with the house, and they both persuaded me that it could transformed into a really lovely family home."

The work took 10 years, involving removing ceilings, re-plastering, rewiring, in-stalling central heating and solar panels, and a water filtration system. Now fully restored, this impressive house comes with modern comforts combined with original period features intact, including decorative plaster cornices and centrepieces, tiled and hardwood floors, plus marble fireplaces in most rooms, including the bedrooms.

The main bathroom on the first floor has a vaulted ceiling with re-enamelled, freestanding cast iron bath as its centrepiece.

The renovation also revealed hidden delights -- such as the removal of the ivy creeping up the exterior walls and which had become a nesting place for a family of mice, says Colette.

"When we pulled off the ivy, some of the plaster came with it but underneath was the beautiful old cut stone. So we removed all of the plaster from the exterior walls to reveal the stone in all its glory."

The same cut stone frames the entrance gates to the house, which has a long, winding, tree-lined avenue.

Mature gardens here also have old-world appeal, and have been fully restored with assistance from gardener John Hartnett with original walks under specimen trees leading towards the lake. A more recent addition is the new boat-house, which takes advantage of the adjacent deep-water harbour.

Kilteelagh is 2.5km from Dromineer, while the closest large town is Nenagh, 10km away. The property was on the market just over two years ago with an asking price of €8.5m; that price is now reduced to €4m, and for sale jointly through Christie's and Sherry FitzGerald Talbot 067 31496.

With her family of five now grown up, Colette says it's time for a new owner to begin the next chapter in the story of her 150-year-old home.

As for Downton Abbey, yes, she is a fan of the series, adding that she never thought such a similarly grand old house would be her home for so long.

"Our youngest son Cathal was born here, just under a year after we moved in. He is the only child ever born at Kilteelagh House. And my late husband loved this place so much. Kilteelagh will always hold special memories for us all."

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