Refurbished former manse in Donegal on the market for €750k
Refurbished former manse is a fine period residence
THERE have been Presbyterians in Letterkenny for more than three-and-a-half centuries, although they haven't always seen eye to eye with one another. Until 1925, in fact, there were no fewer than three distinct congregations of Presbyterians in the town, all presumably wanting different things.
The original congregation was established in the mid-17th century, and began to be called First Letterkenny after a group of seceders set up a rival faction in 1820, the latter becoming known as Second Letterkenny. Then, in 1840, First Letterkenny split over some disagreement that has long since been deflated by time, and Third Letterkenny was established.
This apparent inability to get along was eventually brought under control by hostilities from without. After First's church was burnt down in an arson attack in 1921, the disparate congregations began to share a space, and eventually all three united in 1925 under the name Trinity Presbyterian.
The problem with uniting tribes, of course, is that some chiefs must give way. Reverend Ross Millar, who had been installed as minister for Third Letterkenny in 1894, was prematurely retired in 1925 when he was only in his 50s.
Millar had had a good run of things for some years. Soon after his appointment he took up residence in a sturdy but elegant manse out on the New Line Road, freshly built in 1896 and known as Hillmount. He lived there in some comfort with his wife and four children until his only son, James Lytton Millar, was killed in action in France in 1916. James had been only six weeks at the front, and was only 19 years old.
Hillmount ceased to be a Presbyterian manse in 1990 and was completely refurbished by its current owners in 1998. But it still has all the advantages that the Reverend Millar's family would have enjoyed and then some.
It's on an acre of grounds yet almost in the centre of town. There are some great old trees on these grounds that the luckless young James Lytton Millar might have climbed with his sisters. The house retains its pleasingly asymmetrical character, with mismatched windows either side of the front door. The terracotta ridge tiles are still on the roof, along with the yellow brick chimneys rising to an almost improbable height above them.
What it has gained, since Millar's time, is more in the way of modern comfort and size. The lofted stable block out the back has been restored, converted and attached to the house, so that the internal dimensions now come to 3,767 sq ft, with six bedrooms and four reception rooms in total.
The stable block is connected to the main house through the kitchen and now forms a guest annexe. On its ground floor it has a dual-aspect study and family room with three sets of French doors leading to a courtyard on one side and a patio on the other. And there are two skylit bedrooms upstairs, with a Jack and Jill en-suite bathroom between them.
Meanwhile, the main entrance to the house proper is through a vestibule inside the front door, with a black-and-white tiled floor and a half-glazed door leading to the entrance hall. Three reception rooms are arranged around this hall.
First is a bay-windowed living room with an oak and cast-iron fireplace. You might sit in front of that while pondering some of John Knox's sermons. There are half-glazed double doors there leading to the dining room, which has another fireplace in oak and cast iron. The third reception room is a lounge or music room with a marble fireplace.
The kitchen and breakfast room is also on this level and is agreeably huge in the old-fashioned way, measuring some 33ft by 15ft. It's wood-floored and fitted with wall and floor cabinets with granite countertops and a range-style cooker. The breakfast area is triple-aspect and has a vaulted ceiling and a solid-fuel stove, and there are double doors from there to the patio.
There are four bedrooms on the first floor of the main house, along with a bathroom and separate toilet. The master bedroom is dual-aspect and has an en-suite bathroom, and the other three bedrooms still have their original fireplaces.
The courtyard outside has double doors leading on to the garden, where there's a huge swathe of glassy green lawn surrounded by mature trees and a curved gravel driveway.
There's plenty of room to park but if you're unusually particular about your car, there's also a garage with double doors.
It's only about 600 metres from Hillmount to Letterkenny's Main Street and, of course, to Trinity Presbyterian Church, the striking stone building situated there. The nearest city is Derry, about 35 kilometres away, and it's about three hours' drive from Dublin.
Hillmount Manse is described as "one of Letterkenny town's finest period residences" by the selling agents Franklins.
New Line Road,
Asking price: €750,000
Agent: Franklins (074) 918 8000