Take a peek inside this historic estate with all the trimmings for €3.25m
Milltown Park Estate, Shinrone, Co Offaly €3.25m
Back in 1691 in the midst of the Siege of Limerick, a daring Jacobite youngster named Patrick Sarsfield stole out from behind the barricades with a company of men and took a roundabout route over the mountains to Ballyneety in Co Limerick. His guide was a famous rapparee or highwayman called Michael "Galloping" Hogan.
Sarsfield and 500 men rode into the sleeping camp of the Williamite enemy with the cry: "Sarsfield is the word and Patrick Sarsfield is the name." They destroyed the siege train of 153 wagons of munitions that was en route to bolster the attack against Limerick and Hogan was given the honour of lighting the fuse. The explosion was so ferocious that the walls of nearby Ballyneety Castle crumbled to the ground.
It was a serious setback for William of Orange, King James's Protestant son-in-law, though he rallied his troops to Limerick to pound again on the walls of the city that, according to one defender, were so useless they would collapse if pelted with roasted apples. After a long struggle incurring severe casualties and running low on munitions, Prince William withdrew his men. In October of the same year, the Treaty of Limerick was signed, allowing the defeated Jacobites to leave in exile in what became known as the Flight of the Wild Geese.
Sarsfield would die fighting for the French two years later. And Hogan, depending on which version you believe, either escaped and ended his life serving in the Portuguese army, or was caught hiding in a tree in Hogan's Wood at Milltown Park, and was hanged at Birr.
Milltown Park itself didn't survive unscathed either. "We've always been Catholic so the original house was burnt down in the Williamite wars," says owner Barney White-Spunner, an historian and author, whose family have owned the estate since the 1500s.
The current house, built in the 1720s, was moved to a higher site above the Brosna River and around what was a group of farm buildings. "It was one of the first houses to be started when things had settled down after the Williamite Wars," says Barney. "It's very early Georgian. The charm of it is that it was built before you got to the very grand sort of Georgian house."
It is a compact house of three storeys over basement. On the ground floor, the morning room, drawing room, dining room and smoking room all lead off the grand tiled hallway. The stuccowork is believed to be by the famous Italian Franchini brothers. "It's not confirmed because we haven't got the invoice from it," says Barney, "but all the experts say it was [the Franchini brothers] and it wouldn't be surprising because they did a lot of work locally."
On the lower ground floor are the kitchen, a wine cellar, dairy, larder and all the essentials that the staff of a big country estate would once have needed to run things to Downton standards. On the top two floors are eight bedrooms, give or take a dressing room or two.
The house is in good repair. "We've done the heavy lifting," says Barney. "It has got a brand new roof - we rebuilt the chimneys, which had a bit of damage over the years. It's on mains water, it has been rewired, and so it's in very, very good structural order."
No doubt a new owner would want to reconfigure bedrooms and add en suites to bring it up to 21st Century standards and Barney suggests that one or two of the present bedrooms could be repurposed as en suites. "We've worked out where someone might want bathrooms and done the wiring."
The walled demesne includes extensive lands and is on the market at €3.25m. According to Philip Guckian of Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes: "The property has a beautiful, impressive quadrangle of traditional model farm buildings with 285 acres, including 100 acres of prime tillage, 95 acres of pasture and 70 acres of well managed woodland."
It was one of Barney's great grandfathers in the early 19th Century who remodelled the farm buildings. "It's got some unique features - an original corn-grind system and a wonderful system for airing and drying out carriages," says Barney. It would lend itself well to conversion to guest accommodation should the purchaser wish to turn the property into a boutique hotel or tourism venture. A two-acre walled garden would, says Barney, make a very good stud yard.
Milltown Park is an hour's drive from Shannon Airport and roughly 145km from Dublin city centre.
The house and estate are on the market at an asking price of €3.25m.
Size: 666 sqm
Join agents: Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes (01) 237 6300; William Montgomery (0044) 284 278 8666
Viewing: Strictly by appointment