Sunday 4 December 2016

Take a trip back in time with spacious €654k home that was once a school

This elaborate, spacious home was originally built as a school

Eithne Tynan

Published 06/05/2016 | 02:30

Gearagh House was built in 1840 as a Church of Ireland school by the Earl of Bandon.
Gearagh House was built in 1840 as a Church of Ireland school by the Earl of Bandon.
The dining room.
One of the four bedrooms.
Gearagh House
Gearagh House
Gearagh House
Gearagh House kitchen

Picture a traditional country schoolhouse and it is very likely you'll imagine exactly the kind of architectural conditions that would have been torture for a 10-year-old and yet are regarded as ideal for the aspirational adult home.

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Picture vast rooms rendered small by a few dozen fidgety children who'd rather be anywhere else; solid ceilings and walls that echo the teacher's voice droning into infinity; copious windows admitting streams of sunlight to distract you from your long division, and views of inviting, daisy-strewn lawns beyond those windows.

According to the selling agents (and the vendors), Gearagh House, near Clonakilty in Co Cork, was built in 1840 as a Church of Ireland school by the Earl of Bandon, but his plan had to be dropped because of the Famine.

Without doubt, Gearagh House has some of those classic schoolhouse characteristics. However, it's not on the first-edition Ordnance Survey map - not in its current form at least. The area was surveyed in 1841, and a much smaller building is shown on the site at that time.

The dining room.
The dining room.

Certain of the earls of Bandon (there were only five all told) undoubtedly held categorical opinions on the subject of education though, and history has left us in no doubt about those. The third earl, in particular, Francis Bernard, had serious misgivings about the education of Protestant children, and stood up to give his views about it several times in the House of Lords.

"Roman Catholic schools receive support from the state, while assistance is refused to Protestant schools," he said in 1864. "I would ask their Lordships how long that anomaly will continue? The religious scruples even of Jews are respected, but those of Irish Protestants are wholly disregarded."

One of the four bedrooms.
One of the four bedrooms.

By today's standards, if it were a school, Gearagh House would certainly be the posh kind - the kind where every child learns to read Virgil and write a credible "thank you" letter. But instead it's an elaborately and tastefully maintained private property.

It's also a high-end holiday home, available to rent for a minimum of €2,000 a week, for which you get the use of the grand Victorian house with four en-suite bedrooms, four reception rooms and a sauna, all standing on an acre of pleasant grounds.

Gearagh House
Gearagh House

The house itself is 3,897 sq ft and has fetching features such as cut-stone walls, a Gothic front door and Gothic leaded windows, and a sturdy, dog-legged antique oak staircase in the reception hall.

Thanks to various single-storey annexes at the back of the house, the ground floor has a higgledy-piggledy layout and is about one-and-a-half times bigger than the first floor. And as the house is for the most part only one room deep, many of the rooms are dual-aspect, with windows facing full east and full west.

Gearagh House
Gearagh House

The arched front door opens directly into the reception hall, where the staircase is. But with a wood-burning stove in one corner and plenty of room for seating areas, the hall is actually more of a living room. It's at least the kind of place where you could sit comfortably while waiting for someone to finish getting ready, or for the headmistress to appear and explain why your child was being expelled.

To the right of the hall is the dining room. This room is of a more formal cast, and has a timber fireplace and two sets of French doors. One leads directly to the garden, and the other to a conservatory, with its own door to the garden.

Gearagh House
Gearagh House

A passage leads from the living room to a second, inner hallway, off which is a smallish study measuring 11ft6 by 9ft4. Next to the study, at the opposite corner of the house from the dining room, is a family room with another fireplace.

The kitchen is at the back, and is fitted with cherrywood cabinets, a centre island and a range cooker in vivid green, and the kitchen has another set of French doors to the garden.

Gearagh House kitchen
Gearagh House kitchen

Off the kitchen there's a utility room, and then, in the farthest corner of the house is the recreation room, where there's a sauna and shower.

The four bedrooms, all en-suite, are on the first floor. There's one dual-aspect bedroom at each corner and two smaller bedrooms in between, and the master bedroom is by far the biggest, at roughly 29ft by 16ft.

There are mature trees at the front boundary and a natural hedgerow of flowers and shrubs. Behind the house, to the west, is a sheltered terrace leading to a lawn, and to the south is the main expanse of garden, dotted with flowering plants and shrubs.

Gearagh House is about 10 kilometres north-west of Clonakilty, and is roughly an hour's drive from Cork city.

Gearagh House

Clonakilty, Co Cork

Asking price: €645,000

Agent: Sherry FitzGerald O'Neill in Clonakilty (023 883 3995)

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