When Patrick Guinness, a direct descendant of the world-famous brewer Arthur, and his wife Louise moved into Furness near Naas, Co Kildare in 1993, there were holes in the roof and the house, while not derelict, needed work.
“We had wet seeping in from above, but luckily it was a very dry summer. We had scaffolding on three sides of the house and we changed the roof within a few weeks.
“The timbers were fine, funnily enough, though they dated from the 1730s. We treated them and put on new slates and felt,” says Patrick. They also rewired, redecorated and added central heating.
It was the first of a number of renovations that the Guinnesses have carried out in their 20 years at Furness. Now with their family almost grown, it’s time for Patrick and Louise to move on.
“It’s been a wonderful family house but I’m pushing 60 now,” says Patrick, “and our youngest is 16. It’s time to downsize.”
The estate, with house, substantial outbuildings and 34 acres of land, is up for sale at €2.5m. It was originally offered for sale in 2013 at €3m.
Built in the 1730s in the Palladian style for Richard Nevill MP, Furness was embellished by subsequent generations of Nevills until, by the end of the century, two additional wings and a fine bay-windowed dining room had been added.
“The Nevills were MPs for Wexford, one after another, and two of the four were expelled from the Irish House of Commons for corruption,” says Patrick. adding: “Something that doesn’t happen any more.”
Through the imposing front door lies a grand hallway with a fine wide staircase of Spanish chestnut and an elegant original pearwood chimney piece. To the right of the hall, an archway was formed into a study in the 1790s — the extended hallway now houses a grand piano on which a cheetah skin rests.
On the wall is a large portrait dating back to the early 18th Century.
“It’s of a Mitford ancestor. My father’s mother was one of the Mitford sisters. And this man was the first grandee in that family... He did rather well so he ended up as an earl.”
The first of three grand reception rooms opens off the hall, a suite of rooms ideally suited to entertaining. Known as the ante room, the walls are hung with Persian wallpaper, the floral motif chosen by Louise, an interior designer, and made in the UK.
The ante room leads to the drawing room, where a delicate stucco ceiling is attributed to Michael Stapleton in circa 1782. It features a depiction of Minerva teaching the Greeks to plant the olive tree.
“The idea was that people would connect to the fact that the Nevills were improving landlords and they were in the role of Minerva. I remember showing it to an acquaintance when we moved here and he said, ‘I don’t know, I think he’s trying to get his hand up her skirt.’ That’s the beauty of art,” says
Patrick, “it means different things to different people.”
Beyond the elegant public rooms lie the working parts of the house. The former servants’ quarters is now a large and comfortable family room with a huge stove and views to the front of the house and the courtyard behind. “So the housekeeper would know if the Nevills returned unexpectedly and could keep an eye on the dairymaid in the courtyard at the same time,” says Patrick.
The family kitchen is large and cheery and painted a bright yellow. A vast range and big, old pine table make it a gathering place for Patrick and Louise’s four children. (His daughter by his first marriage is Jasmine Guinness, a former model.)
Upstairs on the first floor, Furness has six large bedrooms, with fireplaces and three bathrooms, while the top floor houses three further bedrooms and two bathrooms. Each wing contains two function rooms and two bedrooms, and offer the option of being used as self-contained units.
The grounds run to 34 acres made up of parkland, paddock and woodland and contain many historic features, including a fifth-century church and a rare calendar stone dating back to 3,500BC. Just 30 minutes from Dublin, the property makes a magical family home but has the potential to be developed into a charming boutique hotel.
“It is,” says Patrick, “a wonderful place to throw a party.”