Farm Ireland

Saturday 18 November 2017

Queen Victoria is reputed to have supped tea at this Laois property

Queen Victoria is reputed to have supped tea at this Laois property, which is on the market with 45ac and an established tourism business

The Old Rectory is located at Coolbanagher, near Emo, Co Laois
The Old Rectory is located at Coolbanagher, near Emo, Co Laois
The courtyard has been redeveloped as self-catering tourist accommodation
Edward V11
Jim O'Brien

Jim O'Brien

Architect James Gandon, renowned for the design of the Customs House and the Four Courts in Dublin, left a significant mark in Co Laois with the building of Emo Court and the nearby Church of Ireland church at Coolbanagher.

The former Glebe House associated with the Coolbanagher Church, along with a courtyard converted into self-catering accommodation and a farmyard on 45ac, is on the market by private treaty with a guide price of €1.25m.

The house (not designed by Gandon) was built in 1790 and among its more illustrious visitors was the long-serving Queen Victoria. She dropped in during her state visit to Ireland in 1861 and is reputed to have taken tea in the drawing room and discussed buying Emo Court as an upmarket holding area for her son - the playboy prince Edward VII.

The then Prince of Wales was developing quite a reputation for himself in the aristocratic boudoirs of London and Paris.

The courtyard has been redeveloped as self-catering tourist accommodation
The courtyard has been redeveloped as self-catering tourist accommodation

Perhaps Queen Vic was hoping a spell in Laois might cool the ardour of the heir- apparent, who eventually ascended to the throne in 1901 and reigned until 1910.

The Old Rectory, as it is now called, was bought in 1952 by a local farming family, the Deverells.

Just over 20 years ago, the current owners, Wilf and Ingrid Deverell, diversified the farm enterprise, adapting the house and its ancillary buildings to include a playschool, established in 1993, and a self-catering tourism business established in 1999.

The self-catering business includes a coach-house, converted into two apartments, and the formers servants' quarters in the main house that includes three bedrooms upstairs with a kitchen, living room and sunroom on the ground floor. The entire property covers in the region of 6,200sqft.

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The original farm was comprised of 75ac with additional land leased from Emo Court. But diversifying into non- farming enterprises helped secure the future of the farm, says Wilf Deverell.

Edward V11
Edward V11

"In the 1990s, fattening 60 pigs a week hadn't the makings of a great future. Diversifying took the pressure off and made the farming more enjoyable," he says, adding that "there is more money to be made out of people than pigs".

The property is located off the Portarlington-to-Portlaoise road, 8km from both towns and only 2km from the M7 motorway.

A most pleasant tree-lined avenue winds up to the house and divides to serve the courtyard.

A small porch leads to an elegant hallway, while the drawing room is located to the right and a dining room to the left.

Both rooms are typical Georgian reception rooms with high ceilings, centrepieces, cornicing, ornate fireplaces and large windows letting in plenty of light.

The windows have the traditional Georgian shutters and behind one of the shutters was found details of the crafts- people who worked on the original building and the renovations that happened over the years.

The accommodation includes seven bedrooms upstairs, of which four are for family use with access to two bathrooms, while three bedrooms over the servants' quarters are part of the self-catering business and have access to bathroom facilities. There are two staircases leading to the separate quarters. The bedrooms are mainly large, bright and airy, and in perfect condition.

The downstairs accommodation includes the two main reception rooms, a living room, a breakfast room that doubles as a family room, two well-finished kitchens, one for the family and the other for self-catering, two sunrooms, a guest WC and a utility.

The coach-houses include a two-bedroom apartment with a kitchen, living room and sunroom/breakfast room, while the one-bedroom apartment has similar facilities along with a mezzanine space reached by a spiral ladder that can be used as a bedroom.

Over the years, the self- catering aspect of the business has enjoyed 70pc occupancy.

The house is in excellent condition, having been renovated, rewired and replumbed following a fire in 2007.

It is surrounded by well-kept gardens, with plenty of access from the house and the self- catering units.

The facilities also include the space used for the former playschool, which could easily be converted for office space; a farm office that could be added to the self-catering accommodation, and a two storey games-room with pool table.

The farmyard is made up of a range of buildings that include self-feeding slatted sheds with accommodation for 120 cattle, a three-column hayshed with lean-to, and a range of storage and machinery sheds.

The land is the best of Laois ground, with great stands of old trees that include a 700-year-old oak and some copses of young trees planted by Wilf and Ingrid. The Old Rectory has the makings of a fine family home and/or a thriving rural tourism business, located just off the M7 with easy access to Dublin, the south and the midwest.

The private treaty sale is handled by Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes and Christie's.

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