GALLERY: Renowned pony breeding enterprise comes with a gate lodge and historic neighbour
When John and Maeve Riordan were living in Donabate in the 1980s, John would de-stress from his job in the financial services industry by taking his springer spaniels for a walk to the Malahide Estuary. Along the way, he would pass the wrought-iron gates to Seafield House, a Palladian villa overlooking the water.
John had long cultivated an interest in farming and would spend mornings cutting the organic vegetables he grew on a six acre plot he rented outside Swords. He dreamed of turning this passion into a career, and saw his opportunity when Seafield House and its 190 acres went on the market. Sir Robert and Lady Goff, then big players in the Dublin property and art worlds, bought the 18th century mansion and about 70 acres of the estate, so John and Maeve acquired the remaining land, including Seafield House's gate lodge and its original front gates.
John began to grow potatoes and corn on the land. When the couple's children started asking for a pony, they got in touch with the Connemara Breeders Society, which, in turn, reintroduced John to a childhood friend called Eithne O'Connell. Her father, Tom, was the farm manager on Lambay Island, where Lord Revelstoke had become the first major exporter of Connemara ponies in the 1950s and 1960s. Tom and his daughter shared their expertise on the native Irish ponies and global contacts with the Riordans.
"We went to buy one Connemara pony and ended up buying seven. It was a hobby that turned into a business," says John of the resulting family firm, Lismar Connemara Ponies. "So rather than tillage farming, I put my efforts into Connemara ponies and they were very good to us over the years."
The couple decided to move closer to their breeding business and spent about four years working with an architect to design Seafield Manor, finally building the 4,000-sq ft property in 1993, right in the centre of their land, and borrowing period-style elements from the original villa nearby, such as columns to the front porch. They also added four stables, a tack room and dog kennels to the home.
Now that their children have grown up, the couple have put Seafield Manor, its equestrian facilities, gate lodge and 27 acres of its land on the market. They plan to downsize while their son, Shane, a solicitor, continues to operate the family business on the remaining land.
Some of the fields have also been set aside as feeding grounds for the swans and geese that overwinter on the estuary.
The original Seafield House gates to the entrance to Seafield Manor have been modified to be operated electronically. Behind them, mature trees and hedging line the avenue leading up to Seafield Manor, which commands views of the estuary and the surrounding countryside.