Farm Ireland

Sunday 25 February 2018

Park life in striking Georgian mansion

Milltown Park Estate in Co Offaly has it all - a striking 18th century mansion, 285ac of powerful land and a classic Victorian farmyard

Stone splendour: Milltown House, Co Offaly
Stone splendour: Milltown House, Co Offaly
Milltown Park is an 18th Century house on 285ac of tillage and grazing land in Co Offaly
Jim O'Brien

Jim O'Brien

Last week I wrote a few lines in praise of monks and their eye for good land in the founding of their monasteries. I was referring to the ancient Cistercian settlement at Mellifont in Co Louth and this week I visited a farm near one of the more recent Cistercian Abbeys - Mount St Joseph which is 3km from Roscrea but situated in Co Offaly.

Milltown Park is an 18th century house on 285ac of tillage and grazing land just a few kilometres from the famous monastic school. It is for sale by private treaty with a guide price of €2.75m.

Located close to Shinrone, Milltown Park was built by the Spunner family in 1720 and is still in the ownership of the same family, now known as the White Spunners. The family has owned land in the area since the 1500s.

An unassuming gateway leads to an old avenue through tree-dotted parkland where the Georgian house stands in stone grey splendour.

The stone steps lead to a spacious hallway with a double arch and a Kilkenny marble flagged floor. A spacious drawing room lies to one side and a breakfast room to the other.

To the rear is a large dining room with some exquisite Georgian plasterwork and further back there is a smoking room. Off the dining room is a small kitchen. There are eight bedrooms located on the first and second floors along with two bathrooms, one on the ground floor and one on the half landing leading to the first floor. The basement is home to number of rooms including a kitchen complete with vaulted ceiling.

The house is in good structural order with the roof replaced a number of years ago when two of the chimneys, one carrying nine flues, were also rebuilt and lined. The many fireplaces in the house are all functioning.

However, the house needs much refurbishment and renovation and the current owner had plans to reduce the number of bedrooms to six and add four bathrooms.

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To the rear of the house is a walled garden with a stone shed and a three-floor dovecot.

The farmyard is a large Victorian-style courtyard built in 1840 in lovely cut stone and the buildings include an old milking parlour and the remains of staff accommodation. To the rear of the courtyard is a six span haybarn that houses a covered silage pit and a lean-to.

A walled garden extending to 2.5ac is located way from the house.

Currently under grass, it was once a thriving kitchen garden complete with a south facing brick wall built to retain heat.

Located directly in front of the house under a copse of trees is a most unusual feature - an icehouse in the shape of an arched underground tunnel. In the heyday of the big house, blocks of ice were brought by cart from Roscrea and stored here.

The land is in powerful order and, apart from one 12ac parcel that is let, it is farmed by the owner with the assistance of a local caretaker farmer.

Up to 100ac is under a mix of winter wheat, spring barley and spring oats with 50ac in forestry. Entitlements and forestry premiums are generating an income of around €35,000 per annum.

The current owner resides in England and inherited the estate from his uncle, Richard White Spunner. When Richard came to farm Milltown in the late 1950s, he described it as having little to offer aside from horses and debt.

He sold off the horses and turned the place into a working farm with a range of income streams including the efforts of a few thousand hens.

By 1970 the place was horse-free and debt-free thanks, the owner claimed, to the hens.

Milltown continues to be a working farm with fine fields of corn, good grassland and plenty of potential. The place could do with some investment in terms of farming facilities but it is a tremendous holding.

Philip Guckian of selling agents Sherry FitzGerald says the farm will be sold as an entire.

Indo Farming