Monday 27 January 2020

Businessman told to halt demolition of listed mansion

Exterior of Kilmurry House in Thomastown
Exterior of Kilmurry House in Thomastown
Work at the back of Kilmurry House, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, yesterday

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

A HONG Kong-based businessman has been ordered to stop demolition works at the 17th century listed Georgian house that inspired the paintings of a leading artist.

Local residents in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, were dumbfounded when they noticed that part of the back of the stunning Kilmurry House had been knocked down. It is the home where celebrated Irish artist Mildred Anne Butler, who was born in 1858 and died in 1941, lived for most of her life.

The property dates to 1690 when a Colonel Bushe built a seat on lands granted to him under the Cromwellian settlement. In the late 1800s the estate was bought by Ms Butler's father, Major Henry Butler of the renowned Anglo-Irish Butlers of Ormonde dynasty of Kilkenny Castle.


Upon Ms Butler's death in 1941, Kilmurry House was left to a cousin and it remained in the Butler family until it was sold in 1981. It would appear that the Irish businessman who bought the house for a reported €1.5m last year is attempting to modernise part of the listed building.

Part of the back of the house has already been levelled. However, no planning permission was granted for the works.

It was billed as one of the finest country houses in the south-east when it went on the market in 2007. Set on 20 acres and complete with its own trout lake, the nine-bedroom property had failed to sell at an original asking price of €4m, but was finally snapped up last year for a reported €1.5m by James Hennessy -- an Irishman living abroad who was planning to relocate home.

Kilkenny County Council has now erected a notice at the site ordering Mr Hennessy, with an address in Repulse Bay, Hong Kong, to immediately bring the work to a halt.

The house had already been sympathetically renovated and restored, however, it appears Mr Hennessy had planned to put his own stamp on it.

The county council confirmed that the demolition works had now been stopped. However, substantial damage has been done.

Director of services with responsibility for planning, John McCormack, said that as soon as the matter was brought to the council's attention it served a notice on Mr Hennessy.

Mr McCormack said the local authority took a "very dim view" of moves to alter protected structures without permission.

It remains to be seen what sanctions will be taken against Mr Hennessy but the council has not ruled out prosecuting the owner and forcing him to reinstate the house.

Attempts to contact Mr Hennessy were unsuccessful.

Mr McCormack said it was "unusual" for a period property owner to take such actions as they have a high regard for protected structures.

An enforcement notice on the property stated that Mr Hennessy must, within 24 hours, "cease all unauthorised works of demolition/restoration to Kilmurry House, a protected structure".

The council warned that if these steps were not taken, it could enter the land and recover any "reasonable expenses incurred" for the operation.

Mr Hennessy has also been ordered to pay the county council €517.72 for investigating the planning issue and issuing the enforcement notice.

Irish Independent

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