Sunday 21 January 2018

Ballindoolin House: Georgian manor home with 250 acres of land, stable yard and restored formal gardens

Unique selling point: with formal gardens

An ornate sun dial punctuates the pathways which criss-cross Ballindoolin gardens
An ornate sun dial punctuates the pathways which criss-cross Ballindoolin gardens
Ballindoolin's impressive facade
The entrance hall of Ballindoolin
Ballincoolin courtyard
A pathway leads tantalisingly into the gardens beyond
Ballindoolin drawing room
The expansive dining room
Ballindoolin bell tower
An ideally positioned seat to take in all the surroundings
Ballindoolin garden map

Eithne Tynan

In 1822, Humphrey Bor built an impressive manor house for the family estate at Ballindoolin, Co Kildare. But by the 1890s, the Bor family had got into financial trouble and had to vacate.

Perhaps it was because Humphrey and his descendants had invested so much money in their formal gardens, which were renowned locally.

But once the Bors went bust, it emerged that their land agent, William Tyrrell, had squirrelled away funds over many years to put him in a position to take over the big house.

Unfortunately, the renowned gardens soon began to deteriorate and fade away.

The Tyrrells and their descendants have been at Ballindoolin House ever since. The current generation, Esther Molony and her late husband Robert, inherited it in 1993, and it's now for sale for the first time since the luckless Bor passed it over to his underling, 120-odd years ago.

When the Molony family inherited Ballindoolin estate in 1993, little remained in the large walled garden behind the 1821 house, except for some venerable espaliered apple trees.

Its restoration was carried out in 1997 with the help of the Great Gardens Restoration Scheme, to a design by Daphne Shackleton. A JCB was used to clear the site and the original features began to emerge, including a melon pit and original paths.

Today, there are 100 foot long herbaceous borders with gold and white colours dominating.

There's a lavender walk and a grid of paths which divide up different areas for vegetables, soft fruit and espaliered fruit trees, plus a spiral patterned parterre based on the original design.

There are bridle paths through the outer gardens and the woodland, passing curiosities such as the ruin of a shamrock-shaped dovecote, thought to have been built as a folly.

These are even more challenging times for a Georgian country estate than the 19th-century circumstances that bested the Bors. Consequently, the Molonys realised they would have to make Ballindoolin a going concern if it was to pay for its own expensive upkeep.

First, they had to restore the house, which was then - and still is - much the same as it was when it was built. They reroofed it, rewired it and replumbed it, protecting it from the elements and making it dry and habitable.

Then, they turned their attention to Humphrey's once glorious but ruined garden. Charlie McCreevy came to the rescue here, with his Great Gardens of Ireland Restoration Programme. Ballindoolin became one of 26 gardens rescued under the EU-funded scheme. Both house and gardens opened to the public after that. They also pressed the 18th-century farm buildings into commercial service, refurbishing them as a function room, restaurant, museum and craft shop.

The 250 acres of land also includes a stable yard and a working farm. At the entrance to the estate, there's also a one-bedroom gate lodge in need of restoration.

But back to the house itself: it's a four-bay, three-storey residence with a basement, built of local limestone, and still with its original plasterwork, joinery and fireplaces intact. It is 9,000 sq ft in size, with 11 bedrooms. A new owner will have good reason to reduce that number, but more about that in a moment. The ground floor - the part visitors see - consists of a grand entrance hall with reception rooms either side of it. To the right is a drawing room, which still has its 1936 wallpaper, imported from France, and to the left is a dining room.

Behind the main hall is the inner, staircase hall, with a study to the left and, to the right, a living room linked by double doors to the drawing room at the front. Straight ahead is a little kitchen, about 7ft by 9ft 6ins, and that's the only working kitchen in the house.

There's another old kitchen in the basement, which is still in its original condition. All the basement rooms are arranged around a central pillared hall, and they include a servants' room, dairy, meat room, laundry, wine cellar, gardener's room, and storerooms.

The first floor has eight bedrooms and a bathroom, which means a minimum of seven people queuing for the toilet. Even a cursory glance at the floor plan will reveal which of these bedrooms might be turned into extra bathrooms.

The top floor is essentially a staff apartment because, it goes without saying, a property like this needs staff. The hoovering alone. It consists of three bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen and living room, and there's a back stairs conveying the staff discreetly down to the ground floor and basement.

Much of the furniture is historically important, having been in the house since 1822. Needless to say, it's not included in the sale. Neither is the statuary in the magnificent gardens outside. Central to those gardens is a two-acre walled garden with flowerbeds and roses, shrubberies and fruit trees, set among neat lawns and interspersed with gravel walkways.

Of the 250 acres, 130 are in pasture and the remainder is majestic woodland. Some of these great trees - including beech, oak, ash, sycamore, chestnut, hornbeam and hazel - were planted recently with the aid of a reforestation grant. Others would have been introduced by Humphrey Bor with no expectation that he would be around to see them mature.

Joint agents Savills in Dublin, (01) 663 4350, and William Montgomery in the UK, are handling the sale of Ballindoolin House, and its price is €2.9m.

Indo Property

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