A home with a restored corn mill for €675k
IF you were an 18th or 19th century tenant farmer and you owned a quern - a primitive hand mill for grinding corn - chances are you'll have kept it hidden during daylight hours.
That's because querns were looked on with disfavour by landlords, who preferred you to take your corn to their mills and pay to have it ground instead of doing it yourself - for free. They liked to get as much of what they paid you back again through high rent, monopoly landlord-owned shops and also through milling services.
"Quern-grinding by the poorer people was regarded as a sort of poaching," wrote PW Joyce in his 'Social History of Ancient Ireland' in 1906. "Where the mill belonged to the landlord, he usually gave orders to his miller to break all the querns he could find, so that the people had to hide them, much as they hide a still nowadays."
Not surprisingly, cornmills did a roaring trade, starting in the late 18th century. There were around two-and-a-half thousand of them around the country in the mid 1800s until, in 1846, Robert Peel did away with the Corn Laws - which imposed tariffs on imported grain - and put an end to the boom.
Nowadays, of course, owning a cornmill - especially a listed one - is more likely to feel like a millstone around your neck. You may be put to the trouble of preserving it without any hope of turning a profit, since there is now realistically no chance whatsoever of being able to coerce your neighbours into queuing up outside with their oats.
The owners of the small-scale cornmill at Clooneen Bridge, near Granard in Co Longford, were not deterred, however. At the time the complex was surveyed for the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage in 2006, it was described as derelict and ruined, though nevertheless "an important physical reminder" of a past era of prosperity.
Since then, it's been fully restored, including the water wheels, the gearing on the ground floor and the grinding stones upstairs. All you need now is a field of grain and you need never be without porridge again.
The complex as a whole consists of the cornmill, a large restored period house, a gym and utility building, a workshop and commercial kitchen with a cold room, and an artist's studio - all on over four acres of grounds bounded by the Clooneen River.
The house itself, a mini period mansion, appears on the second-edition Ordnance Survey map as an L-shaped structure. One of the wings has been extended to the northeast, so that from above it now has a shape rather resembling a lightning bolt.
That extension took the dimensions of the house up to 3,197 sq ft, with six bedrooms, four of them en suite and all on the first floor.
Two driveways lead to the house, with its arched entrance door opening to an hall with a mahogany staircase - one of two staircases in the property.
To the left is a sitting room with a pine floor, a timber ceiling and wall panelling. A stone fireplace with a raised hearth dominates the room, and there are double doors leading into the side garden.
Straight ahead in the hall is a study, and to the right is the dual-aspect kitchen with a ceramic-tiled floor, cream painted cabinets and a double Belfast sink. The kitchen leads you into the other wing of the house, opening into a living room with a porcelain tiled floor, wall panelling, and patio doors to a courtyard out the back. The downstairs toilet is off this room, and a spiral staircase rises here to the rear portion of the house upstairs.
Adjoining the living room is the formal dining room, where there's an arched window and another patio door, this time leading to the front garden.
Next to this is a large, dual-aspect lounge at the corner of the house, with an open fireplace and French doors to the rear courtyard.
Then there's the 1,187 sq ft mill building, which has been set up for a far more passive type of industry this time around. It has a stove in a stone fireplace on the ground floor, and shiny wooden floors against an exposed stone wall upstairs. It's the sort of place you might go to unwind when you've been through the mill.
The 4.32 acres of grounds, of which about two-and-a-half acres are gardens, are designed for both form and function. There's a mature orchard with apple, plum, pear, peach, walnut and hazelnut trees, an organic fruit garden with gooseberries, blueberries, loganberries and tayberries, a vegetable garden and polytunnel with irrigation, as well as a henhouse.
The property has about 100 metres of private access to the Clooneen River, and there are seating areas and bridges positioned to enjoy that. Elsewhere, the gardens are lawned, with specimen trees and bamboos, and, at this time of year, a deluge of golden nasturtiums.
Address: Clooneen House & Mill, Granard, Co Longford
Asking price: €675,000
Agent: Padraig Smith Auctioneers (049) 436 2244