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Boutique potential: Aughrim Estate comes with courtyard buildings and huge hospitality prospects for €1.8m

Upper Aughrim House and Estate Aughrim, Co Wicklow

Asking price: €1.8m (Lot One)

Agent: Savills (01) 663 4350

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The main reception room

The main reception room

The estate comes with equestrian outbuildings, the largest cut-stone barn in the country and a courtyard

The estate comes with equestrian outbuildings, the largest cut-stone barn in the country and a courtyard

The entrance hall with floor mosaic and stucco work on the ceilings and door arch

The entrance hall with floor mosaic and stucco work on the ceilings and door arch

One of the bedrooms

One of the bedrooms

General Joseph Holt

General Joseph Holt

The formal dining room

The formal dining room

The front exterior is deceiving in size as the property is two and a half times deeper than it is wide

The front exterior is deceiving in size as the property is two and a half times deeper than it is wide

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The main reception room

If you don't eat your vegetables, Hunter Gowan will come for you! For 100 years, Irish parents in the south east would terrify their children with tales of Hunter Gowan and his Black Mob, the nickname for John Hunter Gowan II's Wingfield Yeomanry, which harassed the populace of north Wexford and Wicklow at the end of the 18th century.

The National Folklore project of the 1930s, which gathered stories from school children, includes an account of a Wexford farmer named Mulligan, who was attacked at night by a mounted apparition said to be Hunter Gowan's ghost and relates how he died of shock after describing the incident.

The much-feared Gowan was a captain of volunteer militia, a magistrate and a bounty hunter. He hunted priests, thieves and political fugitives and was paid an annual stipend of £100 a year for his services. His Black Mob of yeomen appears to have been given a free hand in burning homes and torturing suspects. Among other hideous deeds attributed to them was a penchant for whipping captives to death and deploying pitch cappings - burning pitch in a hat of paper or cloth which was fixed to the scalp of the victim.

A famous story has Hunter Gowan supervising the eviction of a family outside Gorey when an elderly man confronted him at the scene. Wagging his finger at Gowan, he proclaimed the captain was destined for hell fire. Gowan lashed out with his sword, sliced off the offending finger, attached it to the sword tip and wagged it back at the mutilated man. Gowan then paraded up and down the main street of Gorey wagging the finger at the towns folk and urging them to behave themselves. Stopping at his favourite pub, he and his cohort ordered a bowl of whiskey punch and stirred it with the detached finger. After the failed 1798 uprising, Gowan was responsible for killing captured rebels in Shillelagh, Carnew and Clonegal.

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The estate comes with equestrian outbuildings, the largest cut-stone barn in the country and a courtyard

The estate comes with equestrian outbuildings, the largest cut-stone barn in the country and a courtyard

The estate comes with equestrian outbuildings, the largest cut-stone barn in the country and a courtyard

Upon the death of his own wife Frances Norton, who died of exhaustion (after having 16 children), Gowan proclaimed "she was worn out like an old ewe from too many birthings" and promptly married his children's young governess. He was 61.

But it was at Aughrim, Co Wicklow, that Gowan and his Black Mob met their match in 1798 when tackled by a disciplined rebel force commanded by General Joseph Holt from Redcross. Holt's troops dropped to the ground to dodge the Black Mob's maiden fusillade and then worked a clever flanking sweep across the river to rout Gowan and his mob.

After fighting at Vinegar Hill, Holt's troops held out for a time in the Wicklow Hills before he surrendered to be deported to Australia in 1800.

The very best view of the battle at Rednagh Bridge that day was from Upper Aughrim House, built on the hill right above the town as the base of the vast Meath estates in the area. The Kilruddery-based Earl of Meath had Aughrim built as an estate town. Unlike many landed gentry, the Brabazons were generally liked by their tenants, so the house was not under threat from either side on the day. The Meath estate would go on to found both the Meath and the Coombe hospitals, and during the next uprising in 1867, their tenants pledged to defend their holdings.

Upper Aughrim House was long inhabited by the estate's agents, the Fogarty family, who also ran the mills in Aughrim for the Meaths. The house dates from the 1760s and like many of the historic town buildings, was likely constructed with the famous locally quarried granite.

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The formal dining room

The formal dining room

The formal dining room

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As the large Irish estates were broken up, the Fogartys obtained possession of the house and part of the farmland. A son emigrated to the USA and returned wealthy. He set about extending the house and adding its handsome cut stone frontal section. Fogarty junior spared no expense with elaborate cornicing and decoration, all of which is intact today.

After the last Fogarty passed on, by twist of fate it was bought back by one of the Meaths. Lady Romaine Brabazon, sister of the earl, bought it with her husband Neil Pike. They also invested in the house, gardens and most of the farmyard. The cut-stone barn at Aughrim Upper is reputed to be the largest in Ireland.

The entire was then bought three years ago by a Dublin-based businessman as an intended retirement project, but discovering he is more wedded to his business than he thought, he is now selling it rather than leave it disused.

The result of big spends by two sets of owners is that this house looks remarkably understated from the front, but is dazzling inside. It's also two and half times deeper than it is wide. The main entrance through a portico takes you into the hall with a remarkable floor mosaic and decorative stucco work around the door arch and on the ceilings. To the right is the main drawing room and to the left is the living room. Through double doors from the drawing room you're taken into the formal dining room. Perhaps a modern concession is that the living room now runs open plan into the kitchen.

At the back, entered from the courtyard, is another kitchen/living room, a bedroom, bathroom, and there are storage and ancillary rooms at the centre. To the right of the house off the drawing room, and best placed to take in the views, is the conservatory. Upstairs are six more bedrooms and two bathrooms.

The current owners have lightly decorated inside, which allows it to speak for itself in a clean and bright fashion. There's huge potential outside in the courtyard, which comes with an array of high-quality stone farm and equestrian buildings, including the aforementioned barn.

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The entrance hall with floor mosaic and stucco work on the ceilings and door arch

The entrance hall with floor mosaic and stucco work on the ceilings and door arch

The entrance hall with floor mosaic and stucco work on the ceilings and door arch

This house comes with 93.5 acres, and so would be of interest to private buyers in search of a pocket estate, for farmers looking for a grand home and business, and for the hospitality sector, which could surely develop the substantial courtyard buildings in the way many other boutique country house hotels have done.

The house itself spans almost 6,000 sq ft and the adjoining cottage at the back is another 775 sq ft. The outbuildings measure a substantial 8,000 sq ft and for those looking for a home and a hotel business, that giant barn with its beamed ceiling is crying out to be a function room of note for weddings.

The 93.5 acres are laid out in productive tillage, in woodlands and in grasslands. The property is being sold by Savills in four lots, but Lot 1 is the house, cottage, outbuildings and 93.5 acres. The agents expect to achieve €1.8m. These days, Aughrim, on the meeting of the Derry and Ow rivers, is a far more peaceful postcard town.

Hunter Gowan somehow dodged 39 charges of "pillage and slaughter" and lived to the remarkable age of 97. It is said his tomb in Gorey had to be specially secured after reports locals had been spotted out playing football with his head.

For his part, Joe Holt secured a job as farm manager on the boat to Australia and made a big success of it. In 1804, there was a convict rebellion at Castle Hill and hundreds of rebels mobilised. They made their stand at a New South Wales landmark named Vinegar Hill. Holt kept out of it.


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