Thursday 23 November 2017

Capture a castle ...

This historic €1.75m manor house even has it's own benign resident ghost, writes Valerie Shanley

This historic €1.75m manor house even has it’s own
benign resident ghost, writes Valerie Shanley
This historic €1.75m manor house even has it’s own benign resident ghost, writes Valerie Shanley

In Dodie Smith's popular 1949 novel I Capture the Castle, the young heroine describes her historic home as a place where the past is 'like a presence, a caress in the air'. It's a description any writer of a romantic mind could attribute to the equally inspiring Castle ffrench.

This 29-roomed Grade A listed manor house at Ballinamore Bridge, Co Galway, comes with a distinct architectural heritage and a story of survival spanning almost four centuries.

The ffrench family, one of Galway's 14 tribes, lived on this estate from the early 1600s. After the land was confiscated under the Cromwellian settlements, Jasper ffrench repurchased the estate in 1671.

The house that still stands today was built by the then mayor of Galway, Charles ffrench, when he was created a baronet in 1779, and constructed as a replacement for the original castle.

The sombre exterior of this three-storey over-basement ashlar (dressed stone) faced property is contrasted by a bright and elegant interior defined by ornate plasterwork.

The elaborate detailing is at its finest in the hall and first floor landing. Here, a mix of earlier rococo and neo-classical craftsmanship is shown in plaster medallions, swags and cornicing depicting naturalistic foliage and birds, while the drawing room frieze includes Irish harps and other emblems considered unique to the great houses of 18th century Co Galway.

Still laid out to its original floor plan, the house retains marble fireplaces, sash windows with shutters, decorative period joinery, wooden floors, a Portland stone hall floor, and a barrel-vaulted semi-basement.

If our description sounds more like that of a museum piece rather than somewhere to live, selling agents Goffs Country point out that the €1.75m asking price reflects how it comes with all the comforts and conveniences expected in any modern home.

The vastness of the basement kitchen, for example, is warm and welcoming courtesy of the four oven Aga, while principal rooms, including all nine bedrooms and one of the bathrooms, have working fireplaces.

The current owners have also taken a light touch in the interior decor with warm neutral paint colours.

The approach to Castle ffrench is along a sheltered, mile-long driveway, until the house then appears through the trees. The large entrance hall with its marble mantelpiece and decorative stucco introduces the Georgian style of the reception rooms leading from here.

Bay windows in the drawing room overlook the grounds. Next to this is the formal dining room.

To the rear of the hall is the library, study and guest cloakroom. An inner hall with original winding staircase leads to the first floor landing with its impressive plasterwork and west-facing arched window.

Up on this level are four bedrooms (two en suite), two bathrooms and a shower room. The second floor, with stairs leading from the basement, has the remaining five bedrooms and a bathroom with roll-top cast iron tub.

At basement level, old meets new in the extensively fitted kitchen. This room, with its stone arches , flagged floor and antique bread oven in one of its recesses, also has a granite-topped working island with gas hob and modern oven, and plumbing for a dishwasher.

Adjacent is the breakfast room, while the basement also includes the utility room, family sitting room, guest cloakroom, wine cellar and boiler room.

A door leads from the kitchen to the well-maintained cobbled courtyard which has separate accommodation in a stone cottage converted into two apartments.

There is also a coachhouse, cow byre, store rooms, loft and separate garage. A more recent addition is the American style barn with 16 loose boxes, hay store and overhead loft.

Castle ffrench is on a site of circa 40 acres of parkland.

No historic castle would be complete without a resident ghost, and legend has it that the occasional suggestible guest has spotted 'the white lady' gliding along moonlit corridors.

She is described as a benign presence, believed to be the daughter of one of the early ffrench family who was locked in the Old Tower until her marriage could be arranged. Plenty there, then, for the budding novelist, as well as the buyer looking for an impressive home.

Contact: Goffs Country Nolan & Brophy (045) 98 1048

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