Dublin palace of Monarch boss on the market for €2.5m
Somerton was the palace of Monarch boss Phil Monahan
For a time in the 90s, the late Phil Monahan was a monarch among property developers. The Dundalk-born businessman, who left an estate worth €27m when he passed away in 2003 aged 75, was born in a labourer's cottage outside Dundalk in 1928.
He came to development late in life having started out as a teacher, and worked in a number of firms, including Fyffes, before setting out on his own in property the 1960s.
His first big scheme was the Dundalk Shopping Centre and he went on to develop many more, including Nutgrove in Dublin and The Square in Tallaght, on which he supposedly staked his entire business empire in one massive gamble. His property vehicle Monarch boasted that it had developed two million square feet of Irish retail space shortly before Mr Monahan's death.
Monahan also built huge residential schemes, including the massive Cherrywood in South Dublin, and was a noted player in big business circles who wasn't afraid of a bit of argy bargy - something which came to the fore in 2002 shortly before his death, during the very public battle to take over the property company Dunloe, with himself, Dermot Desmond and Liam Carroll on one side, and solicitor Noel Smyth on the other.
Monarch also featured in the hearings prior to the Mahon Tribunal amid claims that it had paid a "retainer" to the disgraced Fianna Fail politician Liam Lawlor. Mr Monahan, who owned a huge fleet of vintage cars, had also appeared before the Moriarty Tribunal to deny that a €25,000 donation to Fianna Fail was for Brian Lenihan's liver transplant fund. There were also claims that Monarch executives had made regular payments to Don Lydon to distribute among Dublin councillors.
In the early 1990s, at the top of his game, the property king decided he needed a palace. Mr Monahan acquired Somerton, a majestic late Georgian-era mansion on a 130 acre estate in Castleknock, Dublin 15, from the family of TK Laidlaw. The price paid was in the order of IR£1.5m. At 12,500 sq ft, the mansion has the floor space equivalent of around 12 average city family homes. He then proceeded to carve off and develop most of the estate lands, including what is now the Somerton scheme and the Castleknock Golf Club and adjoining hotel.
Following his unexpected death in 2003, the company continued under his son Paul but ran into trouble during the property crash. The Monahans have been the most recent residents but now Somerton has been brought to market for the first time in 25 years by PWC as receivers on behalf of an investment fund.
Historically, Somerton was one of the great Liffey-side Dublin country estates which started with Farmleigh at the Phoenix Park and the other Guinness family holdings, and ran west from the city centre. It had originally been a part of the Luttrellstown Estate before being bought by the Brooke family. Charles Stuart Parnell was a cousin of the Somerton Brookes and was a regular visitor to the house. TK Laidlaw was an equestrian enthusiast who acquired it in 1911 and who bred two Grand National winners on these grounds.
One of the big changes the Monahans made was to "turn" the house from back to front. The original layout was on the back end. The current drawing room, which at 1,200 sq ft has the floor space of an average house, was once the ballroom. It still has the original sprung floor for dancing.
Along with this the home's best feature is the even larger entrance hall and reception - the ceiling supported by four large columns. The combination of these two rooms in proximity make this house useful for big receptions and entertaining.
There's a dining room, a modern kitchen/breakfast room, a study, a sitting room, a cloak room and an extra large family room which was the original entrance hall. Downstairs is a warren of rooms including the massive former kitchen, an office, games room and five other rooms which were once the bed chambers of service staff.
On the first floor there are five bedrooms and three offices as well as various bathrooms and en-suites, and on the top level are two more bedrooms, formerly for servants, and taking the bedroom count to five. The formal gardens of 11 acres with a gate lodge are dotted with classical Greek statues which are not included in the sale. Among the home's most notable features is the Adamesque stucco ceiling work in the "blue bedroom". One of the few mansions on decent grounds remaining in close proximity to the city centre, Somerton will generate interest both at home and abroad.
Somerton Hill, Castleknock, Dublin 15
Asking price: €2.5m
Agent: Colliers (01) 6333700