Friday 22 March 2019

Four beds in the realm of the Bishop Baron

A modern build near services and amenities in an area with a lot of history. Eithne Tynan examines the house and some local lore

On holy ground: the exterior of No 4 The Drive
On holy ground: the exterior of No 4 The Drive
The dining area
The glass-block panel feature
The spacious kitchen
The sitting room with gas fireplace
One of the bedrooms
Mystery: It was not initially known Clarke painted Double Portrait of Two Girls

Eithne Tynan

Dunboyne's most famous son (other than former Taoiseach John Bruton) is without doubt the former Bishop of Cork and 12th Baron Dunboyne, a man who wanted to have it all, believed he should be entitled to have it all, but ended up with nothing.

John Butler was born in 1731 at the family seat of Dunboyne Castle in Co Meath. His parents had heirs and spare and so John went on for the priesthood - even then a handy way to dispose of superfluous issues. He advanced quickly in his career and became Bishop of Cork and Ross in 1763 while still in his early 30s. But a series of untimely deaths led to an abrupt reappraisal of his calling. After the demise of both of his brothers and his nephew, John suddenly became the 12th Baron Dunboyne in 1786. But at this stage of course, he was also a bishop.

Butler could see the end of the family line looming, so with the no doubt altruistic aim of ensuring Dunboyne would get its longed for 13th Baron, he applied to Pope Pius VI for a dispensation in the celibacy matter. Needless to say Pius was having none of that, baron or not, so the bishop felt himself obliged to quit his job, renounce his faith, marry, and start a family.

All this trouble was for nothing though. Butler converted to Anglicanism, got married at the age of 56 to a 23-year-old slip of a girl, but they produced only one child who died in infancy.

The sitting room with gas fireplace
The sitting room with gas fireplace

By 1800, still heirless and in poor health, he found the moment was right for a deathbed conversion, or reconversion. He wrote to the Pope seeking absolution and died a happy "relapsed papist", leaving a nice (although contested) bequest in his will to the newly-founded seminary at Maynooth. Meanwhile an outlying Butler was unearthed to assume the title, and it continues to this day (albeit in Sussex).

The former Butler family home, Dunboyne Castle, is neither a home nor a castle. The manor house of that name was built in John Butler's lifetime. In the 1950s it became the Good Shepherd Mother and Baby home and it's now a hotel and spa.

Dunboyne has also changed immeasurably in recent times, but its inhabitants, like John Butler, still have good reason to believe they can have it all.

Take its commuters, for instance, for whom Dunboyne is a cinch. Like most commuters, they get a bigger house on a bigger site for less money than in Dublin. And like most commuters, they live in the wholesome surroundings of the countryside. But unlike many commuters, those in Dunboyne are only minutes from the outskirts of Dublin: the M50 Blanchardstown Junction is a 10-minute drive. Because of its proximity to the Dublin border (three kilometres away at Clonee), it benefits from a Dublin Bus service and has two railway stations nearby, the M3 Parkway and Dunboyne itself.

It's no wonder, then, that the town's resident population has increased in recent times, up from 5,471 in the 1996 census to 7,272, in 2016. However, it has not experienced the dramatic growth of other border towns such as Ashbourne, and has a long-established and well-settled community. The long-running RTÉ rural family based soap The Riordans was filmed there.

Among the newcomers to Dunboyne are the occupants of Lutterell (sometimes spelt Luttrell) Hall, built just before the millennium by Mycete Construction - a company that was later dissolved only to re-emerge, phoenix-like, as Mycete Homes in 2003.

The spacious kitchen
The spacious kitchen

It's less than a kilometre from the centre of Dunboyne centre and 10-minutes' walk from John Butler's old home place of Dunboyne Castle, should you find yourself urgently needing your chakras balanced at the spa there.

Number 4 The Drive is a four bed semi-detached on one of the estate's various culs-de-sac, and it has been much improved by its current owners although they point out that there is still scope for new owners to put their own imprint on it.

For instance, it may be possible to extend it from its current size of 1,453 sq ft by building out from the rear dining room, where there are French doors at present on to a deck. Alternatively a new owner might consider opening up the dining room to the adjacent kitchen.

The current owners have added an unusual glass-block panel to the kitchen, bringing in a lot more light to bounce off the chequerboard-tile floor. But instead of glass, the blocks are perspex, so they're warm to the touch.

The dining room also opens through double doors with stained-glass panels to a front sitting room with a gas-fitted fireplace.

Off the kitchen there's a separate utility room which is where the back door is, and the ground floor also has a playroom or study to the front as well as a guest toilet under the stairs.

The main bathroom is upstairs and has a bath with an overhead electric shower. The four bedrooms are also on this floor, all with built-in wardrobes. Off the main bedroom, which is at the front, there's an ensuite with a power shower.

You can park on the front driveway, while the back garden has the best possible orientation, facing southwest. As well as the split-level deck outside the dining room, there's a lawned garden planted with fruit trees and bushes including apple, blackcurrant and blueberry. The owners report plenty of bird life though, so there'll be competition for the harvest.

There are several primary schools and one well-regarded secondary school in the town. Maynooth University is 12kms away. And around the corner from the house is Dunboyne College of Further Education which offers post-Leaving Cert courses, evening classes and seminars. Handily enough, one forthcoming talk there, to be held in April, is on 'Buying a Home'.

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