Sunday 8 December 2019

Georgian schoolhouse in Limerick on the market for €495k

The old schoolhouse, Chapel Hill, Castleconnell, Co Limerick €495,000

The Old Schoolhouse, Castleconnell
The Old Schoolhouse, Castleconnell
Janet Harbison ran the Irish Harp Centre from the Old Schoolhouse, Castleconnell — an ideal large family home in a very quiet location with beautiful views and a warm kitchen
The Old Schoolhouse, Castleconnell
The kitchen at The Old Schoolhouse, Castleconnell

Caroline Allen

The original foot baths remain in the hall, but a lot has changed since the days when boys and girls filed through two different sides of the front entrance of the Old Schoolhouse, Castleconnell.

Constructed in the shape of a cross and completed on the old parish church site in 1867, this gable-fronted limestone building stood out as a school for its size and solidity. Since its conversion into a family residence in the 1960s, its four owners have also seen it as something special, preserving the integrity of this grade-two listed building.

Financed by a surplus from a fundraising appeal for a new Catholic church, the school took boys on the ground floor, girls upstairs. After becoming a technical school for some years, a new school opened in the village. The schoolhouse went on to become a family home, with a conservatory added. Glass ceilings were installed on passageways, connecting the house to a toilet and coal block, which was refurbished as further accommodation.

The present and fourth owners, harpist and composer Janet Harbison and her husband Malcolm Gullis, who runs a music school in London and works closely with St Paul's Cathedral, moved in in 2002. It was, it seems, meant to be.

"Shortly after we bought the house, I discovered that my great grandmother had been a teacher in the school and that my family is buried in the local churchyard," says Dublin-born Harbison. "Both my grandmothers were born in Co Clare but I didn't know about the Limerick connection."

Like their predecessors, Harbison and Gullis took a light-handed approach to renovations. Their makeover included replacing the windows with double-glazed period styles; upgrading the kitchen; improving the roof and insulation; and converting the stables into an office from which Harbison ran the Irish Harp Centre.

Entering the house from a large courtyard, a vaulted glass ceiling floods the hallway with light and sets the tone for the rest of this graceful property, which has gas-fired central heating. The downstairs accommodation, which provides access to the garden, includes three double bedrooms; two bath and shower rooms; an office and study; the kitchen/dining room; and the conservatory.

With its elevated Georgian windows and solid wood cabinetry, the country-style kitchen has a service lift to the first floor, where the vast main living room frames views of the Shannon, the Clare Glens and the Tipperary mountains. There are two additional studies across from the main living area, as well as the master bedroom and bathroom.

With its generous interior space - the main house is approximately 280sqm - complemented by outbuildings and a rear garden on a quarter-acre site, it was perfect for Harbison. The spacious outbuildings and number of rooms allowed her to run a residential college from the property.

She said: "This house served me very well. I love the location and the setting right, beside the village which has a strong cultural ethos."

Selling agent Ailbhe O'Malley of Sherry FitzGerald says interest in this property is strong, locally and abroad. "I've had brothers looking at it who have very fond memories of going to school there. Quite a number of people in the immediate Castleconnell area interested in trading up are interested. At the same time, we had a woman fly in from New York to view it and other people travel from the UK. Some people who weren't actively looking for a house have expressed interest. It's an ideal large family home in a very quiet location with beautiful views and you can walk into the village."

Muses Harbison: "I will miss the house madly. I've cried buckets about leaving it but I'm moving onto a new chapter in life, which involves an academic posting in Derry, and Malcolm is now based in London, where we will be buying a house. This house has a very special feeling about it - a very peaceful, gentle aura. If there are any ghosts roaming the corridors, they're all benign."

Era: 1867

Size: 280sqm

Agent: Sherry FitzGerald (061) 418000

Viewing: By appointment



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