Nantenan House and Estate, Cappagh, Askeaton, Co Limerick Asking price: €1.6m Agent: Savills (01) 618 1300
It’s 22 miles from the ancestral home of the Whites at Ballyneety outside Limerick City, to Nantenan, the family’s grand country house and estate near Askeaton.
But thanks to a dogged intention to maintain their faith through years of religious persecution, it’s a journey that took the Whites 160 years to make.
The Ballyneety merchants fought on the Jacobite side during the Siege of Limerick in 1691 and like many Catholic families of note, its members were forced to move far and wide in the harsh centuries ahead.
They fought in the armies of the Papal States in Italy and one would later end up in the West Indies where he would make a fortune trading in Jamaican sugar.
The broken Treaty of Limerick in 1691 ushered in the Penal Laws, which, for more than 150 years, saw Catholic families like the Whites forbidden from owning land.
However, they did manage to hold on to some property at Castleconnell and continued to operate as merchants.
By the early part of the 19th century they had become major traders in the sugar business, with the most prominent family member, John White establishing strong commercial connections with Jamaica, where he rose to the rank of Colonel in the West Indian Militia.
After the passing of Catholic Emancipation in 1829 Colonel White returned home the following year, accompanied by his fortune and the intention of re-establishing the family as significant landowners in a coming new Catholic Ascendancy.
Many landed estates were in financial trouble at this time, including that of the Royce family at Nantenan at Cappagh. The onset of the Famine exacerbated their difficulties and White, who had established himself as a mover and shaker in landed circles, lent them considerable sums of money.
Their fortunes continued to decline and in the late 1840s they eventually had to sell up to the Colonel.
Looking to make his family’s mark, he demolished the Royce residence, a Queen Anne style mansion dating from 1707, and built the house that still stands on the site today. It was completed in 1850.
But having returned his family to grandeur, Colonel White died before it was finished. In 1853, his son John Patrick was the first White take up residence at Nantenan.
The estate was handed down through six generations of Whites before it came to Simon White, the current owner. Though born and reared in Dublin, in his younger years at school in Gonzaga College he was singled out as the one to take over the house and estate.
After completing his Leaving Cert he went to agricultural college at Gurteen and served a farm apprenticeship before he took his place farming at Nantenan in 1974.
After a quarter of a century farming, Simon went back to college to study environmental science in 1999. He has spent the last two decades double-jobbing as both a scientist and a farmer.
The decision to sell the family seat was made by the family on foot of a mediated succession process. Simon and his wife Hillary have four daughters. After the process it became clear that none of the four intended to take over and manage the property
“If we don’t get the right price I am happy to live here for the rest of my life,” says Simon.
Uniquely, Nantenan contains a Tridentine chapel, testament to the Catholic lineage of the household.
In the early part of the last century, the family included a priest and two nuns. Fr Tom was a Jesuit while Emily and Aileen were members of the Order of the Holy Child Jesus.
Continuing the military tradition, two brothers were officers in the British army and went to fight the Boers. During the conflict the younger of the two, Michael, was killed.
“The family wished to get together to mourn the loss of Michael,” Simon explains.
“But in order for the nuns to get home and stay in the house they first had to have Nantenan designated as the headquarters of the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus in Ireland since the order had no house in this country.
"They got a dispensation from the Pope to build a chapel and, a few years later, a dispensation to have mass said in the chapel on Christmas Day and Holy Days so that Fr Tom could come and stay.”
Nantenan — from the Irish word ’nantóg’ for nettle — is accessed from a grand bell-mouthed, stone wall entrance, a relic of its Queen Anne days. A tree-lined avenue leads to the front of the house set on an elevated site.
Laid out over two floors, the accommodation extends to 7,363 sq. ft, enough to hold seven average family homes within its walls.
Its features includes a Doric portico, sash and case windows and shutters, corniced ceilings with centre roses, decorative fireplaces and architraves.
A reception hall leads to the library and to an interconnected drawing room and dining room with plenty of daylight let in by floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides.
The kitchen includes a moveable island, an oil-fired Aga cooker and a wood burning stove. Off the kitchen and to the rear of the house is a utility room, tool room and a store.
The sleeping accommodation is located on the first floor and includes seven large bedrooms overlooking the parkland. There are also three bathrooms on the first floor.
The gardens around the house are mainly in lawns dotted with a range of specimen trees while the walled garden situated to the rear of the house is being restored as a working kitchen garden.
Included is a range of dated farm buildings in a yard which includes a derelict cottage and a two-storey coach house that could be refurbished and put to good use.
The land at Nantenan Estate is in one block and made up of grassland and woods, extending to about 208ac.
It also comes with extensive frontage onto a local road with an internal network of roadways and tracks.
The property is guided at €1.6m by Savills.