Sunday 25 August 2019

Longford B&B with a military history: peek inside this listed property for €950k

St Alban's House Battery Road, Longford

Asking price: €950,000

Agent: Property Partners Quinn (043) 334 6237

The exterior of St Albans and the gravel driveway
The exterior of St Albans and the gravel driveway
The dining room with mahogany fireplace
The drawing room with its marble fireplace
The mews at the back of the house
The sun room
Doors leading to the garden

Battery Road in Longford is so named because of the cavalry and artillery barracks that were established there by the British Army between the 18th and 19th century.

 The cavalry barracks was the scene of a successful attack in the War of Independence in 1920. The attack was led by Seán MacEoin (leader of the Longford Flying Column), Seán Connolly (who fired the first shot in the Easter Rising) and Frank Davis (Longford Brigade). A small party of local volunteers also took part in the raid, which mainly aimed to seize firearms.

Two years later, when the war was over, the barracks was handed over to the Free State and renamed Connolly Barracks, after Seán, who was killed in Selton Hill Ambush the previous year.

Houses were built in the garrison town for army officers in 1860 along Battery Road. These large properties were designed with space and privacy in mind. Gardens were generous so that officers could allow their horses to graze, while still just a stone's throw from their place of work.

The dining room with mahogany fireplace
The dining room with mahogany fireplace

St Alban's House was one of these original houses. It was bought by its current owner Antoinette Higgins in 2000 and underwent a complete revamp.

"It was in very bad repair," recalls Higgins. "We had to strip it all out, replaster, replumb and rewire. We were very careful with the renovations and always just wanted to bring it back to how it looked originally."

This was done by keeping whatever features in the house were still intact and decorating around them. "The floors were still good and we kept the old fireplaces, but put in new cornices," says Higgins. "The sash windows were all taken out and restored. We used mainly Farrow and Ball colours on the walls and woodwork, sticking to a period palette."

Higgins has been running a B&B at the house for the past few years and claims all guests love the atmosphere in the house.

"You don't feel like you're in a town," says Higgins. "It feels more like a retreat. All of my guests mention this."

Reviews online definitely back up this claim. With an average score of 9.5 on booking.com, visitors rave about the house. "Extraordinarily beautiful, comfortable and friendly atmosphere", says one, while another says: "The house is simply beautiful with unique history and some brilliant features. Approached by a long gravel drive set in a huge garden. It is immaculately decorated and maintained with obviously a great deal of time and planning."

The drawing room with its marble fireplace
The drawing room with its marble fireplace

The formal rooms are kept to the front of this listed building. Off the hall is the drawing room to the right and the dining room to the left. Both have large fireplaces - one mahogany, the other marble - and large windows that overlook the front garden.

Behind the drawing room is the study with double doors out to the garden. Beyond this is the kitchen, which has been designed in country style but has the capability to cater for paying guests. The cream Aga is in the heart of it with four ovens and a gas hob.

The floor is French limestone and there is a free-standing larder and plenty of display shelves. Double doors open up out to a sun room, which would be an ideal spot for breakfast on a sunny morning. To the right of the kitchen is a utility room, cloakroom and guest wc. Upstairs it's obvious that the place has been run as a guesthouse. The master bedroom occupies the space above the drawing room and has a dressing room and ensuite bathroom. The second bedroom has an open fireplace, plus a dressing room and ensuite. The other two bedrooms are doubles, and there is a large family bathroom with brass fittings, bath and separate shower.

If interested buyers like the idea of running a guesthouse, they could branch out further with the mews at the back. At 775sq ft, and with a new roof and exposed stone walls, it has endless potential. It has two storeys with a spiral staircase to the first floor. It would be a great space to convert into self-catering accommodation, subject to planning. Alternatively, it would be perfect to run a business out of with plenty of room for offices and a workshop.

The house and mews are surrounded by 1.7 acres of well-kept land. For Higgins, it will be difficult to say goodbye. "It's very hard to leave but it's time to move on with my life. Everybody loves it and family members are upset that I'm selling, but I feel the time is right," she says with a hint of sadness.

"My two children loved growing up here but they're in college now so it would be nice for a young family to move in and enjoy it as we did."

Doors leading to the garden
Doors leading to the garden

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