Now that their ‘Brady Bunch’ has flown the nest, this couple is selling up
Streamstown House, Rathmolyon, Enfield, Co Meath. Asking price: €1.1m. Agent: Coonan Property (01) 6286128
Paul Downes thought his three young children might like pony-trekking. The thought led him to Julie Allman and her three children. It eventually brought them all, including the horses, to a new life in an old rectory in Co Meath.
It was 1997 and Paul had just been separated. His three young children, aged from three to seven, came to him at weekends. “I was staying in east Wicklow, and I saw this sign for pony-trekking and asked the kids if they would like it,” says Paul. “They said, ‘yes, Dad, we’d love that.’ So, we went along and, who ran the business, only Julie. That’s how we got to meet.
“A couple of weeks after that I needed to have my German shepherd dog minded, he was in temporary accommodation. So, I phoned Julie and asked her if she knew a place. She said she wasn’t sure but would come back to me. I phoned her again the following night and, while she had found no place, she said if I was stuck, she would mind him.”
He brought the dog to Julie’s stables at Redcross. “I didn’t even ask him what kind of dog it was, I’m just an animal lover,” Julie says. After that Paul would come to Redcross once or twice a week to walk the dog and soon, romance blossomed. “The dog moved in before Paul did,” Julie points out. “There was no turning back after that,” adds Paul, “we fell head over heels, and here we are.”
It wasn’t a simple coming together, however, as Julie was also going through a divorce and had three children aged between three and 12.
“We were both trying to find our way in the world, wondering how in the hell are we going to get ahead in life now, and the next thing we met and it was like two parts of a jigsaw coming together. All of a sudden, between us we had six kids,” Paul says.
They came to live in Portobello after that. Julie had sold the major part of the stud farm in Wicklow, but held on to a few fields where she still kept her horses. Paul, a structural engineer, started his own business and she joined him as financial controller.
“Life was very busy, and we had twice the size of family either of us intended having, so we needed more space,” Paul says. In the meantime, they added a seventh child to the clan.
“People used to call us the Brady Bunch,” Julie remarks, “and when we went on holidays, especially to Spain, we would create consternation when all nine of us would turn up at a restaurant.”
The business was growing and soon afforded Julie and Paul the freedom and the wherewithal to look for a place with space for the family, the business and the horses. It was at that point, in 2004, they found the parochial house at Streamstown, Rathmolyon with its coach house and stables. It had everything they wanted, so they bought.
Streamstown was built in the 1880s for the catholic clergy. It remained church property for a century until the 1980s when it came into private ownership and had changed hands once or twice before Paul and Julie bought it.
“It was in pretty good nick when we moved in,” says Paul, “the stonework, the joinery and the ironmongery in the house are second to none, and the materials they chose in building it were meant to last.” Nevertheless, the new owners undertook a comprehensive programme of renovations, ensuring the work done by them was in sympathy with the original building and its materials.
Extending to 3,897sq ft, the house is set back from the road on 12ac of land, 6.4km from the M4 at Enfield. The property also includes a self-contained, two-bed coach house, a courtyard with stables, equestrian facilities and a tennis court.
An avenue lined with elm trees winds through paddocks and landscaped gardens to the front of the house. A set of natural stone steps leads to the double, wood-panelled front door and into a porch with a skylight overhead and the original Victorian mosaic tiled floor underfoot. Decorative glass-panelled doors open to the hallway which, like much of the house, has high ceilings, cornicing and decorative plasterwork.
The ground floor accommodation includes a dining room with a bay window, a drawing room, a study/office and one of the five bedrooms. Among other spaces at ground level is a pantry with ash units, a utility, boot room and a laundry/shower room.
The modern kitchen has ash units, granite worktops, a large central island and appliances that includes a Belling oven and a Maytag fridge freezer. There is also a wine cellar with racking for 200 bottles. Upstairs is the family bathroom and four large bedrooms, two served by one ensuite.
In the course of the renovations the couple sought to bring out the best of the original house. As a structural engineer with an interest in heritage buildings, it was a labour of love for Paul.
“A lot of the beautiful detail in the fabric of the building was painted over, the brick quoining, the string courses, corbel brickwork and the red sandstone lintels were all covered. We stripped it all back, revealed the stone and then had it professionally repointed using lime-putty mortar that is water resistant. It will be 50 years before it needs repointing.”
They also exposed the original pitch-pine floorboards and, with the help of Paul’s carpenter dad, refreshed the intricate detail in the carpentry. This work involved the restoration of the original sash windows, the internal doors, skirtings, cornicing and window shutters. A new water system and two ultra-modern bathrooms were installed.
Other features include marble fireplaces, a wood burning stove in the office, central heating and fibre optic broadband.
Typical of large houses of its vintage, to the rear of Streamstown is a courtyard of stone buildings. These include a two-bedroom coach house, fully renovated, with a lounge, kitchen, and bathroom.
Julie, who spent all her life with horses, ensured the equestrian facilities were just what she wanted. The yard has seven loose boxes fitted with equimat floors, a tack room and a large work shop. Behind the stable block is a four-column hay barn with concrete floor, a Monarch horse walker and a large sand arena.
The parochial house is now too big for Julie and Paul, as the ‘Brady Bunch’ fledglings have fled the nest. “When we found it, we fell in love with it,” Paul said, “it condensed everything for us, brought the family and horses together into one home. But, when it comes to a property like this, the owners are minders who look after it to pass it on.”
Streamstown House is for sale by private treaty and is guided by Coonan Property, Maynooth at €1.1m.