Sunday 16 December 2018

This €3.5m period property was home to one of Britain's top radio and TV personalities

Eden Vale Ennis, Co Clare Asking price: €3.5m Agent: Sothebys, (087) 251 2909

Eden Vale near Ennis is a mostly restored Georgian mansion overlooking the lake, which offers pike fishing
Eden Vale near Ennis is a mostly restored Georgian mansion overlooking the lake, which offers pike fishing
Restored stucco work
A view of the massive frontage
The ballroom has already been finished
A photo from the 1903 dig which is believed to feature Gwenny (left)
The grand central staircase at Eden Vale

Gwendoline Stacpoole, the pioneering Irish amateur archaeologist, proved you don't have to travel the world to make big breakthroughs - Gwenny showed that groundbreaking finds can sometimes be unearthed right in your own back yard.

In her case, that backyard was the grounds and estate of Eden Vale, her family's 37,000 sq ft 18th century mansion outside Ennis in Co Clare. Her treasure was a stack of prehistoric animal bones discovered in a cave which the antiquarian then had carefully excavated in 1903 by a team of specialists.

Gwenny was living at Eden Vale with Alice, her sister-in-law, who was also energised in organising the dig. Recently re-evaluated, those bones have blown the lid off long accepted theories about early settlers in Ireland. The location is now known as the Alice and Gwendoline cave in their honour.

Radiocarbon dating applied in 2016 places a bear patella with slashmarks (signs of butchery by humans) at 12,500 years old, proving that the bear carcass and a human being were together in that cave 2,500 years before we previously believed humans had settled in Ireland. Since 1860 leading scientists in the field had been searching for such evidence. For almost a hundred years Gwendoline's box of bones sat ignored on a shelf in the National Museum.

The ballroom has already been finished
The ballroom has already been finished

Stacpoole was born at Edenvale in 1884, the niece of antiquarian Thomas Johnson Westropp, whom she assisted as a girl to survey archaeological monuments around the country. She spent much of her life walking ploughed fields and sandhills to find thousands of artefacts now in the museum, searching right up until her death in 1966.

Originally from Limerick, the Catholic Stacpooles were transplanted to Clare in 1651 (to Hell or to Connaught) after Cromwell and bought Edenvale in 1777. Gwendoline lived here in the early 20th century before the house was sold in 1926 to Clare Council for a TB sanatorium. In 1986 it was sold to Bruno Brookes, then one of Britain's top radio and TV personalities. At 27 he had just split acrimoniously with long-term girlfriend Anthea Turner. He based himself between Eden Vale and London before selling up in 1996 to the current owner, a locally based entrepreneur who began work in 2000 on a plan to transform it into a boutique hotel.

Eighteen years since that work began Eden Vale is being put up for sale in a "mostly finished" condition (work halted in 2012). The landmark Georgian property has been placed on the market seeking €3.5m through Sothebys. The heavy lifting work on the massive restoration has been done but there's quite a bit more to do and it could take between €1m and €3m to finish it as a luxury private country home.

The architecturally important mansion is positioned at the lip of a little glen, across from a small oblong lake and within its own grounds of 80 acres (they no longer own the cave). The original 1776 built house was extended and embellished in the 19th century and a very large services basement was added to the existing basement floor up to 2012. Now the lowest floor spans a whopping 17,000 sq ft.

Accommodation within the house extends to some 37,360 sq ft overall (it could fit 36 semis inside) and includes eight reception rooms plus 15 bedroom suites. The courtyard building comprises some 7,644 sq ft and would suit further accommodation. The new, but incomplete, library and bar room links to the original basement. A large landing off the stair hall on the first floor links to the ballroom and a gallery hall, which in turn accesses a chapel and an extensive elevated garden terrace.

A lift shaft extends to the basement and two staircases lead to the ground floor level. Unkempt now, the gardens retain their original form and could also be reinstated or reinvented. The lake offers pike fishing. The courtyard dates to circa 1850 and includes some original stables.

A view of the massive frontage
A view of the massive frontage

In a strange twist, the restoration at Eden Vale was reported to have unearthed four horse skulls placed under the drawing room floor, a 17th century Irish tradition to bring good acoustics and the best of good luck.

The grand central staircase at Eden Vale
The grand central staircase at Eden Vale

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