This €635,000 period home in the heart of Connemara is a hideaway haven
An unusual yet elegant period home in the heart of Connemara
If you were an aristo toff living in Victorian Ireland, there was a good chance you liked to hunt and shoot things. Deer, fox, goose, woodcock, partridge, pheasant and peasant, whatever. If it flew, crawled or hopped over the earth, you got together with your mates in a hunting party and blew it to smithereens.
Hunting was a popular aristo pastime because it could be conducted in armed numbers. Because, despite having all the money and the land, if you were an estate-owning aristo in Victorian Ireland, your social opportunities were limited due to the wider political and class hostilities. This tended to keep you bottled up inside your estate house and pleasure gardens unless you got a gang together.
Moycullen House at Moycullen is a rare enough example of a late Victorian arts and crafts hunting lodge built by the Campbell family. And indeed the Campbells might have been in need of a bigger hunting party for safety back in the day - especially given their antics in the locality. The 'Galway American' newspaper reported that in April 1852, "Lord Campbell evicted no less than 800 persons in a single week on his Barna property and the houses of the poor people were fired".
The first Lord Campbell was an MP for Edinburgh and a Chief Justice in England who became Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1841 and subsequently Lord Chancellor of England. Sir John - a prominent Whig - was also fortuitously a director of the Law Life Assurance Company. After that entity purchased a heavily indebted estate in Connemara, he found himself in the right place at the right time and picked up a handy amount of land (some reports say as much as 100,000 acres in total) around Co Galway.
Campbell had himself been involved in the drafting of the Encumbered Estates' Bill, so it's safe to say that he had an insider's nose for a deal. Perhaps he was an early role model for the vulture funds of today. Amongst the lands he acquired were acres in Moycullen.
Thomas Colville Scott, who surveyed land in the area for a prospective buyer in 1853, wrote: "We reached Moycullen village on March 3rd, 1853. In the immediate neighbourhood, we saw a poor widow, with her boy, sheltering in a roofless cabin belonging to Lord Campbell, evening was coming, the ground was covered with snow. She must inevitably perish by morning. An officer in the constabulary barrack said she was waiting till her furniture was taken to the house of a neighbour for shelter for the night. I afterwards heard that Lord Campbell was clearing the whole of his wretched land of squatters, allowing each ejected tenant all arrears of rent and ten shillings when the roof was pulled off their cottage."
Lord Campbell felt that this consolidation of farms on his estate was a harsh but necessary measure, as when the valuation of the holding was less than £4 per annum the landlords had to pay half or sometimes all of the rates of the tenants. Many of the small tenants during and after the Famine did not pay any rates or rent because they were too poor.
Sir John's son, William Frederick, succeeded to his father's lands and peerage in 1861. The house was built in the Arts and Crafts style, influenced by William Morris, that was popular at the time as a reaction against increasing mass manufacture. The style celebrates the work of traditional craftsmen in hand-carving, stained glass and other decorative arts.
Moycullen House has an unusual yet elegant one-and-a-half storey shape, and is surrounded by mature native trees, rhododendrons and azaleas. Although the property has a new roof which will take a little time to weather and blend in with the rest of the exterior, which has been newly painted, the majority of the original period features internally - heavy oak doors, panelled ceilings, open fireplaces and elaborate wooden fixtures - remain in place, and the interior is both charming and quirky; it operated as a restaurant at one time.
The property has 4,661 sq ft of living space, making it a substantial family home - although the location in the heart of Connemara means that it will also be of interest to those in the market for a distinctive holiday home.
The entrance hallway leads directly to a large open-plan living/dining room with a brick archway to the games room. With windows overlooking the beautiful rear gardens, which face south, this is the part of the house that was formerly used as a restaurant and there are a pair of guest lavatories adjacent, as well as a utility room and laundry - signs of its former incarnation - plus two kitchens and a breakfast room.
The drawing room has a splendid original stone fireplace - in keeping with the Arts and Crafts aesthetic of the house - in which there sits a wood-burning stove. Two picture windows have views to Lough Corrib, one of Connemara's foremost fishing lakes for salmon and brown trout and, at 35 miles in length, the largest lake in Ireland. There is also a conservatory. Upstairs are five bedrooms, with the master en-suite. There are two family bathrooms and an attic providing storage.
Moycullen Village has shops, a school, pubs and restaurants, while Galway City, with its two Michelin-starred restaurants - Aniar and Loam - and vibrant cultural scene, is a 20-minute drive.
Moycullen Co Galway
Asking price: €635,000
Agent: Mullery Auctioneers, (091) 567275