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To the Banner borne – 17th century English mansion transported to west Clare is on the market for €200,000

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Steve and Louise Mitchell pictured with some of the material from Alwoodley Hall stored at their home in Cree, west Clare. PHOTO: Bryan Meade

Steve and Louise Mitchell pictured with some of the material from Alwoodley Hall stored at their home in Cree, west Clare. PHOTO: Bryan Meade

Steve Mitchell’s pile consists of approx 6,300 blocks

Steve Mitchell’s pile consists of approx 6,300 blocks

How Alwoodley Hall near Leeds looked before its eventual deconstruction in 1969

How Alwoodley Hall near Leeds looked before its eventual deconstruction in 1969

Sand Moor Golf Club was opened on the grounds of Alwoodley Hall in 1926

Sand Moor Golf Club was opened on the grounds of Alwoodley Hall in 1926

The Alwoodley Hall blocks in storage at the Mitchells' home in west Clare

The Alwoodley Hall blocks in storage at the Mitchells' home in west Clare

The sale includes Alwoodley Hall's original arches, lintels and decorative stones

The sale includes Alwoodley Hall's original arches, lintels and decorative stones

"We also have the original oak support beams stored indoors (around 50) most of which would still be fit for purpose today," says Steve Mitchell

"We also have the original oak support beams stored indoors (around 50) most of which would still be fit for purpose today," says Steve Mitchell

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Steve and Louise Mitchell pictured with some of the material from Alwoodley Hall stored at their home in Cree, west Clare. PHOTO: Bryan Meade

When Steve and Louise Mitchell moved from the UK to Ireland in 2002, they decided to bring their 17th century Jacobean mansion with them.

The Yorkshire couple had been running a transport business with 36 trucks and 45 staff. “We realised we were running ourselves into the ground,” says Steve.

“So we thought, ‘where can we go to get away from it all, with a bit of land and less neighbours around?’ We’d been on holidays in Ireland and liked it, so we decided to come here.”
 

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How Alwoodley Hall near Leeds looked before its eventual deconstruction in 1969

How Alwoodley Hall near Leeds looked before its eventual deconstruction in 1969

How Alwoodley Hall near Leeds looked before its eventual deconstruction in 1969

And so the Mitchells retired to scenic Spanish Pont in Co Clare within sight of the sea where they bought a property. Before landing in Ireland, they sent Alwoodley Hall on ahead of them in eight articulated trucks.

The cut stone mansion had originally been constructed at Alwoodley just outside Leeds in 1640 by Sir Gervase Clifton, a friend of King Charles I.

Clifton built it on the site of a previous house which had been recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 and he likely recycled some of the materials from that property.

The estate came into the hands of Henry Barran who founded the Sand Moor Golf Club on the grounds in 1926. At first Alwoodley Hall became home for the groundskeepers and their families. But as time went on, the big house became an obstruction to the golf.

Pleading to the council that the protected house was unsafe, the club managed to get permission to have it deconstructed in 1969. The stones, beams, lintels, cobble floors and window and door masonry were acquired by a local farmer who left the pieces on his land for 30 years.

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Enter motorcycle enthusiast and transport company owner Steve Mitchell who happened across it in 1999 and bought the disassembled house for Stg£50,000. And so when the couple moved to Clare in 2002, Alwoodley Hall came with them.

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The Alwoodley Hall blocks in storage at the Mitchells' home in west Clare

The Alwoodley Hall blocks in storage at the Mitchells' home in west Clare

The Alwoodley Hall blocks in storage at the Mitchells' home in west Clare

“The original plan was to rebuild it as our home here in Ireland. But the planners insisted that we use wider modern windows. We just couldn’t do that to a beautiful and historic 1640s house. So it’s been sat in our field ever since.

"Back in 2008 we put it on ebay in the USA and we had some interest, including from a friend of the guy who bought London Bridge and moved it to the USA.” Oil baron Robert McCulloch re-erected the 1830’s bridge in Lake Havasu City in Arizona where it reopened in 1971.

“Louise is in a wheelchair with her knees so it doesn’t make sense to live in a four floor country house. So we’ve decided to put it on the market again.”

Alwoodley Hall was a three bay, three storey over basement rectangular country house built mostly of cut Yorkshire sandstone. An architect who studied the remaining pictures estimates its internal floor area at about 5,000 sq ft with six to seven bedrooms.

The stones and the detailing around the windows and doors were all hand carved almost four hundred years ago.

“A stone mason in Donegal who I talked to about it said it would take his company three years doing nothing else to carve that stone today and that’s using modern machinery,” says Steve.

There are 70 palettes of wall stones alone, estimated to amount to 6,300 mainly rectangular blocks. Also included are cobblestones from the basement floor, garden wall masonry and the decorative carved pieces from around the windows, doors and columns. There’s a five feet by three feet doorstep that’s 10 inches thick.

“We also have the original oak support beams stored indoors (around 50) most of which would still be fit for purpose today.

"We had them checked by a dendrochronologist who dated them at latest to the 1400s, so they might have been reused from the original medieval house.”

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"We also have the original oak support beams stored indoors (around 50) most of which would still be fit for purpose today," says Steve Mitchell

"We also have the original oak support beams stored indoors (around 50) most of which would still be fit for purpose today," says Steve Mitchell

"We also have the original oak support beams stored indoors (around 50) most of which would still be fit for purpose today," says Steve Mitchell

The original is thought to have been built before the Normans by the Saxon chief Aethelwald, the man who gave the Altwoodley locale its name

The advantage of having a Jacobean cut sandstone mansion in pieces are surprisingly many, not least the fact that cutting that stone today would be far too expensive to be practical. Next comes the truly unique Jacobean design because Ireland has almost no big houses from this period.

Until the Georgian period Ireland was constantly in conflict and ‘big houses’ were almost all defensive castles, towers or heavily fortified dwellings.

In England, architecture had moved on to reflect more its generally more peaceful environment. Homes were built for leisure and status, with big windows and ornate facades with no urgent need to defend them.

Alwoodley Hall also offers the chance to own a 400-year-old ‘fully modern’ mansion.

Big period homes of note are protected and so it’s either impossible to get permission for modernising renovations to include the likes of insulation, or else simply too expensive to retrofit them.

With Alwoodley Hall, a builder can essentially build a modern to BER A standard home from the get go and tweak it as they see fit.

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The sale includes Alwoodley Hall's original arches, lintels and decorative stones

The sale includes Alwoodley Hall's original arches, lintels and decorative stones

The sale includes Alwoodley Hall's original arches, lintels and decorative stones

And once you get planning permission you can put Alwoodley where you like. One market for Alwoodley is in the capital where buyers have been acquiring run down mid century homes on large sites in upmarket areas like Howth and Dalkey in order to demolish them and rebuild.

Alwoodley Hall would allow them to build something truly unique and special with big dinner party conversation kudos years.

Finally there’s commercial use. The property will provide an instant landmark wherever it ends up and its moving history would also provide marketing for an imposing hotel, golf club house or wedding venue.

The big talking points about Alwoodley include the fact that it was built by a Sheriff of Nottingham (Sir Gervase Clifton held the post in the early 17th century). Clifton’s own story is also intriguing.

He inherited estates in and around Nottingham at just four months old. Later, he became a successful businessman and influential MP and was created one of the very first baronets by King James I.

Although a close associate of Charles I, he managed to hold onto his estates after Cromwell emerged victorious from the English Civil Wars and Charles lost his head. Clifton was married seven times and widowed six times.

His doctor, who later wrote a history of the area, described him as: “Being generally the most noted person of his time for courtesy, he was very prosperous and beloved of all. He generously, hospitably and charitably entertained all from King Charles himself (of whom he was an active supporter) to the poorest beggar. He served eight times in several Parliaments.

“He was an extraordinary kind landlord, and good master. His hospitality exceeded very many of the Nobility, and his continuance in it, most men; being almost fourscore years Lord of this place, of a sound body, and a cheerful facetious spirit.”

His son, Sir Gervase Clifton Junior, however, was a different kettle of fish. The same writer described the abrasive, vulgar and profligate Second Baronet as “the wretched unfortunate, who was his father’s greatest foil”. It is thought that Junior broke the bank.

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Sand Moor Golf Club was opened on the grounds of Alwoodley Hall in 1926

Sand Moor Golf Club was opened on the grounds of Alwoodley Hall in 1926

Sand Moor Golf Club was opened on the grounds of Alwoodley Hall in 1926

On the downside, Alwoodley Hall isn’t so much a giant Lego kit as an enormous 3D jigsaw puzzle.

Because unlike London Bridge, which had every piece categorised and catalogued for its reconstruction, there is no record of what goes where for Alwoodley Hall.

The roof tiles and floors were never saved. However, Steve Mitchell has spoken to architects who believe it shouldn’t be too difficult to reassemble the outer shell given its reasonably simple form, as it is depicted in a series of black and white photos taken of the manor before its demolition.

Unfortunately no archives exist with drawings or original plans.

And if no-one in Ireland will buy it, there’s also the possibility that after a 20-year holiday in Ireland, Alwoodley Hall could return home to Leeds.

Since the mansion’s departure, Alwoodley has become Leeds’ most upmarket suburb and home to Premier League footballers.

Among those to settle there are Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Tony Yeboah, Fabian Delph, David Hopkin and, most recently, Kiko Casilla.

Wealthy home owners in the area have become so protective of their privacy that they have requested their homes be blurred out on Google Maps and Google Earth.

Overpaid footballers are always on the look out for a home with a difference and what better than a mansion with historic roots in the locale?

So buy Alwoodley Hall now for €200,000 and save this historic English home from re-crossing the sea to end up as a footballer’s crib.

Contact Steve Mitchell: 085 1474717


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