Tober home out on its own
IF you were an Anglican rector living in the midst of miserably impoverished 18th-century rural Ireland, you prayed for an influx of Quakers.
The rector who originally lived at Tober House, near Moate in County Westmeath – which has just been placed on the market for €425,000 – might well have been among the best paid and least threatened Anglican clergy members in Ireland thanks to the large cache of Society of Friends members who moved into his area.
The tithe system taxed every Irish family for 10pc of its annual income, which was initially paid directly to the local Anglican clergy members – and from the 1830's to the landlord – who in turn passed it on. The tax wasn't properly abolished until 1869.
Tithes were of course immensely unpopular given that just 10pc of the population was Anglican and on top of this, more than half of the Irish Anglican community was located in the north-eastern part of the island. This meant that elsewhere Anglicans usually comprised closer to 5pc of the population.
Because most of the tithe tax was paid by poor peasant Catholics, it was a substantial but not enormous haul with the drawback being that it was often paid in kind – the "tithe pig" for example, was raised for the purposes of handing it over to the local rector. Other denominations were also forced to cough up tithes – including the Quakers, Presbyterians and Jews.
Moate in County Westmeath was a town built up largely by Quakers in the 18th Century. Like the Catholics, the Quakers were also barred by the Penal Laws from land owning and entering professions.
But unlike the Catholics, they arrived with independent wealth to the area and weren't shackled to subsistence agri-serfdom. It meant that circumstances tended to push them into industry.
Wherever they went, the friendly brethren generated substantial industrial activity and wealth – largely in the milling and textiles sectors. By the late 18th Century, they had turned Moate into a thriving market town with a busy hinterland.
For the local rectors it was manna from heaven – including we can presume the incumbent at 1780 built Tober House – who was entitled to a chunky dibs on one-tenth of all this newly generated lolly. And when the Tithe War finally kicked off in the 1830s and Catholics all over Ireland launched an aggressive years-long campaign of intimidation and attrition against local Anglican clergy, the Quakers around Moate would likely have maintained a peaceful protest in accordance with their religion's strictly passive and non-aggressive ethos.
Tober House is a typical example of the sort of dwelling built for the rector of the day – neat, elegant, Georgian in design and generous in size (3,149 sq ft), but without being too ostentatious.
So while many of the 18th Century's mansions and dower houses might be considered unmanageable by modern standards, today glebe houses tend to be a perfect fit for a modern family looking for a home with character. This has accounted for their relative popularity whenever they come to market. The property comes with 4.4 acres and is approached by an entrance avenue which leads up to a heart-shaped grass island (serving as a traffic sweep) to the front of the house.
Tober is also in walk-in condition, which adds to its attractions in a market where many of these buildings will require a substantial spend to bring them into the 21st Century.
The house is laid out over three levels. Through the battened entrance door, you walk into a grand entrance hall and from here into the drawing room where the main affairs of the parish would have been conducted. Like many of the main rooms it has discrete and tasteful period cornicing with a ceiling rose and a marble fireplace with a stone hearth and a brass inset.
The three guest bedrooms are also located at this level along with a bathroom. Below stairs at the garden level there is a dining room with a marble fireplace and cast-iron inset, a kitchen/breakfast room in a modern rustic style with a two-oven Aga in red. There's a kitchenette, a utility room and shower and one of this home's best features, a substantial conservatory with French glazed double doors to the garden.
Upstairs is the fourth and largest bedroom with a dressing room and an en-suite bathroom – the inner sanctum of our cash rich 18th Century rector, now a swish bedroom suite for the home's current owners.
The grounds come with a cobbled courtyard and four loose boxes and several storage rooms while there is a field attached to the side of the house – all make the property useful for those who want to keep a few horses.
Tober House is located three miles from Moate, 12 miles from Athlone and 70 miles from Dublin Airport.
Further details from Ganly Walters (01-6623255).