independent

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Dream a reality for Trudy as she restores 19th century farmhouse

Ciara Galvin

Creating a space where people can step back in time was the driving force behind Trudy Prescott's restoration of a farmhouse in Carrowcullen.

The American art historian has dedicated herself to the restoration project for the past two years, painstakingly returning the farmhouse to its original state. But why Carrowcullen?

The Princeton graduate simply says she has 'always loved Ireland'.

After searching the country for a property requiring tender loving care, Prescott settled on the farmhouse tucked away on a narrow laneway against the backdrop of Ladies Brae, Knockachree and the Ox mountains.

"I was looking for ages for a house that was not touched and nobody had messed about with it. You had enough of what was originally there to retain it.

"Whatever I could save, I did," explains the historian, and retired police officer with the Police Service of England.

Restoring the farmhouse, once the home of the locally revered Maureen Phillips who passed away earlier this year, Trudy knew it had to be kept true to the 19th century style.

"Always a dream project, Trudy explains that visits to her grandmother's cottage in the US started the idea from a very young age.

"My Swedish grandmother was born in the 1880s and when I went to visit her she was staying in a little cottage that hadn't been changed and I think that was just the thing for me.

"To be able to step back in time, to look at things and think about things and not have technology."

With the 19th century building lying vacant for many years, Trudy found the building in a sorry state with green mould masking its insides and water coming down the chimneys.

"It was grim," she admits.

After finding a suitable builder she could trust to make her dream a reality, she got to work, discovering covered up fireplaces, restoring floors, down to stripping layers of paint from doors.

A labour of love became an obsession and Trudy travelled the highways and byways of Ireland and the UK looking for original 19th century features for the farmhouse.

From a cast iron bath, to 19th century sinks and even her father's private collection of bird prints adorning the walls, the level of detail the historian has gone to is astounding.

"Most builders want to just strip everything, new inside, old outside, but we went through every single thing - original ceilings, the floor had been replaced with concrete, we restored that," she explains.

Ripping up carpets unveiled the farmhouse's original stairs, each step a different story, leading to two upstairs bedrooms and a cosy bathrooom.

Talking through the project Trudy's passion is palpable, an adventure of unveiling the past and restoring its pride.

Keeping tight-lipped about the cost of the restoration, Trudy replies, 'a lot', when asked about the financial total of the project.

And what would she say to those who might question her sanity for spending so much time, effort and finances on restoring the farmhouse instead of renovating it?

"If it's a dream, you want to stick to your dream and believe in it, then suddenly it's tangible."

Still living in a caravan close to the farmhouse on site, Trudy says though the farmhouse is open for business as a 'holiday stay', she will continue the restoration when guests aren't there.

"There's little jobs for rainy days to be done and I have plans for outside that need to be finished."

The historian now hopes the farmhouse will attract Irish Americans who are coming back to get in touch with their roots.

The mother of three believes she has created something different for people to experience while visiting the area.

"Hotels and bed and breakfasts, there's a standarisation, I wanted to create something that's 'oh wow'.

I've had several people come in and say 'Oh wow, it's just like my grandmother's house'.

"It brings up deep memories for people of places they have been," says the proud owner.

She adds, "It's great being in the community and telling people about the house, they immediately know where you're talking about."

For Trudy, there is a great sense of pride in awakening a sleeping past in the Carrowcullen area.

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