Francis Bacon’s childhood home in Co Kildare guides €2.75m

Once lived in by the famous artist, Straffan Lodge has also been home to the Guinnesses

  • Address: Straffan Lodge, Straffan, Co Kildare
  • Price: € 2750000 AMV
  • Agent: Jordan Auctioneers
 

When Marcus and Edel Beresford took up residence at Straffan Lodge in 1989, the primary appeal was its location. Dublin based for the preceding decade, the couple, who originally hailed from stately homes, wanted to return to country life. Just 18 miles from Dublin, Straffan Lodge on the outskirts of the Kildare village of Straffan, provided the ideal base for Marcus, a solicitor (and former chairman of A&L Goodbody) and historian, and his wife Edel, a keen sportswoman who fly-fishes for Ireland.

Artist Francis Bacon lived in Straffan Lodge from 1909 to 1926
Artist Francis Bacon lived in Straffan Lodge from 1909 to 1926.

The couple are also equine enthusiasts, and trained racehorses locally with Arthur Moore for many years, including Marcus du Berlais which placed second and third in the 2004 and 2005 Grand Nationals.

The 34 acres of land at Straffan Lodge was mainly kept for the children’s ponies as they pursued eventing and showjumping interests.

Marcus Beresford almost apologetically admits that Straffan Lodge’s most prominent claim to fame had practically eluded him until they had already taken up ownership. For it was here that the internationally acclaimed Irish artist Francis Bacon spent his early years.

Francis Bacon: Although based in London, he made frequent trips to Spain, drawn by the country’s lifestyle and artistic heritage. Photograph: David Montgomery/Getty
Francis Bacon: lived at Straffan Lodge until he 16. Photograph: David Montgomery/Getty

From 1909 the artist lived here until 1926 when he famously fell out with his father, a former British army captain, who had retired to Kildare to train and breed racehorses, with little success, his son always said.

Marcus defends Bacon junior’s harsh analysis, having reviewed Bacon senior’s training records, and he regrets never having contacted Bacon before his death in 1992 to ask about his time at Straffan Lodge.

Instead, and for many years, Bacon’s sister, Ianthe, was a frequent visitor to the property where she recalled an idyllic childhood. Unsurprising really, given the lovely matured sylvan setting and the 5,000sq ft Georgian country manor at its heart.

The rear garden
The rear garden

Straffan Lodge was most likely built on the land of the original Straffan House Demesne – where the K Club is now located – originally owned by the Barton family, of Barton & Guestier wine.

The house itself, like many Irish country homes, appears to have evolved over two eras. The front section dates from the 1820s, and was likely to have been added to the more modest rear as the owner’s fortunes improved.

The entrance hallway
The entrance hallway

The main hall, approached via a flight of granite steps, retains its Georgian features including simple cornices, fanlight above the front door and original timber floors.

In keeping with the symmetry of the era, the two main receptions are accessed to the right and left of the hall, and with their original floor to ceiling shuttered sash windows, they make the very most of their sunny southerly aspect on a glorious May day.

The formal receptions are covered with oil portraits of notable figures from the Beresford family tree. Marcus is the 7th Baron Decies in the de la Poer Beresford line, and ancestors of note include Marshall William Carr Beresford who, as Captain General of Spain, was Wellington’s right-hand man in the Napoleonic war, and Archbishop of Tuam, William Beresford, whose unfeasibly large and flamboyant portrait quite dominates the upper stairway.

Both receptions feature fine marble fireplaces – the one in the diningroom came from Edel’s family home, Belleville, beside the Ashtown gates of the Phoenix Park.

The dining room
The dining room

Off the dining room is a cosy duck egg blue country kitchen added in the 1920s and updated by the Beresfords, with a lovely bay window overlooking the lawn, and French windows lead out to a very nicely contained patio and large enclosed garden.

Off the dining room is a cosy duck egg blue country kitchen
Off the dining room is a cosy duck egg blue country kitchen.

One side of the enclosure – where the barbecue is located – comprises an ornate folly wall hand-built by previous owner, Robert Guinness of the Guinness banking family, who lived here for 20 years.

To the rear of the ground floor are probably the original more modest rooms of Straffan Lodge, and include a study with woodburning stove, an office, a cloakroom and a second scullery kitchen/utility.

The living room
The living room

Upstairs are five bedrooms laid out over two levels. The grander two – added with the main receptions below – face to the front, providing lovely uninterrupted views across the lawn, beyond the Ha-Ha to the paddocks running to the boundary. Two smaller doubles, a single, two en suites and an updated bathroom complete the upstairs accommodation.

Leading to the stairway
Leading to the stairway

The basement, as with all these country homes, has long since retired its original function as a downstairs kitchen, although a sprawling old range stands as testimony. Now it’s used as a snooker room, there’s a tack room off it with access to the yard, a wine cellar and gun room.

Just outside the back door of the house is a strip of loose boxes and garages, and somewhat surprisingly, three further bedrooms of guest accommodation in a fully refurbished and heated two-storey house adjacent to the main house.

Behind this, in an area replanted where the original orchard once stood, is an astro turf tennis court and, Marcus’s pride and joy, a fruit garden which promises a huge bounty of raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, blueberries, loganberries and gooseberries any day now.

With their four children reared the Beresfords are moving on – albeit with a heavy heart after many happy years here – and Straffan Lodge is for sale by tender, with Paddy Jordan guiding €2.75 million.

The tender process is a little different to the usual private treaty and auction methods, and is more often applied to commercial land sales.

Unconditional sealed bids are invited before July 3rd, which means all due diligence must be completed and the deposit prepared in advance. Paddy Jordan is banking on concentrating minds over a finite selling period – not a bad strategy given that country home sales can often be protracted affairs over a minimum of 12 months. Whether it pays off is anyone’s guess.

Straffan Lodge will doubtless need another injection of cash to bring it up to modern day living requirements, but the basic ingredients for a lovely rambling family home are all there. The land itself may also have appeal for local stud farms looking to extend their footprint in the heart of bloodstock country.