US buyer snaps up Meath estate for €4.9m

A businessman from Maryland is the latest American to buy an Irish country estate, in this case Ardbraccan, a Palladian pile partly designed by Richard Castle, the classical-style architect who also created Leinster House

Thu, May 9, 2013, 06:00

A wealthy American businessman has availed of the sharp fall in the price of country estates here to buy one of Ireland’s finest Palladian mansions on the Ardbraccan Estate in Navan, Co Meath.

Charles Noell, who co-founded JMI Equity in Baltimore, Maryland, has paid close to the asking price of €4.9 million for the 18th century mansion and 120 acres of formal gardens, ancient woodlands and parkland about three miles outside Navan.

Noell was underbidder last February for the 420-acre Dowth Hall estate on the river Boyne between Slane and Drogheda which was bought by a local businessman for €5 million.

Noell is the latest American to invest in a large estate in Ireland following the purchase of Humewood Castle in Co Wicklow, and Woodhouse Estate in Co Waterford, in recent months by American businessmen.

Noell is best known as president of the family investment company of John J Moores, founder of BMC Software, who last year attracted international attention when he sold the San Diego Padres baseball team for €800 million.

George Windsor-Clive, an international equestrian property agent, who advised Noell, said his client enjoys an interest in bloodstock and racing, and he expects that he will breed horses at Ardbraccan.

The marketing campaign here was handled by Pat O’Hagan of Savills who said that when the “overseas buyer” indicated his interest in acquiring the Navan estate the deal was wrapped up in record time and the sale closed last Friday.

Ardbraccan was built in the mid-1700s as the palace of the bishops of Meath. It is now a vast home, extending to 2,150 sq m (23,142 sq ft), and includes a stunning range of reception rooms and 15 bedrooms, six of which are suites.

Like many other great mansions, Ardbraccan, partly designed by Richard Castle, conforms to the classical style of a central block joined to subordinate wings by curved linking walls inset with niches.

Originally housing butlers’ and housekeepers’ rooms and kitchens, the south wing now provides well-proportioned guest accommodation including three reception rooms and four bedrooms.

The north wing is mainly used for staff accommodation and a farm office.

The central block, built after the two wings, is a simple and dignified grey stone house of two storeys over basement and seven bays with an Ionic doorcase.

When the last owner, property investor David Maher, acquired Ardbraccan, the property had been unoccupied for almost 20 years and was in need of considerable attention. Over four years the house, yards, gardens and grounds were restored by specialist craftsmen using traditional methods and, where necessary, salvaged materials from Ireland and the UK.

Chimney pots were specially cast to match the originals and roofs recovered with original slates, and worked in copper and lead. Internal fittings were also restored and replaced and parklands were fenced and replanted with specimen trees.

One of the unusual features of the house is a narrow entrance vestibule with a barrel-vaulted ceiling. This allows the principal rooms on either side to be large rectangular spaces, each with three windows looking out on to the spectacular gardens.

Ardbraccan differs from most layouts in that it has a large square hall at the rear of the house behind the entrance vestibule. The Great Hall has French doors leading to the rear garden. This also connects directly with the drawingroom and the diningroom. The principal and secondary stairs are on either side of the Great Hall.

Like the rest of the house, the basement has also been tastefully restored and includes a wide range of facilities including a kitchen, wine cellar, pantry, laundry room, playroom and billiard room. And of course a boot room. Where would you be without one?

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