€3.5m for trophy home at base of Sugarloaf


Co Wicklow/€3.5m: A grand home, within an even grander historic house, is ideal for entertaining, writes Michael Parsons.

Holybrooke Hall exudes class. Think of those gorgeous, and corny, English television programmes featuring rum goings-on in the Home Counties, set in ravishing locations like Midsomer, and featuring genteel detectives like the spinsterly Ms Marple.

Holybrooke Hall is a 929sq m (10,000sq ft) mansion in the Tudor-Gothic style which will be sold at auction by Colliers Jackson-Stops on June 28th with an AMV of €3.5 million. It is situated at Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow, just off the N11 near Brennanstown Riding School, about 20 miles from Dublin, but otherwise out of this world.

This is a house of historical, architectural, cultural and social significance. But with one caveat which explains why the price tag isn't in the region of, say, €35 million. Behind the magnificent granite façade, the original house, extending to over 2,323sq m (25,000sq ft), has been subdivided into four homes.

The one for sale is the largest and grandest but must share its gateway and drive with the neighbours. But it would make the perfect trophy home for a gregarious and hospitable Irish Knight. And if you thought they were a dying breed, in this, the 90th anniversary year of our "glorious revolution", then clearly you haven't been perusing the Court Circular of late. Because whenever Queen Elizabeth hands out gongs at an investiture these days there seems to be an "Arise, Sir Paddy" moment.

The house was built for Sir George Hodson in the 1830s to a design by architect William Vitruvius Morrison who was also responsible for Clontarf Castle, Rossmore Castle in Monaghan (demolished in 1974), Fota House (Co Cork), Kilruddery House (Co Wicklow), Borris House (Co Carlow) and the court houses at Carlow and Tralee. (Vitruvius, incidentally, operated in Rome during the first century BC, and is considered to be the "founder" of architecture - a discipline that has been going downhill ever since).

The site, at the base of the Little Sugarloaf Mountain, overlooks a swathe of Wicklow forest which doesn't form part of the property - so there's all the prestige of a great estate without the maintenance.

But you will need housekeeping staff (who'll have the use of a renovated, decidedly contemporary two-bedroom flat with a separate entrance) for the grand entertaining which this house demands. The last Lady Hodson, who left the house in 1971, famously kept a blue parrot called Claude who drank whiskey from a silver spoon and frequently keeled over at parties.

There are three splendid reception rooms, all worthy of Camelot. A great hall with a 40ft high ceiling features one of the most extraordinary stained glass windows in Ireland. It depicts the coats of arms and scenes from the history of the Hodson family who came to Ireland in the 17th century when, having sided with the Royalists over Cromwell, were rewarded after the restoration of the monarchy with the bishopric of Elphin & Roscommon and eventually moved to Wicklow. The exquisitely-coloured panes feature a remarkable sequence of images ranging from England's "White Cliffs" to the Kilruddery hunt in full flight.

The diningroom, with views to a classical fountain on a south-facing lawn, glitters beneath a belle époque chandelier and can seat, wait for it, 80 people "comfortably". An equally palatial drawingroom contains an early Victorian mirror through which Alice could have stepped into wonderland.

Incidentally, many of the stunning light fittings and mirrors are included in the sale. The magnificent oak-panelled library, a masterpiece of Gothic whimsy, has a 16ft ornately decorated heraldic ceiling.

A 5ft wide staircase, beautifully lit by a torchère lamp which once graced a Parisian bordello, leads to first floor galleries where among five large en suite bedrooms, the most remarkable is a guest room decorated with original 1875 William Morris wallpaper and a matching hand-painted polished slate fireplace. The entire house is a miniature V&A and, not surprisingly, has appeared in a number of films including Taxi Mauve, Kidnapped and Zardoz.

An American couple who moved to Ireland from Los Angles 20 years ago are selling the house. Both now Irish citizens, he's in the film business; she's a best-selling novelist. Scott MacMillan is also a former herald of arms at the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland and Katherine Kurtz has written over 20 novels in the house including a Dublin fantasy St Patrick's Gargoyle (published in 2001).

They have clearly lavished money, care and attention on Holybrooke Hall including re-roofing, re-plumbing and re-wiring the house. MacMillan says "Robert Burns claimed that you cannot be both grand and comfortable but he obviously hadn't been to Holybrooke".