General's Georgian estate in Wicklow has hidden assets


One of Wicklow’s finest houses, 50 minutes from Dublin’s city centre, is to be marketed in the UK where similar estates can sell for twice the price

MOUNT Kennedy, a 169-acre estate beside the village of Newtownmountkennedy in Co Wicklow, has come on the market asking €7.75 million through Knight Frank. The sale follows the death of owner Cecil Quinn, who was Ireland’s honorary consul to Nigeria and spent most of his business career in Lagos.

Mount Kennedy will be marketed extensively in the UK where, according to selling agent Stuart Walker, estates of a similar size close to London can make twice the price of their Irish counterparts.

Mount Kennedy lies just off the N11 motorway but is hidden from the road by a deep belt of trees with a half-mile of driveway leading up to the house which stands two-storey over basement with a stately entrance. Inside, a museum-like quality pervades, thanks to the the perfect proportions of the rooms and the remarkably ornate and delicate plasterwork on the ceilings of the principal rooms. This work was carried out by Michael Stapleton, the leading stuccadore of Georgian Dublin, whose work can be seen in Ely House, Carton House and in the James Joyce Centre on North Great George’s Street.

Impressive grisaille panels by the 18th-century Belgian artist Peter de Gree add yet more finery to the diningroom while the oval drawingroom has a striking 18th-century chimneypiece and a bay of tall, slightly- curved sash windows overlooking parkland dotted with 200-year-old oak trees.

The house was built by General Robert Cuninghame, commander in chief of the English forces in Ireland and an MP who became Lord Rossmore of Monaghan. He bought the 10,000-acre Mount Kennedy estate in 1769 and asked English architect James Wyatt to design the house but it was finally completed in 1786 by the Irish architect and builder Thomas Cooley, at the astronomical cost of £64,000. Fifty original drawings by Wyatt and Cooley are in the National Library. Mount Kennedy remained in the general’s family for the next 100 years until, after the the Land Acts, much of the land was parcelled off to tenants. The estate had three owners during the 20th century including Quinn, who bought it in 1981.

A good deal of refurbishment work has been carried out in recent years, though a full restoration is by no means complete. For instance, the kitchen and an adjoining family room on the ground floor were once Mrs Cuninghame’s bed chamber, and their original plasterwork remains behind dropped ceilings.

The general, it seems, commanded the first floor where a landing the size of a small ballroom was originally the billiards room. Four principal bedrooms lead off this landing and there are three secondary rooms. The original kitchen is in the basement, along with a number of large rooms that lead off a wide hallway with a Gothic-style ceiling. Kitchen, pantries, cellars, estate office, laundries and larders are here, while a dungeon-like corridor leads off to further cold rooms that extend out underneath the driveway.

The most spectacular of these is the ice room, a cylindrical room that plunges down from the entrance. This would have been filled with ice from the estate’s pond in winter, and food stored on top of it with, no doubt a dedicated ice boy from the general’s staff having to climb the icy peaks to retrieve it.