History repeating itself: Henry Grattan’s Wicklow home for €4m
Remodelled on the former statesman’s Georgian home, Grattan House near Enniskerry is a souped-up version of the original with all modern comforts, such as heating and glazing. Now the house and gardens are on the market
Tucked into the Dargle river valley in Co Wicklow, Grattan House stands stately in its sylvan surroundings. The handsome wisteria-clad house has a long and noble history. First as a coaching inn built in the 18th century for Powerscourt House – the avenue to the estate runs along the crest of the wooded backdrop – and second it was home to the great parliamentarian Henry Grattan towards the end of his life.
This would all be true, apart from a small technicality. This house was built in 2000 on the ruined footprint of the original. Only the crumbling outer walls remained when Adrian and Mary Murphy undertook to rebuild the house in its original style after they bought it for £2 million in 1999.
Working with the architect Dave Jordan, Adrian Murphy says the original plan was to build a neo-Georgian structure, but then he thought better of it, and decided to reconstruct a design based on Grattan’s original Georgian home.
Murphy drew on his China contacts – through the clothes business he ran for many years that included the Claire Kennedy knitwear label – to source the right granite to match the stone of the original house.
Murphy, who has always held an interest in residential property investment, pored over books for design ideas, and sought inspiration from other buildings. For example the carved timber staircase flanked by Corinthian columns in the marble hallway was modelled on the staircase at Mount Juliet House in Co Kilkenny.
This latest incarnation of the house – now for sale on three acres through Sherry FitzGerald for €4 million – is faithful to the classic arrangement of the original. The accommodation, extending to 450sq m (4,843sq ft) is simple in its layout, with a family room and library to the left of the main hall, and a dining room and interconnecting living room to the right.
The sunlit drawing room is perfectly appointed with a dual aspect that allows light to pour through four sets of French doors. Murphy wanted to bring the garden into every room and it literally leaps into this room with its vista over the mature valley gardens and the sounds of the Dargle flowing at the end of the garden.
Two specialists took three months to complete the paintwork throughout the house, including the ornate cornicework and ceiling roses in these reception rooms which are hand- painted with gold leaf finish. Both formal rooms are replete with antique furniture, gilt mirrors, oil paintings, Persian rugs and classic Georgian drapes – the silk sourced from China. The marble fireplace in the drawing room is, Murphy hates to admit, a replica. But he adds, it’s modelled exactly on the one in the Shelbourne Hotel.
Along a corridor, painted an unlikely duck egg blue, hang a selection of contemporary paintings by well known artists. In fact, there is art everywhere. The Murphy’s may be downsizing, but they will need a lot of walls to display this collection.
The vast unfussy country kitchen is modelled on a Clive Christian design, but like everything else, it was custom-built locally. Bathed in sunlight, three sets of floor to ceiling windows open out to the tiered lawns while French doors to the left access an enclosed terrace courtyard with a pond at its centre. A perfect suntrap for sheltered al fresco dining.
During construction the basement of the original coaching inn was unearthed to reveal tiles dating from the mid-18th century. They are still visible at the entrance to the wine cellar.
Grattan House enjoys all the elegance of a period home but every modern comfort has been incorporated into its design – underfloor heating, double glazing, radiators tucked discretely from view and concrete floors for soundproofing.
Upstairs are four luxurious double bedrooms, with potential for a fifth in the studio landing currently in use as an office. The enormous master bed is a highlight. It has the same dual aspect as the drawing room beneath, and magnificent views of the river and mature woodland in the distance.
The site comes with a two-bed guest annexe, and a quaint refurbished three-bed Arts and Crafts-style coachhouse. Beside it, an open kitchen garden bears the fruits of the location’s sheltered valley setting: grapes, strawberries, loganberries and climbing roses.
Tinnehinch translated means bend of the river and to walk along the riverbank towards the bridge that forms the boundary with Powerscourt Demesne is to be transported back in time. A riot of rhododendrons populate the riverbank opposite and the trees, many dating from Grattan’s own time, are alive with birdsong. A cut in the bank marks the access point for summer swimming and salmon fishing. The Murphys are moving closer to the city, out here is God’s own country.