There's more than a touch of star quality to Violet Hill House, a six bedroomed Victorian pile just outside Bray, which was once owned by film star and former James Bond, Sean Connery.
High, timbered ceilings, internal pointed archways influenced by the glories of the Raj, marvellously rich wallpapers, huge, deep-set bay windows with wooden shutters, and a deliciously carved and sweeping staircase, make this a house to fire the imagination.
It’s easy to think of the amazing parties, extravagant entertaining, and famous-name-peppered conversation, over martinis – shaken not stirred of course – that must have taken place in the glow from one of the massive fireplaces.
Connery owned the house from 1975 to 1979, during which time he was filming The First Great Train Robbery with Donald Sutherland and Lesley-Anne Down, in Ardmore Studios, just up the road. Thriller writer Alistair MacLean was also a regular guest.
It’s certainly a house for grand entrances. The building itself is reached up a rambling, tree-lined avenue. Then you come to a gravel stand, from which stone steps lead to the front door, which is flanked by carriage lights and tall windows. This opens to a fabulous hallway that could easily be a movie set in its own right.
Violet Hill House was built in the 1860s, to a design by William Fogerty, who loved to add a little Gothic drama to his creations, which include St Michael’s Church in Limerick, the old Lucky Coady’s on Dame Street in Dublin, and the Methodist College, Belfast.
The house is for sale with Matthews Auctioneers by private treaty for €1.65 million. The original house was larger still, before it was divided at some stage during the 1950s. You’re not aware of your neighbours though, and the full extent of the house is only apparent from particular vantage points in the three and a half acres of gardens.
The gardens are rich with mature trees, with a yew arch, and little spots to sit dotted around. There are flower beds as well, and a small kitchen garden.
French windows lead down from the sitting room, and there is a somewhat overgrown tennis court too, as well as a double garage, currently buried under a chaotic tangle of foliage, as is a second driveway, leading back to the Dublin road.
In fact, wonderfully grand as Violet Hill House is, the new owners will probably want to add some remedial touches. The kitchen includes an Aga (naturally), but could do with some updating. There is a small den off this room, proving that most owners of grand homes also like the comfort of less imposing spaces when they’re “off duty”. Atmospheric as the bathrooms are, there’s a little room for improvement there too.
Nevertheless, it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to tamper with the amazing diningroom, drawingroom, entrance hall or stairwell, as, to my rather romantic eye, these are close to perfect. There is also a semi-separate, one-bedroomed staff flat with galley kitchen.
The house is for sale by private treaty, and the German owners, who are adopting a rather root-and-branch attitude to downsizing, are also auctioning off the house contents, including some amazing antiques, in a sale to be held at the house on Sunday, November 3rd – Matthews Auctioneers are handling this sale too.
Violet Hill House is a star, and deserves star treatment from its new owners, whoever they may be. There are hopes and rumours that the next James Bond film may use locations in Ireland, fuelled by comments from producer Barbara Broccoli and writer John Logan.
Maybe Daniel Craig might like to make himself a home away from home while here? He'd be in very good company.