Kildare estate surrounded by stud farms for €25m

Harristown Demesne is a fine mansion on 750 acres. Nearby, the rich soil has produced great horses

Harristown Demesne in Co. Kildare is set on 750 acres and just 40 minutes from Dublin. Once home to the founding shareholders of the Bank of Ireland the La Touche family the house now goes on the market for €25 million. Madeline Lyons reports.

 

Driving along the seeming interminable avenue at Harristown Demesne in Co Kildare feels like stepping back in time. Rolling fields of corn and pasture sweep away to the vast stands of trees sheltering the boundary of the 750-acre estate. The salmon and trout stocked River Liffey wends its way through the land, under a seven arch stone bridge in view of the main house.

It’s not difficult to imagine the original owners, the La Touche family making their way by horse-drawn carriage to the original Georgian mansion as it stood in 1768. The La Touche banking family was a primary shareholder of the Bank of Ireland when it opened in 1783.

In the intervening 250 years, Harristown has had just three owners.

The La Touches lived there until 1921, and following a fire in the late 19th century, the house was destroyed and a smaller two-storey house – 1,115sq m (12,000sq ft), with 557sq m (6,000 sq ft) basement – was built to a Georgian style in its place. A Graham family lived there until 1946 when the estate was bought by Michael and Doreen Beaumont. They completely restored and renovated the house installing furniture, pictures and even doors. They brought Carrara marble fireplaces and the main staircase from their former home in Wotton in Buckinghamshire, which along with Stowe was the country seat of the Duke of Buckinghamshire.

Heritage grants The much-loved house has remained in the family, most recently under the stewardship of Hubert Beaumont and his wife Noella. Hubert inherited the property from his grandmother having spent long childhood summers here and since then has farmed the land. Now it has been placed on the market for €25 million through Jordan. Passionate about the estate, the Beaumonts found the decision to sell difficult. They have availed of Section 482 status and various heritage grants to help with the costs of running the estate, but it was not enough.

“Keeping a house like this is a constant maintenance job. Just when you have had a great harvest there’s a big job to be done like renovating the portico [a €65,000 job] or removing asbestos. In 30 years we’ve done all we can to preserve the house intact. The grants are generous but just not enough, you still need lots of capital to provide matching funding,” Hubert says.

While the house has historic and aesthetic appeal, the reality is that Harristown’s true value lies in its land, reflecting perhaps the not insignificant €25 million price tag.

Located in Brannockstown village in the heart of Kildare bloodstock country the estate is bound to have appeal as a stud farm, not least for its high grade limestone soil. This is prime thoroughbred rearing country and neighbouring estates include Sallymount and Gilltown Studs, owned by the Aga Khan, and Hollyhill Stud, a 60-acre estate bought by Sir Anthony O’Reilly in 2007 for €7.4 million. Also in the vicinity are estates owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah, Sheikh Mohammed and Ballymore developer, Sean Mulryan.

The house itself was reoriented at some point, as was the trend, to face away from the river and towards the avenue. Its imposing nine-bay façade with Ionic portico opens into a very grand double-sized reception with 5m ceilings, oak parquet floors, marble columns and a wood carved fireplace. The staircase to the rear is concealed, and doorways lead through to the the very fine library, drawingroom and diningroom.

These rooms have barely changed since their heyday, and the 17th century Chinese wallpaper, historic family portraits and ornate cornicing point to more decadent times.

The kitchen was helpfully relocated from the basement in the 1940s to Major Beaumont’s sittingroom at ground level. With a deep bow window it’s a homely country kitchen, though in reality it will probably serve as a starting point for new owners planning to upgrade the property. Wooden windows throughout need replacing, and the vast basement offers additional scope for ambitious renovations.

Upstairs, off the shelved library landing are six bedrooms including a master with an open fire and oak panelling taken from a Tudor house in England. A marble fireplace in another room with exquisite mosaic inset is another unique and valuable feature.

Following the fire that destroyed the house, a lantern rooflight was installed that floods light down through the centre of the house, making the upper floor and attic floor (off which there are three more bedrooms) much brighter than is typical in these stately country homes.

Included in the Harristown sale are three lodges of about 93sq m (1,000 sq ft) apiece, a traditional stable block and manager’s house of 186sq m (2,000 sq ft), and farmyard. Intriguingly, a tunnel runs underground from the main house for about 75m to the stableyard and 12 loose boxes.

According to selling agent Paddy Jordan of Jordan auctioneers, the limestone-based land makes it ideal for bloodstock rearing.

“Estates like these are an endangered species, there’s nothing left like this with a waterway running through it and located just 40 minutes from the capital.”

For Hubert Beaumont it’s the end of an era and the decision to move is very much tinged with regret. “To continue living here would have meant breaking up the land and I just couldn’t do that. It needs a buyer with the means to retain it intact. For us it just didn’t make sense any more.”

Also in Kildare: €6.5 million estate

Looking for a Kildare pile but restricted to a slightly tighter budget? There’s always Landenstown Estate near Sallins. Launched to the market this week through Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes this dilapidated Palladian country house on 338 acres is seeking €6.5million. But buyer be warned, this is a fixer upper of gargantuan proportions. The very fine 792sq m (8,528sq ft) house is in need of full restoration along with two gate lodges. Constructed in the mid 18th century the estate is partially bounded by the Grand Canal, and while the lands have not been maintained in recent years they can be brought back to productive use. Located close to fishing, golf courses and local hunts and less than an hour from Dublin the potential target market is likely to be overseas buyers seeking a sporting estate in Ireland.

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