Rambling rectory exudes warmth and a lifetime of hospitality

This Victorian house in Co Cork with four cottages has been sympathetically restored

 

With a former owner trained as a cordon-bleu cook it’s no wonder that the kitchen at Kilcolman Rectory is both inviting and efficient.

In other properties of similar Victorian vintage a basement location might have suggested gloom, but here the paired windows spread light, the four-oven Aga delivers warmth and, far from being removed from the upper floors, the kitchen, with its adjacent breakfast room, is integral to the well-established pattern of modern life in an old building.

Kilcolman is a lucky house that seems always to have been in caring hands.

Roomy without being rambling, the house is in turnkey condition – witness to the taste and intuition of its most recent owners, to whom its character, decor and style appealed so much that newcomers will hardly have to lift a hammer.

Built in the days when rectories were designed for hospitality and for obediently large clerical families, it has the great appeal of easy management.

The five-bay, two-storey- over-basement house covers 505sq m (5,435sq ft) and contains two reception rooms, a study, five bedrooms (four with fitted wardrobes, four bathrooms (one en suite) and the kitchen area, which also includes a garden room.

The double entrance door, with its fanlight, leads to an arched hall that stretches into a staircase hall, lit by an arched window. The immediate impact is one of unforced symmetry: the spaces are generous.

David Busteed of Sherry FitzGerald Brennan Busteed says, rightly, that Kilcolman has been “sympathetically restored”.

More ambitious proprietors might have insisted on putting en-suite facilities with the larger bedrooms, but here only the main bedroom has its own bathroom.

As a result the rooms retain their classical symmetry, and period features, such as picture and dado rails, panelling and cornices strengthen the authenticity of the house.

The gentle interior colours are brightened by the floods of light from the large windows, which also bring in the colours of the gardens, shrubbery and lawns around the house.

A former owner worked at Chelsea Physic Garden, the historical botanic garden in London, so the drive is layered with trees, the lawns (including a tennis court) are crisp, the borders rich and varied, and the vegetable plots neat and productive enough to satisfy the heartiest of rectory appetites.

Until a few years ago the plot included a row of “Mummy” peas – large, pale and sweet and grown, it is said, from seeds found dry and intact on the opening of the tomb of Tutankhamun.

These were distributed among friends of the explorer Lord Carnarvon, one of whom was related to a previous owner.

This is surely an unlikely crop among the asparagus and onions, and certainly the subject of horticultural debate, but it is, perhaps, another nod to Kilcolman’s happy tendency to reflect the past without challenging the present.

Outside the house a stone-flagged yard includes two good stables, while the courtyard (reached by private drive) has three attractive cottages, each of which has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and its own short flight of stone steps.

A fourth cottage awaits conversion, adding to Kilcolman’s potential as a source of rental income.

Now, having found the house “a perfect and practical family home”, the owners are departing because of commitments abroad.

Rural without being remote, the property lies in the valley of the River Bandon and is well set back from the N71 westwards from Cork.

Enniskeane village is nearby, and the thriving town of Bandon is a five-minute drive. Well, make that 10 minutes: this is a district of alluring byways and small woods, a landscape that encourages dawdling.