There are plenty of Georgian piles for sale across Ireland and while the elegantly proportioned abodes look the part, the renovation required to bring many of them up to 21st-century standards is the thing that puts buyers off. It takes time and deep pockets to modernise them gently.
Rockhill House, on the outskirts of Kells, Co Meath, is a compact estate, complete with big period pile, where all the hard – read expensive – work has been done.
This makes it an interesting proposition for a family looking to keep horses and perhaps do some farming, or for an entrepreneur who might see the commercial value in short lets and small weddings, which was the reason Bernie FitzHerbert and her late husband, Trevor, bought the estate in 2001.
The 18th-century, nine-bay residence was already a a stylish country house. Situated less than an hour from Dublin it boasts a stone-pillared entrance, sweeping avenue that is partially tree-lined, with a Doric portico and shallow bows to either side greeting you as you arrive out front.
It had been in Trevor’s family until the 1960s, when it was sold. When the couple bought the listed building, it was in need of complete renovation. “The entire roof had to be redone. The previous owner had blocked off the top floor and taken out the staircase,” Bernie recalls.
The couple brought the Georgian Society on board to ensure works, which started in 2008, would be in keeping with the original house and conform to the necessary regulations.
The property, which is set over three floors, has been rewired and replumbed with some of its six over six, single-glaze sash windows reglazed. Six of its eight bedrooms now have en suite bathrooms.
The upgrades took five years to complete and the couple eventually moved in in 2012.
“It lends itself very well to entertaining. We’d some terrific parties, ” Bernie says. Its interconnecting rooms, at piano nobile level, were designed for such soirees. The dining room, library with marble columns, and drawing room all interconnect and frame sweeping views to the south from their large windows. A service kitchen, with dumb waiter, allows for easy food delivery.
At hall level, the ceilings have been decoratively painted by specialist Michael Dillon, the entrance hall has a flagstone floor and its cantilevered staircase sweeps up to the first floor.
There’s a billiards room to the right, and on the left is a sitting room that leads through to the main kitchen and on through to a large utility room. The ground floor is set around a courtyard with store buildings at the gable end.
There are bedrooms on every level. The main bedroom suite is situated on the first floor where it leads through to a dressing room and on into a large en suite bathroom. There’s also a self-contained one-bedroom flat, at first-floor level, that is accessed via the courtyard.
All told, the Ber-exempt house extends to a whopping 1,485 sq m (15,984 sq ft) with more space in the store houses and outbuildings.
“They’ve done all the hard work and finished the property to a standard in keeping with the original style of the house while creating accommodation which is suitable for comfortable living and formal entertaining,” says selling agent James Butler, head of country for Savills Ireland. Crucially, he adds, the rooms are suitable for everyday use.
“Our intention had been to rent it out and do small weddings,” Bernie explains, but with Trevor’s death in 2017 and the subsequent Covid lockdowns she’s decided to let someone else take the reins.
Set on almost 66 acres just off the M3, the property is asking €1.75 million through agents Savills.