Historic Annamult house destroyed

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HISTORIC ANNAMULT House on the banks of the River Nore in Co Kilkenny was destroyed by fire yesterday. Neither the owner, former newspaper publisher John Sheils, nor his wife Susan were present at the time and the emergency services said that no-one had been hurt. The house is located near the village of Bennettsbridge about seven miles south of Kilkenny city.

Eight units of the Kilkenny fire service fought the blaze throughout the afternoon having been alerted just before 2pm. By the time they arrived, 75 per cent of the house was already alight. The fire was still burning at 5pm when an officer with the fire service described the house as “destroyed” with the roof collapsed and the interior “gutted”.

Sgt Ted Hughes of Thomastown Garda station said there was no reason to suspect foul play but that the house was being preserved for examination by forensics experts.

Annamult House, which dates back to the 1700s, was bought at auction for €2.5 million by Mr and Mrs Sheils in May 2005. Three years later, in September 2008, they offered the 702 sq m (7,556 sq ft) house on 25.5 acres for sale by private treaty through Savills for €1.85 million. At the time, the couple told The Irish Timesthat they planned “to relocate back to Dublin for family reasons”. However they failed to find a buyer and the estate was withdrawn from the market last year.

Mr Sheils was the founder and chairman of the Voice newspaper group which was established in 2005 and published regional newspapers in Kilkenny, Laois, Tipperary, Kildare, Tallaght, Cavan, Monaghan, Naas and Galway. All were closed last year and the staff made redundant. KPMG was appointed as liquidator to the Voice Newspaper Group which had debts of €8.5 million.

In April, John and Susan Sheils applied to Kilkenny County Council for planning permission for the construction of a new two-storey house in a field just beside the electronic gates at the entrance to the Annamult estate.

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