Limerick’s Fort Hill look old - but isn’t
Trish Dromey views a fine architect-designed home in Co Limerick with graceful proportions and sculpted gardens
It’s difficult to believe that Hill Fort — a sprawling villastyle property with elegant period-style features, magnificent mature gardens, and acres of surrounding parkland — was built a mere 25 years ago.
A gently sloping garden mound at the front is one of the features used by the architect to embed the property in the landscape — making it look as if it has belonged there for decades.
When the owners bought the 17acre site at Patrickswell in Limerick in the early 1990s, it was mostly level farmland except for a fairy fort in a hilly field which later prompted them to call their new residence Hill Fort.
Asking architect Peter O’farrelly to design a home suitable for their site, the couple stipulated only that it have two 20’ by 30’ rooms in the centre — one for a kitchen and the other for a living room. “My wife put in the request for the two large rooms, and I told him that that the windows had to be of a certain size and height,” reveals the owner.
The result is an elongated property consisting of four wings. It appears from the front to be singlestorey — but has dormer windows at the back, which reveal the presence of a first floor in the centre. Features include tall period-style chimney stacks, a Georgian-style doorway with a fanlight, and some elaborate gothic-style mouldings over the windows.
Around the back there’s also a large classic-style Hamptons, conservatory — a later addition, which adds to the period feel.
The room with the most period influence is, appropriately enough, listed as the drawing room. Situated in the centre, it’s huge and maple-floored with a marble fireplace, high ceilings with decorative cornicing, and mouldings as well as picture rails.
While nowadays most picture rails are decorative, these ones, used to hang all the paintings in the room, are also functional.
Decorated in a shade of Farrow & Ball white, the room has a green chimney breast and gold curtains and, with high pelmeted windows, looks every inch like a drawing room from an earlier era.
The equally large, adjoining kitchen dining room is more traditional in appearance than period style. Maple floored with a high, pine-panelled, slightly vaulted ceiling, it has hand-painted cream country style units with granite worktops as well as a rosewoodtopped island.
Occupying one corner of the extra spacious room, the kitchen is equipped with oil-fired Aga range and a Neff oven. There’s also ample space for dining and a seating/tv watching area with a wood-burning stove. Here too the owners have used the picture rails to hang their paintings.
Extending from the front to the rear of the house, the kitchen has a door leading to a utility room at the side, and another going in to a chinapresswheretheownerskeep the microwave alongside their china. On the far side of this wing, there’s also a bathroom and a tack room used for storing riding clothes and saddles.
Off the spacious hallway on the left side of the central hallway is a wing with two en-suite bedrooms. One of these is a substantial master bedroom which also has a dressing room.
A bespoke mahogany staircase designed by the architect leads from the hall to the first floor which has a spacious landing, two bedrooms and a bathroom.
When the owners bought the property they turned three acres into gardens and used the rest of the land to create three large paddock areas for the horses, for which they also built three stables “When we started, there wasn’t a tree in sight and the area in front of the house was level,” reveals the owner, a keen gardener who has put time and effort into surrounding Hill Fort with mature gardens with a great many trees.
He explains that the function of the garden mound is to partially obscure the view of the property from the front.
“This means that the house only comes fully into view as you come up the driveway — an effect sometimes found in period gardens.”
On completion of the project, the architect gifted the couple with a garden design which had been drawn up by his sister, a landscape designer. After 25 years of care and cultivation, the gardens now resemble the grounds of a period property with features such as rose beds, stone paths, steps and walls, shaded seating areas, clematis-covered pergolas and an impressive beech hedge.
Starting viewings of the 4,000 sq ft property which is guiding at €850,000, Bill Hanly of Hanly Donnellan says the gardens have been looking particularly resplendent in the May sunshine.
Observing that a house with this large acreage is quite a rarity, he says it is very appealing to equine enthusiasts and also to people looking for a high-quality trade up with space and land.
Mr Hanly says the location, around ten kilometers from the city, is perfect for commuters, while the proximity to Adare and the Clonshire Equestrian Centre, 6km away, makes it attractive to horse owners.
VERDICT: Has the gardens, the grounds, and much of the grace of a period property — but the comforts and ease of maintenance of a modern house.
Patrickswell, Co Limerick €850,000
Size: 371 sq m (4,000 sq ft) Bedrooms: 4 Bathrooms: 4