A HOUSE FIT FOR A QUEEN
IT’S always been said that Queen Victoria intended at one stage to buy Emo Court for her wayward son, and that she took tea in the drawing room here with the rector at the time,” muses Wilfred Deverell, vendor of The Old Rectory, Coolbanagher, Emo, Co Laois.
Close to the Gandon-designed Emo Court, and St John’s Church, also designed by Gandon — architect of The Custom House and The Four Courts — The Old Rectory is a family home with the handprint of history. “You can see the hand of the glass maker in the dining-room window,” says Deverell. Other original features include doors with peepholes, some fireplaces and floorboards, and shutters.
Enjoying a serene setting, the Georgian residence on 45 acres which are in grass was built in 1790 for the Hon Rev William Dawson, son of Lord Carlow and brother of the Earl of Portarlington. Two years ago, the seventh Earl of Portarlington took time out from a visit to Emo Court to drop in.
Originally known as ‘Clonbanagher Glebe’ or ‘The Glebe’, it was bought by Wilfrid Deverell’s parents from the Representative Church Body of the Church of Ireland in 1952. Among its inhabitants was Rev Dudley Fletcher, said to have walked with Sean O’Casey in the Dublin Lockout. “He was always in trouble as he felt very strongly about the Ne Temere decree,” says Deverell.
“The house hadn’t been lived in since 1947 so there was a good bit of work to be done when my parents bought it,” he recalls. “I remember potatoes being sown to clear the front garden, before turning it back into lawn. The whole house was re-dashed and the courtyard done up.”
After boarding school, Deverell returned home to farm, going on to breed pedigree Charolais. Marriage to Ingrid, a Londoner, 45 years ago, saw them move into the main part of the house, while Deverell’s parents relocated to the wing which was originally the servants’ quarters.
While the three Deverell children were at university in the 1990s, Ingrid started a pre-school in one of the farm buildings, and at the end of that decade, they diversified into self-catering apartments.
Following a fire in 2007, the main house had to be reroofed, rewired and replumbed. “There was a lot of smoke damage and it took us 10 months to get everything restored. The neighbours were incredibly helpful,” Deverell says.
Located 2km from the M7 motorway, and 89km from Dublin airport, the seven-bedroom house is approached through an avenue bounded by mature trees. There are separate entrances to the house and the courtyard and farm buildings. There is also a walled garden.
Viewers to the property will see double, as many things are in pairings. These include stairs, sunrooms and kitchens. Selling agent Roseanne De Vere Hunt of Sherry Fitz Gerald Country Homes, Farms and Estates, says that the living room, secondary kitchen, sun room, three bedrooms in the wing, and shower room could be used as a self-contained unit. Or the new owners may want to reconfigure the layout to introduce open-plan living areas.
The two dual aspect reception rooms — the drawing room to the right with its bay window, and the dining room to the left — are flooded with natural light. They have their original fireplaces — black marble signifying mourning, according to Deverell, and white marble, associated with weddings and baptisms.
The rest of the rooms are less formal. There’s a main fitted kitchen and breakfast room with access through patio doors to the lawns and garden. The other kitchen is off the living room which is fitted with a stove. There’s also a utility room, storage and stairs to the wine cellar. One sunroom is to the side of the house off the entrance hallway, with access to the rear courtyard, while the other is to the back, off the living room, overlooking a pond. Doors lead to the patio and pond which connects to the lean-to area that can be used as an outdoor covered dining space.
There’s a shower room downstairs, and two bathrooms, a shower room and guest WC upstairs. The main part of the house has four bedrooms on the first floor. The other three are in the wing.
The characterful courtyard comprises two converted coachhouses, both could potentially bring in a rental income; an office; storage house and two-storey building with water, electricity and toilets. There are also umpteen barns and sheds.
It’s a covetable location, close to Emo Demesne where Deverell rented land. “We’re downsizing but not moving far — only up the road where we plan to build a house. We will be looking from The Rock of Dunamase back towards the house which we are very sad to leave. We have been very fortunate to have lived in such a nice community.”
De Vere Hunt points to the potential of the property, not just as a family home, but as a business, because of its outbuidings and location. It’s appealing national and internationally, with enquiries already received from the UK, she says.
Clockwise from top, the Old Rectory was built in 1790 for Lord Carlow’s son; the property sits on 45 acres of grassland, with a sizeable stableyard, outhouses and walled garden; the formal drawing room; and dining room.