A landmark building on the southern hill flanking Fermoy town, the 200-year-old Presentation Convent is about to leave the order’s hands, after almost 100 years in their ownership, and having moved over its long life from spirit distillers’ Johnnie Walkers, to spirits of a more religious flavour.
The order acquired the historic and substantial two-storey property in 1922, when it left private family ownership hands, and it’s said to date to about 1820.
It was initially built as a private residence, and with much of the surrounding lands offered in the early 1800s to Scottish distillers Johnnie Walker & Co to set up a distillery in Fermoy by fellow-Scots/Cork entrepreneur John Anderson who established the town of Fermoy as a British garrison town, with over 3,000 troops garrisoned there.
It was later separated out from its lands and sold in 1922, when the Presentation Order who had been in Fermoy since 1838, bought it unopposed at a public auction.
It later served as a primary school, as a “secondary top” school, and as a novitiate for the Presentation Order in the Diocese of Cloyne.
More recently, it has been a community home for sisters in the order, now just numbering two, Sr Catherine and Sr Eucharia, who’s been a volunteer assistant up to 2018. They are moving to a bungalow locally after many years in the 10,000sq ft over-basement building, and having seen much of its changes.
Just up for sale with a €850,000 price guide, it’s in very good condition, on 6.8 part-wooded acres, orchard and pleasure gardens, with commanding Blackwater valley and expansive views over the town.
It’s on largely walled-in grounds which include a large pleasure pond, fed by water from Corrin Hill, and a cluster of old, cut-stone courtyard buildings.
It’s also one of several very substantial educational and religious institution buildings in a large and prominent position close to the Loretto Convent and school, with a range of future new uses posited, including hospitality/tourism.
It’s fresh to market for the first time in 97 years with estate agent John Hodnett of Hodnett Forde, who’s based in Clonakilty and who has a series of other convent property sales already secured for the Presentation Sisters, among several other religious bodies.
They include the sale of a convent in Listowel, the advanced sale of the Mercy Heights school property in Skibbereen with a tech-related purchase angle, and Inchydoney House near Clonakilty, used as summer residence by the Presentation Sister, sold for €700,000+ by auction in 2013 and since the focus of a further €1m+ investment as a luxurious private residence.
And, another of those ‘rosary bead’ string of sales include the most recent one, the ‘Sale Agreed’ of the Presentation Order convent in West Cork’s Rosscarbery, overlooking the lagoon and the beach. Rosscarbery’s stunningly sited C19th convent, which is attached to the local secondary school, is understood to be being bought for niche boutique-style accommodation use, with local unconfirmed reports of a high-profile TV celebrity buyer, with international hospitality sector expertise, but that sale has not yet concluded.
Clonakilty-based John Hodnett describes the eight bay building as a Fermoy and Co Cork landmark, with important and historic roots within the north Cork town and its community of Fermoy: among the past pupils is Ballynoe-born Dr Patricia Casey, professor of psychiatry in UCD and a noted media commentator, who attended Loretto and the Presentation order schools before studying medicine in UCC.
The building largely avoids an institutional air, thanks to its early C19th origins as a private home, and its Italianate architectural ornamentation, and its soft-hued sandstone ashlar construction is quite uncommon for the region.
Built over a partial basement, it extends to over 10,000sq ft, with three principal reception rooms (one’s a former ballroom), and large west-facing sun room, with 15 bedrooms, and service rooms. At one stage as a novitiate it had closer to 40 sub-divided bedrooms.
In an architectural appraisal, the Buildings of Ireland/National Inventory guide notes that “the large scale and site of this convent make it a prominent feature on the Fermoy townscape.
“Its façade places much emphasis on ornamentation, and is enlivened by well executed Italianate features such as the window surrounds, bracketed cornice and balustrade to the porch. The sandstone construction is unusual in the town, as is the imposing and solid form of the building which is accentuated by the rusticated surrounds and quoins.”
The offer includes 6.8 acres bounded by College Road, Richmond Hill and the N72/main town’s strip to the north, with two entrances/access points, main building, paddocks, orchard, garden walks, specimen hardwood trees, a small man-made lake, garden gazebo, and a substantial old courtyard with derelict coach-house, stables and stone worksheds. It has mains services, oil heating, and is BER-exempt.
Hodnett Forde are selling by private treaty, initially at least, and having launched it in the last week to market say there’s already interest from the locale, Munster inquiries as well as some from the UK and says sections “are ideal for future development, if planning permission were granted.” They expect interest from investors, developers and possible end users such as hoteliers/hospitality/accommodation providers.
Details: Hodnett Forde 023-8833367