A private Blackwater Valley family home since the 1750s, and only once ever before changing family hands’ ownership after its ‘first’ 200 years, Co Waterford’s Salterbridge House is, however, a rather special place and one that despite such private ownership will be familiar to many.
Why? Well, it eschews its privacy quite voluntarily, given it has offered itself up in recent year as a venue for the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival; it has hosted the occasional wedding; its quite exceptional gardens with specimen and quite rare trees are open the public 60 days a year, and its winsome gate lodge (one of two) can be rented via a lease to the Irish Landmark Trust.
Acknowledged to be one of the Great Blackwater Houses -it’s in some pretty exalted company, let it be said) also in Salterbridge House’s mix and all on 136 acres of prime Munster land are six acres of formal garden, a two acre walled garden, seven acres of forestry/woodland, a 5,000 sq ft steward’s house, stables, two gate lodges, tennis court and acres of ground adrift with season daffodils, once exported to the Savoy Hotel in London and to other markets.
So, while occupation and ownership is a privilege, Salterbridge House is also an estate property that hasn’t been afraid to roll up its sleeves, to work for its living, and to be open to garden and music lovers.
Now, it’s for sale and it will be up to its next family owners to decide just what level of engagement they want for income and appreciative usage, be it with rentals, being part of the Waterford Garden Trail, or musical recitals in the acoustically-adept, timbered Victorian era great hall, with its bifurcated staircase, Corinthinan columns and carvings.
Current owners of Salterbridge House are Philip and Susie Wingfield, and it came into Wingfield care in 1947, after Europe’s great military upheaval: it had been used by the Irish Army for several years during the ‘Emergency’ years.
Before that, it had belonged for two full centuries to the Musgrave family and most of what’s seen here now dates to later years, with two bursts of building in the mid 1800s, on lands once associated with the Devonshires’ Lismore Estate, which once stretched to 18,000 acre and which still has 8,000 acres to its credit.
Rightly famed Lismore Castle became the fulcrum for an annual festival, which a few years back broadened its venue remit from Lismore to a wider catchment, ‘rebranding’ as the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival -this year’s festival in late May to June 1 fell mute to Covid-19 restrictions).
Included now in the festival venue’s line-up are a stellar cast which include St Mary’s Collegiate College Church in Youghal, just over the Blackwater river in East Cork’s far outpost, in a building with 800 years of pedigree. There too are Lismore’s St Carthage’s Cathedral and church, Villierstown Church, and on the more secular front as recital venues are a converted barn at Dromore Yard, Tourin House, Salterbridge House and Cappoquin House, with the latter in Keane family hands since the 1750s.
So Salterbridge House is in quite blue-blooded company among the Great Blackwater Houses? Who’ll turn up for it now?
It’s for sale as an entire, via private treaty with a €3.25m price guide quoted by agents Roseanne De Vere Hunt of Sherry FitzGerald’s Country Homes and Estate division, with David Reynolds of Sherry FitzGerald Reynolds, in Dungarvan, and who knows the prize he has on offer here.
The main eight-bedroomed house is 16,000 sq ft, described as being in the picturesque Regency style, in good order, with interiors a mix of Late Georgian and early Victorian in the main.
The bones are good and the grounds are even better, including a quarter of great Irish elm, Korean fir, and what’s thought to be the largest cork oak tree on this island among the venerable native and exotic hardwoods.
The Covid-19 crisis will have a mixed impact on the barely-recovered Irish country homes market, and in its sales favour will the desire of wealthy elites to have security in times of worrying pandemics and economic wobbles.
A buyer could come from near, or far: the last few years’ really big estate sales of up to and over €20m, have been to overseas and primarily US-based buyers. Chinese are reportedly active in one or two West Cork deals of substance.
There hasn’t been a lot of Blackwater Valley activity of late: dancer Michael Flatley took his Castlehyde Estate near Fermoy off the market last year when interest didn’t match his high price expectations, and one of the solid sales was of Carrigacunna Castle near Mallow, for €1.85m.
Salterbridge House has extensive buildings, possibly on a scale to more suit a far bigger acreage than ‘just’ 136 acres, and while the land has a good mix, including formal gardens, there isn’t that ‘gold-dust’ extra asset, which is frontage on the River Blackwater and precious fishing rights.
Having floated it on the market as lockdown lifts this June, De Vere Hunt says this sale by the Wingfield family is “an incredibly rare opportunity to make one of the signature houses of the Blackwater Valley your own, it fits into the unique social life of this famous region.”
VERDICT: No playing second fiddle at lyrical Salterbridge.
Size: 1,449 sq m (15,600 sq ft, main house only)
Land: 136 acres
Bedrooms: 8 + 5 +3 +2