Born again church sale

THE couple behind the conversion of a former Church of Ireland church at Kilgallan, near Westport in Co Mayo — the only Irish building project to feature on Channel 4’s Grand Designs — have put the finished project on the market.

The 1835-built limestone Church of Ireland building at Clew Bay by the village of Kilmeena, had its belltower hit by lightning in 1902 and was left gutted and open to the skies for the next 101 years before a brave and professional restoration job converted it into a family home.

The painstaking and craftsman-led restoration project found an acolyte in TV presenter Kevin McCloud.

“Rarely have I seen a successful church conversion,” McCloud says of the project tackled by architect Andrew Lohan (of Brazil-Lohan) and his wife Jackie, adding: “they have achieved a delicate balance in maintaining the theatre of space but at same time they have made a comfortable, practical home of an uncompromising building and it has to be the best church conversion I have ever seen.”

Strong hymns of praise indeed from McCloud, who followed the Lohan’s personal vision over a 10-month period after they’d first spotted its derelict shell a decade ago while on holidays in the west of Ireland.

Now, a few years after salvation, and after numerous Lohan family holidays and use as holiday lettings, the completed, soaring, tall and slender stone structure is up for sale.

Local agent Anthony Crowley of Sherry FitzGerald Crowley seeks €780,000 — and a ready convert.

He underlines the unusual mix and contrast of old and new within its limestone frame, on an acre near Clew Bay, only three or four miles from tourism hotspot and Tidy Towns winner, Westport.

The new interior has been achieved through lightweight timber framing, with dramatic full-height views through its lofty, three-level central core via a cluster of Velux windows.

There’s scope for up to five bedrooms, with two en suites, along with a Victorian-themed salvaged kitchen (with Smeg cooker), oak flooring at ground level and geothermal underfloor heating, plus an open fire in the triple height living space and a stove under the feature altar windows.

There’s a living room, library, kitchen/dining hall with utility, four bedrooms, two en suite bathrooms plus shower room and a top-floor study or fifth bedroom.

The work was a labour of love by dedicated builder Padraig O’Malley and stonemason Cathal Cregg with the detailed conservation work, lime rendering and pointing as well as clearly delineated modern interventions showing exactly what’s old, what’s new and what’s reborn.

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