House of the week

A DINOSAUR in the garden is just one of the surprises at the Old Presbytery, a ‘gentleman’s residence’ in the heart of the heritage town of Lismore.

Originally built by the Duke of Devonshire for managerial staff on the Lismore estate in the 1820s, the townhouse with walled garden and mews was also a doctor’s home in the mid-1800s, and was rented to the Catholic Church in 1880 — and they bought it in 1913.

It housed the town’s curates in the mid and later 1900s, but by the ‘80s and ‘90s it was starting to show signs of neglect. Then in stepped David and Jane Keating, and Horatio, the friendly Tyrannosaurus Rex, a scale model made for zoos and garden centres but who has been at home here for years.

With Irish roots, and a UK upbringing, solicitor David Keating and his wife Jane were frequent visitors to Ireland and west Cork. They sort of fell across Lismore, in west Waterford, and fell for its charms.Then, in 1995 they fortuitously fell across the Old Presbytery when an acquaintance mentioned it had been for sale — and they bought it, from a builder John Ryan, who they then engaged to oversee its careful restoration. They never fell out.

Without so much as an estimate — “I’d never recommend to a client to do this, but there was no point in getting an estimate, you’d never know what you’d come across in the work,” says retired lawyer David — the work proceeded, harmoniously, and honourably.

Now, with a decade and a half of happy and productive times in residence, the Keatings say they’re ready to trade down to an easier-to-keep property, hence the sale of the Old Presbytery via local agent Ken Madden. He guides the large and alluring mix at €650,000, and that’s for an authentic Georgian period home of easy comfort, with retained original features, a walled garden of one-third of an acre, side access, front wildflower garden, re-roofed two-storey stone mews building, barn, store, conservatory and potting shed, with feature pond.

The walled garden is 135’ by 100’, planted with fruit, vegetables and flowering shrubs, cut by pathways and graced by a central pond, with frogs and fish.

Location of this oasis within an oasis town is the South Mall, in this intelligently laid-out section of Lismore’s townscape, among several comparable quality homes of similar vintage and also once associated with the Duke’s estate.

Turn right out Presbytery door and the post office is to hand or to foot within a minute’s walk, while around the next corner shops, bars and restaurants all fall into place.

Selling agent Ken Madden is smitten, and says this house has “a gracious and sought-after position in the town of Lismore,” and once inside its grounds it’s a haven of garden tranquillity.

On the bigger picture, Cork and Waterford cities and airports are about an hour’s drive away.

Three of the house’s first floor bedrooms have en suite bathrooms, and the top floor has three more multi-use rooms, plus a further bathroom.

Ground floor space includes a wide hall with decorative plasterwork and ceiling rose, drawing room, dining room, library, a parquet-floored conservatory opening out via French doors to a cobbled yard, kitchen with Aga range and Belfast sink, a pantry, plus a laundry.

Overall condition is very good, especially for a home coming up on its 200th birthday, and the glade-like gardens give a myriad of sitting-out options.

VERDICT: The walled-in gardens are a delight, making a move to town centre living an option for those who like their privacy.

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