House of the Week: Parsons House, Churchtown

As rooted as any house can be in its community... that’s Parsons House, in North Cork’s Churchtown village, writes Tommy Barker
House of the Week: Parsons House, Churchtown

Despite its winsome, ‘English’ village sounding title, it’s at the centre of a Golden Vale community that values its heritage, and heritage buildings, is steeped in horse lore, and also values its human inhabitants, past and present.

Set off the N7 Cork-Limerick road, a few kilometres from Buttevant and Charleville, in prosperous countryside, Churchtown was the birthplace of one Vincent O’Brien in 1917, the race horse trainer extraordinaire, and key co-creator of the Coolmore dynasty, whose equine influences now span the globe.

Churchtown’s love affair with thoroughbred horses continues, as retired top jockey and horse trainer Jim Culloty (whose ‘Lord Windermere’ won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2014) lives locally, where he runs stables. Also internationally linked to Churchtown was the late, great and notoriously hell-raising pedigree actor Oliver Reed, who came to live in Churchtown in his latter years, via tax exile in Guernsey, and was an established fixture in the diminutive local bar O’Briens. Reed died in 1999, while filming Gladiator, and is interred in the 13th century Bruhenny cemetery, almost alongside Parsons House.

Built of tooled limestone, with retained sash windows all under a slate roof, it’s a house delivered to service as a rectory under the once-enormous Egmont Estate, is of significant craftsmanship, and dates to 1835 when it was built as part of a 19th century renewal of Churchtown’s core, after many of its older thatched buildings were burned down by the Whiteboys in 1822.

(Churchtown also got a 1990s injection of building renewal with enthusiastic involvement from locally-born Gerry Murphy, author of the Accidental Entrepreneur, and the Annals of Churchtown, and who opened the local hostelry Boss Murphys, which sold in 2004.)

According to the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, Parsons House’s first recorded occupant was a Reverend Lucius George, whose name may, indeed, have been lent to the village’s George’s Street, where this former rectory is located. The register suggests too that “the materials for the finely crafted elevations of this building are believed to have come from the nearby Windmill Quarry, owned by the earl. The house has retained its varied timber sash windows, considerably enhancing its interest. As one of a group of 19th century structures built for the enrichment of the village, its construction forms a significant part of the history of the area, playing an important role in the collective memory of the local community.”

Right in the heartbeat of heritage-proud Churchtown, Parsons House has been in private family hands since the late 1960s/early 1970s, and now is being sold by the second generation of that family to live there. It came to market just this week, with a price guide of €195,000 quoted by joint agents John Barry of Frank V Murphy & Associates in Cork city, and with John Ryan of DNG Ryan in North Cork: they say they strongly expect it to be bought once more as a private home, for appreciative owner-occupation.

“It’s a gem, one that needs a bit of polishing up again now, but it will get there,” observes John Barry who has his first viewings starting Monday.

It’s an L-shaped, attractively proportioned period home just under 1,800 sq ft, so has a good deal of space for a family or a couple, without being overly large, and has kept lots of its period features, inside and out.

Add the fact that it’s on a quarter acre within the village, with a small series of as-old cut stone outbuildings, plus secondary access from Burton Road which opens up some extra development scope and Parsons House is both a project and a private retreat in waiting.

“Whilst in need of refurbishment and some modernisation, it will suit a purchaser who is looking for a unique period property with private grounds to the rear in a charming village environment,” advises an enthused John Barry.

VERDICT: Don’t be parsimonious.

Churchtown, Co Cork, €195,000

Size: 167sq m (1,790 sq ft) on .25 of an acre

Bedrooms: 4

Bathrooms: 2

BER: Pending

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