YOU can see the final bend and five-furlong straight at Mallow Racecourse from the upstairs bedrooms of Firville House.
Mallow, Cork €675,000
Best feature: Old Mallow roots
And, if you could look back a century in time from here, you’d even have owned the grounds on which the now-named Cork Racecourse now stands.
New to market after almost 40 years of the same family’s ownership, Firville House is a slice of local Mallow and Blackwater valley history, dating back to an estate of the same name of at least 500 acres, a mile or so upriver from Mallow town, and about a 30-minute commute from Cork City.
That flat land, down closer to the River Blackwater, is now occupied by Cork Racecourse, or Mallow Racecourse, as this mile and a half national hunt and flat-racing course got named back in 1924, when it was sold on and hived off from Firville, described as “ a house with pedigree,” according to estate agents Catherine McAuliffe and Michael O’Donovan, of Savills, Cork.
Right now, this early 1800s over-basement home is on four acres of ground, with a compact walled garden, tennis courts and some specimen hardwood trees, and is priced at €675,000.
Mr O’Donovan says a neighbouring landowner could add further lands in front of the main house, to its side, and partially wrap around the back of Firville’s walled garden, as well.
For those looking for a more complete country home package, there’s also an option to purchase a modern-build gate lodge: that lodge is just inside Firville’s ancient and imposing limestone pillars, with its electrically controlled wrought-iron gates along the Navigation Road west of Mallow town.
Firville’s been home since the mid-1970s to Ursula and Paddy Lenehan, who reared four children here, and who have celebrated numerous happy family occasions, including a wedding last year for 150 guests, many of whom were accommodated in modern-day teepees. The teepees also saw service in last year’s Electric Picnic Festival.
And, for the millennium, the family built an octagonal garden room, nicknamed Paddy’s Pub, in the grounds, close to a brick barbecue and pond.
Before the Lenehan family’s tenure here, it had belonged to Ursula’s (nee Sheehan) grand uncle, Samuel Sheehan, who had acquired it in 1914, and he was noted racehorse woner in his day.
Earlier, in the 1890s it also was lived in by a Major A R Hutchinson, who was a resident magistrate for Mallow. The original parkland Firville estate has been traced back to the 1680s, and to the Chapman family.
Other significant changes to the long-term prospect from the fine Firville would have been brought about by the presence of the Mallow Sugar Beet Factory, directly in its southerly view.
This sugar factory, which used to process a million tonnes of beet a year, finally closed in 2006 and was removed after 80 years of operation, restoring pastoral (and racecourse) views from this particular property. While the jobs were a loss to Mallow, the Blackwater vista minus the beet factory’s imposing bulk is at least improved.
Firville’s a big block of a house, but not overly imposing, with a series of useful basement or lower-ground rooms that have separate external access and could, quite easily, be independently occupied.
This lower level is surrounded by a channel or dry moat, so its walls stand back from the ground, allowing good light through full windows, and a second (service) stairs runs internally through Firville House, from the lower ground/basement, up past the kitchen, and on right up to the first-floor level, via a spiral stairs section.
There’s a further flight of back stairs to the attic level, home to another suite of rooms, under a partially redone roof — only the back portion needed attention, it appears, and the central chimney breast has also been replastered.
Limestone steps lead over the dry moat to the fan-lit front door, which has delicate, ornate ironwork tracery arching over the double-entry doors, between simple limestone columns.
The external appearance shows a mix of original, arched and oval windows to the rear, and some sashes as well. Most of the main windows and all of those to the front have been replaced with pvc double glazing — but a new owner might choose to reinstate timber once more, for architectural integrity.
Internally, Firville House is far more intact, with outer hall (with fireplace), and it has a far grander inner hall, with a split, cantilevered stairs with central lower steps spreading out to two side wings on a return, with ornate celing plasterwork around the landing, while its three main reception rooms all have similar elaborate plasterwork, much of it reinstated by the Lenehans during their tenure at Firville.
Also appropriate are old doors and doorcases, and many chimneypieces and brass fire-baskets.
Outside, a rear porch was added, in brick, to help draught-proof and protect the old, arched back door, again in an old limestone case, and built back here, in brick, is a double garage, linked to the patio and fronting the walled garden with old apple trees.
As south-facing Firville House comes to market, its selling agents, Savills, point to the lack of supply of period homes within an easy commute of Cork City and airport, and say the Blackwater setting, and proximity to the racecourse, could open up a prospect of a part-commercial use.
And they also expect overseas interest, especially from those with any local links, as well as grounded Cork, Mallow and Munster inquiries.
VERDICT: Essentially sound, and with some grand internal features reflecting its pedigree, Firville’s €675,000 price-tag reflects the fact that it needs to be updated, while many would-be buyers may want to add more land to the mix.
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