Wilbur Smith kept the tale of his stay in this €1.25m Midleton home to himself

Oakfield House is on a site for sore eyes and it comes with stables, a two-storey detached garage and a gate lodge 
Wilbur Smith kept the tale of his stay in this €1.25m Midleton home to himself

Oakfield House, Midleton. Picture: John Roche

Midleton, East Cork

€125m

Size

449 sq m (4833 sq ft)

Bedrooms

5

Bathrooms

4

BER

B3

WILBUR Smith, master storyteller, transporter of readers to a myriad exotic locations, kept one tale very close to his chest: the year he spent living in Midleton.

A larger-than-life character who rarely batted away questions on his personal life, this is one detail that does not surface in an internet trawl of the Zambian-born author.

Wilbur Smith in Dublin in 2003. Picture: Billy Higgins
Wilbur Smith in Dublin in 2003. Picture: Billy Higgins

You’ll find plenty of information about the late writer’s swash buckling adventure novels (he died last year having written 49 novels, selling 140 million copies, in 30 languages), but the only time his name arises in connection with Ireland, is in reports that he applied for an Irish passport in 1994.

Of his homes, the reports mention four: London, South Africa, Switzerland and Malta. But there was a time in the noughties when he toyed with the idea of buying a home in Ireland, opting to rent in the end.

Front of Oakfield House
Front of Oakfield House

This little nugget — possibly a world exclusive — is revealed by the owner of the home Mr Smith chose to stay in, featured here, Oakfield House in Pheasant Wood, when he visited Ireland in 2005.

The owner, who grew up in Midleton, bought the site in 2003 and knocked an existing bungalow back to the four walls. The replacement build was heading for completion when Mr Smith arrived.

“The house was nearly done, we were on the second fix. I was talking to the carpenter about what timber to use in the roof of the porch when a couple of jeeps pulled into the driveway.

“I didn’t pay any attention because there were jeeps coming and going the whole time with different tradesmen.” “A man got out of one and came up to me and said ‘Hello, I’m Wilbur Smith’. I said ‘Hello’ back.” It was so out of context, the owner did not realise who he was dealing with. When Mr Smith asked to have a look around, the owner didn’t bat an eyelid. After viewing the house and grounds, Mr Smith said he loved it and expressed an interest in buying or leasing it.

About three weeks later he made contact again and repeated his request to rent. The owners, who had planned to live there themselves, decided to go for it.

“He leased it for a year in 2005/2006 and his only request was in relation to an internet connection. He was a lovely man and his wife, Niso, was lovely too.

“We got to know Wilbur a bit while he was here and he said what he loved about the house was the different sense he got in individual rooms because of the different views.

There's a fabulous selection of trees around the house
There's a fabulous selection of trees around the house

“You look out one window and you see a black walnut tree, you look out another and you see copper beeches, or huge oak trees, or the stables, or the gate lodge, or the huge lawn to the rear,” he says.

The owners had rented with such ease that when Mr Smith moved on, they let it out as a corporate rental.

“Tenants have adored the place and anyone who has lived here has talked about how peaceful it is and how convenient too, because it’s so easy to access the Jack Lynch Tunnel from here and head to the airport, and it’s so near Midleton,” the owner says.

The tenants loved the privacy too of this phenomenal three-acre site. Outback has the feel of a golf course.

Rear garden is like a fairway
Rear garden is like a fairway

 You could tee-off from just beyond the patio down a very long fairway without any fear of losing a golf ball over a neighbour’s wall. The only challenge would be to clear the occasional tree. It is truly beautiful parkland where the only real maintenance is mowing the vast lawns. 

Gate Lodge
Gate Lodge

Flower beds are not a feature, instead wild garlic and bluebells skirt the site boundaries, and clump around a gorgeous old gate lodge which is in reasonable shape despite its age, if a buyer wanted to convert it.

Separate stables are freshly painted, with some very handy wall hangers for tack, including a wall mounted saddle rack.

Stables
Stables

A previous owner kept horses and had a paddock, and Sheila O’Flynn of Sherry FitzGerald, who is joint selling agent with Gillian McDonnell, says the paddock could easily be reinstated. There’s a large detached garage too.

The house itself, a 4,833 sq ft whopper, designed by David Mulcahy of Concepts Architects in Fermoy, is a showcase for the use of oak, with a sweeping oak staircase case rising up from the entrance hall and even solid oak stair gates.

Solid Oak staircase
Solid Oak staircase

 Floors are solid white oak, buffed up recently by Douglas-based O’Flynns Flooring and the kitchen is in oak too.

Open plan kitchen diner
Open plan kitchen diner

Accommodation-wise, the buyer will be spoilt for choice, from the huge kitchen/diner, open plan to an 11-window living room (natural light is a key feature throughout), to the sitting room just off the dining area, to a family room with French doors to the perfectly positioned south-facing patio.

Patio
Patio

There’s a playroom/gamesroom too with a little kitchenette off it (keep the kids at bay) and a utility room. 

Games room
Games room

Two more downstairs’ rooms offer home office potential.

Overhead, two of five bedrooms are ensuite, and the main bedroom is an actual suite, with His and Her walk-in wardrobes.

Ms O’Flynn says there’s a terrific sense of space and openness, evident as soon as you cross the threshold.

“This exceptional home can comfortably facilitate everything a family could ever need,” she says. She adds that bus routes, a rail line and the airport are easily accessed and Cork city is about a 20 minute drive.

VERDICT: If it was good enough for Wilbur....

Truly high quality home

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