WATCH: Garden paradise rooted in history

Tommy Barker is taken by the many charms of Carewswood House, which has links to White House

Castlemartyr, East Cork - €2.8 million

Size: 459 sq m (4,950 sq ft) on 40 acres
Bedrooms: 5
Bathrooms: 5
BER: Exempt

STEEPED in East Cork history, thanks to its status as a ‘dower’ house to the early 1700s mansion Castlemartyr House when owned by the Earls of Shannon (and now a 100-bed, truly luxury five-star hotel and golf resort), Carewswood House is a Munster Georgian home that also has links over the Atlantic ocean to the United States and to no less than the White House, and to its gardens.

To at least a generation of Corkonians, Carewswood House is associated with gardening in any case, as there’s been a garden centre and cafe, on and off, and through various ownerships, in its walled gardens for decades, and which reopened after a hiatus in 2013 under a lease, clearly thriving, and busy inside and out, when visited recently.

But, Carewswood House’s garden links go much further, over 200 years, and to the arrival of the Saul (or, Sall) family to Castlemartyr in the late 1700s, when a Barnabas Sall arrived to work on the demesne grounds for Richard Boyle, the second earl of Shannon.

The next generation, John Saul, continued at Castlemartyr, and at Carewswood House set just across the road from the village to Ladysbridge, working for Catherine, Dowager Countess of Shannon. He, and his son John, followed Henry, the third Earl of Shannon to East Cowes on the Isle of Wight. In turn, John moved to Wales and a garden role at Llantarnam Abbey, before moving to America in 1851.

Once in America, John and his brother James worked with landscaper Andrew Jackson Downing, and via his contacts the brothers were invited to Washington DC at a pivotal time in its physical evolution.

John Saul worked with William Dunlop Brackenride at the DC’s National Mall, Lafayette Square, the grounds of the Smithsonian Museum, and on the White House itself, and its Ellipse/South Square Presidents’ Garden. He started his own nursery in 1854, the same year that he became the first chairman of the Washington DC Parks Commission.

A plaque commemorating John Saul’s achievements was unveiled in Castlemartyr in 2010, marking quite the horticultural career trajectory, via England and Wales, for a boy from Carewswood. And, showing the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, John Saul’s son, Bernard F Saul, later founded BF Saul Company, DC’s first mortgage bank.

Direct descendant members of the Saul family have revisited Carewswood House in more recent times, say current owners Gill and Jack Hornibrook, and Gill says they were intrigued by the remnants of a part-underground passage leaving a corner of Carewswood’s basement, to be used by servants trekking between Castlemartyr and Carewswood houses in the Earls’ days, when staff were to be out of sight (but ever on hand) wherever possible.

Subsequent owners have included clergymen back in its 19th century youth, and its most previous owners, Neil and Sonia Williams were the plantspeople whose soft fruit and vegetable growing expertise led them to develop Carewswood Garden Centre in the late 1980s and they added the cafe and indoor retail space in 1991.

The Hornibrooks took on Carewswood 22 years ago, with a young family, and several business interests already in hand, in a classic case of’ if you want something done, ask an alreadybusy person.’

Jack Hornibrook, who trained as a carpenter, is a member of the Hornibrook Cork family of builders, and when buying Carewswood, they had been running Glendonagh Nursing home a few miles north of Midleton, in a period home at Dungourney, in a business set up by Gill 28 years ago.

Apart from building up and running Glendonagh, the couple were raising four daughters, and Gill (who’d grown up on the Sweetnam family farm on Maryborough Hill, clearly imbued with a work ethic and drive) had also opened a flower shop in Midleton.

So, of course they had time on their hands to also embrace Carewswood, on 40 farm acres, plus landscaped grounds, garden centre and cafe! Oh, and inter alia, Jack Hornibrook also developed the mixed-use/58-apartment scheme Camden Place on Cork city’s Camden Quay in the early 2000s.

Now, with children reared and grandchildren arrived, Jack and Gill (and, yes, they’ve heard all the jokes) are calling time on their period in Carewswood House, which is new to market this week, in glistening order inside and outside, with Midleton estate agent Shay Cronin of Cronin Wall.

He’s already had preliminary interest, he says, from overseas and from the Far East, and it’s quite the unusual offer in that there’s an income stream with the property’s mix as well, thanks to its several elements.

It’s guided at €2.8 million, and that’s for the house, and 40 acres in several paddocks, as well as a restored gate lodge, and two other houses in a converted and upgraded barn in a spotless courtyard.

(It comes to market as Midleton’s Charleston House is under offer just over its €3.75m guide, mostly due to its 10 acres of zoned land development scope, while north of Midleton, the period property Bilberry House, on 195 acres of top tillage land, has been taken off the market. Bilberry went for sale in June 2016, as an executor sale for its overseas owner family, guiding €3.75m, was later reduced to €2.7, but now is no longer available.)

Back at new East Cork market arrival Carewswood House, the three rental houses between them bring in close to €30,000 a year, while the garden centre and cafe is let at €20,000 on a 10 year lease from 2013, to a well-regarded and capable couple Daniel Leahy and Juulika Lomp, who bravely took it on in recessionary times, and have seen it blossom to local acclaim since.

Handily too, now that Carewswood House is up for sale, the

garden centre and cafe’s entrance has been moved back some 500 metres away from the house by road, around the corner and down a leafy country lane fringed by tall limestone estate walls, as old as those fringing the adjacent Castlemartyr Demesne.

Now, even though the garden centre itself, in its walled garden, is quite close to Carewswood, there’s a practical mature boundary division between them, and its presence doesn’t impinge on the privacy of the main house.

When the Hornibooks bought the early 1800s Georgian Carewswood House (and which was built in two very distinct sections, the older to the rear) it was already very good, but now it’s even better. They added the front porch with portico and columns, and to the side they added a slate-roofed sun room off the kitchen, now a favourite seating space, overlooking unsurprisingly pristine gardens, trimmed hedges, evergreens and perennials.

Internally, there’s close to 5,000 sq ft of quality living and sleeping space in the detached, robust two-storey home, with part basement in the house’s older, section and which has a side door and step to the grounds. Starting at the bottom of the property, the basement has been redone, it is bone dry, home to a games room with pool table, dart board and all richly carpeted, and a side passage leads to a wine cellar, store, and very useful large storage room which is well utilised. Why declutter when you have almost unlimited storage?

The entry level has an elegant marble-tiled hall, is high-ceilinged and with ornate plasterwork running all the way up to the first floor via pale, carpeted stairs with sturdy brass stair rods. The same floor runs to a back hall, similarly floored and heated underfoot , and making a feature room out of what was essentially a passageway, the couple put in a discrete, private home bar in a space which was boarded up and unused. Teed-off at a side angle, a few steps lead to a further short corridor, covered with family photos and mementoes, with a guest WC with Jacuzzi bath, and study/family room, and the smooth-worn limestone steps down to the basement also are to this rear section.

Up front, left and right of the hall, are the two formal, elegant and high-ceilinged 20’ by 17’ reception rooms, drawing room to the left, with double aspect, cheery yellow-painted walls, and has corniced ceilings and friezes. In contrast, the dining room is painted a rich red hue, contrasting with a white painted dummy arch and both rooms have large, white marble fireplaces, sourced from Italy via a supplier in Tipperary who has provided chimneypieces to castles, hotels and stately Irish homes.

Both reception rooms have salvaged, narrow strip maple floors which look right at home, despite being sourced relatively recently from an hotel in Midleton which was demolished due to subsidence: “it was sinking,” says Gill bluntly of the dance/function room floor, standing on the rock-solid perch it has since fetched up on, looking utterly at home. Completely homely too, yet large at 23’ by 20’, is the kitchen/family dining room, whose white units are topped with granite worktops, while a wide, green Aga pumps out the heat and the sustenance to keep a family (and, if needs be an estate of hidden staff) more than satisfied.

The part-tiled, part-wood floored kitchen also has Bosch ovens and appliances, American fridge, capacious units, plus a dresser, larder press, and an oversized island/wash-up station, home to an underslung ceramic sink, and two Fisher & Paykel dishwashers. The island’s top is highly polished, and cherished, hardwood, probably teak, with drain channels cut in either side of the sink, overseen by a swivel swisher tap, and the wood came out of the old Spoke Easy night club in Cork harbour’s Glenbrook by the now demolished Club Hotel, coincidentally owned by a family whose surname was, indeed, Carpenter.

Ranged off the kitchen in one direction is a large utility/laundry room, plus a home office, and to the kitchen’s other outer wall now is the 14’ by 13’ sunroom. Adding that sun room, plus the porch and Aga, has made Carewswood a very comfortable and easy to warm home, say the owners, while the pvc double glazing also helps keep the comfort factor up, even if in a not entirely sympathetic faux Georgian design.

Heading upwards, there are five comfortable bedrooms in all at first floor level, off a plushly carpeted stairs that splits on a half landing to the house’s front and back sections. All five have en suite bathrooms facilities, ‘tho one with a bath doubles up as an auxiliary family bathroom.

Several have built-ins or walk-in robes, and the master bedroom’s wash suite is room sized, extra large and plush, complete with ceiling-mounted Triton body dryer, effectively an overhead blow dryer which cuts down on damp towel woes. Cool.

In terms of condition, Carewswood House is as good as any buyer of a period home could wish for, with the added comfort factor that it has been the family home of an accomplished builder for over 20 years, surrounded by its own land, with rental income, and grace.

It’s within a short walk of Castlemartyr village and its shops and cafes, as is Ladysbridge, whilst the 2007 arrival of the five-star hotel resort and its golf facilities has brought a visible economic spin-off, boosting employment and increasing demand for boutique-style shops and upgrades.

And, the sea is close too, with beaches a cycle away at Garryvoe, fish jumping off boats in Ballycotton, and Cork city and airport are a 30 minute spin by car, or via rail at Midleton.

VERDICT: Living at Carewswood will be no martyrhood.

It is guided at €2.8 million, and that’s for the house, and 40 acres in several paddocks, as well as a restored gate lodge, and two other houses in a converted and upgraded barn in a spotless courtyard.



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