Splendid Laois mansion goes on the market for €20 million

Leinster Express Reporter

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Leinster Express Reporter

Beautiful book launched on the history and restoration of Abbey Leix demesne

Sir David Davies pictured at Abbey Leix house with the book he commissioned.

One of the most splendid mansions in Ireland and Laois is on the market for €20 million.

Abbey Leix House and Demense owner Sir David Davies has decided to sell the property which he bought with 1,200 acres from the De Vesci family in 1995. 

Under the ownership of the banker, the house and grounds have benefited from an extensive renovation described by auctioneers Ireland Sotheby's International Realty as 'spectacular'.

A book by William Laffan about the house was published in 2017 with the full involvement of its owner. Sir David spoke to the Leinster Express at the time.

“The original restoration took four and a half years, it had to be completely rewired, there was no central heating. Every window had to be replaced or restored, 117 of them. We moved in for Christmas 1999, just before the millennium, and we have lived here as a family ever since” he said.

He also began a restoration of the grounds, which now includes the restored formal gardens and lake, a stud farm, cattle farming and tenanted houses, as well as ancient and new woodlands.

“We have a lot of wildlife, red squirrel, hare and fallow deer, it’s a little oasis. It's a family home, I wanted it called a home and not a house in the title, because that is what it is to me and my family," Sir David said.

Born in Wales, a son of a steel baron, Sir David was knighted for his support of the arts.

“I’m a blow-in, I was brought to Ireland by my parents in 1947, they bought a home in Wicklow, Killoughter. It’s a smaller Georgian house. It was left to me, I still own it,” he said.

The auctioneers set out a description of the property. 

"Abbey Leix is one of the most venerable 18th-century houses in Ireland and, following a spectacular restoration, it is also one of the most congenial. In any list of important Irish country houses Abbey Leix has a prominent place. The late-18th-century mansion, clothed in the Italianate manner in 1859-60, enjoys a remarkable position within a private estate comprising some 1,120 acres and includes some of Ireland€TM most notable remaining ancient woodland and extensive frontage to the River Nore. The accommodation is grand and beautifully executed with the mansion comprising some 26,910 square feet or 2,500 square metres. The mansion is augmented by 10 lodges and cottages on the estate. MORE BELOW PICTURE.

"Abbey Leix was designed in 1773 by the noted architect James Wyatt. The house is an elegant three-storey Classical mansion of seven bays, the three central bays under a triangular pediment. The arrangement of rooms is elegant and simple, with three major rooms on the park front. There is a deep hall, with a screen of columns separating it from the east-west-running staircase hall and corridor. The music room at the south-eastern corner of the house retains the light, decorative plasterwork for which Wyatt was so admired. Plaster roundels framed by swags of husks were decorated with grisaille by the artist De Gree a few years after completion, probably about 1785. MORE BELOW PICTURE

"In the middle of the 19th-century the Italianate character was adopted and the great Classical library and a conservatory were added. At the same time the front of the house was enclosed within an Entrance Court with terraces added to the rear. A comprehensive and sympathetic restoration was undertaken in 1995. A new state dining room was created. The whole north-west corner of the accommodation was redesigned to provide a new family room, kitchen and butler's pantry. A considerable programme of conservation of the major rooms followed. The works create a 21st-century family home with an appropriate balance between comfort and informality on the one hand and grandeur for entertaining and the display of art on the other. MORE BELOW PICTURE

"Abbey Leix has one of the most important collections of trees in Ireland. Whereas elsewhere in Ireland the primeval forests of oak, birch, alder and willow have been almost entirely depleted, the woods on Park Hill across the river from the house are among the last surviving remnants of Ireland's ancient woodland. Abbey Leix, like so many places in Ireland, owes its origins to religious settlement, and specifically to the French Cistercian monks who came to Ireland in the mid-12th-century. The present demesne evolved out of the monastery, granges, woods and fields. One tree, the oldest oak in Ireland still survives from this period. The de Vesci family fashioned a landscape as beautiful as the house they built during their ownership between 1675 and 1995. MORE BELOW PICTURE

"A stud farm is positioned within the original farmstead and includes an attractive range of cut-stone outbuildings. A beautiful principal yard, complete with a clock tower, was built of local limestone in 1822. The quadrangular yard contains 24 loose boxes. A separate farmyard has a range of farm sheds. The farmland provides good grazing. The limestone soil is ideal for rearing and keeping bloodstock, being well laid out in well sheltered and gently undulating fields and paddocks. Positioned centrally within the estate the house is quiet and private, the wooded drive being circa 1 mile long," concludes the description.

The property is listed on Daft.ie

For sale by private tender, the property includes nine bedrooms and 10 bathrooms.

The monthly repayments on a 35-year mortgage would be €62,435.81 with a €2 million.