Warrenstown House, Drumree, Co. Meath and the remaining 72 acres will go under the hammer this month.
I met Brother O’Hare about seven years ago, when 450 acres of farmland belonging to Warrenstown Agricultural College Farm, Drumree, Co Meath, were offered for sale. And I was back again last Thursday meeting him, this time to view Warrenstown House and the last remaining 72 acres.
On arrival, I could have guessed that a nice cup of tea was on its way. You could smell the aroma of freshly baked buns (thanks to Rose) as we entered the house. While sipping our tea, Brother O’Hare told me that he has resided at Warrenstown for the past 63 years. He reminisced about the students, some coming from as far away as Cork, while others journeyed across the water from England.
Warrenstown Agricultural College was founded back in 1923 by the Salesian Order. It was one of the pioneers of agricultural education for almost eight decades and one of the few horticultural colleges in the country. At its peak, there were up to 160 agricultural and horticultural students passing through the doors annually. After years of educating and training students, the agricultural department closed its doors back in 2001, while the horticultural section remained open for a further eight years before closing in 2009.
The date of 30 June 2015 will undoubtedly mark the end of an era for Warrenstown College as the last of the land, along with Warrenstown House, will go under the hammer. But Brother O’Hare doesn’t look back with nostalgia, he looks forward with optimism.
As we walked around the grounds and yard, his passion for plants and shrubs was palpable. Celery leaf spot, the life cycle of the aphid and how to plant a beech hedge all came up in conversation. His attention to detail was admirable and his mind was just as sharp now as it was when he used to give lectures.
Comprising two storeys over basement, Warrenstown House dates back to the early 17th century. Extensions were later added on during the 18th and 19th centuries, with the most recent being a single storey built on in the 1900s to give circa 10,000 square feet of residential accommodation. The house was renovated and re-roofed in 2001 and can be found in excellent order.
Featuring high ceilings with decorative mouldings and cornicing, window shutters, Georgian architraves and a sweeping double-return staircase, the house is spacious, airy and full of light. Accommodation includes three large reception rooms, an oak-fitted kitchen, utility, bathroom, study, office and nine en-suite bedrooms. From the upstairs bedrooms you can see the beautiful Killeen Castle in the distance, while nestled in the adjoining trees is the renowned Dunsany Castle.
The basement features a laundry room, boiler room, an en-suite bedroom, bathroom, two vaulted wine cellars and a workshop. The house comes with oil-fired central heating, mains sewage and a private water supply.
Outside, there is a large forecourt parking area to the front, along with a number of lawns that are landscaped with beautiful mature trees and ornamental shrubs. Among these is a lovely enclosed vegetable and fruit garden. There is also a football pitch and the remnants of a pitch and put course, located a short distance from the house.
Entered through wrought iron gates, Warrenstown House is approached by a lengthy tree-lined avenue. Indeed, 25 of the 72 acres that are on offer are planted to oak, beech, larch and Scots pine and the majority of this (about 20 acres) is found on the right of the avenue as you approach the house. The forestry generates an annual premium of €1,620.
About 40 acres of the farm are in grass, which are mostly laid out in one big division and bordered by the River Skane, while the buildings and the gardens make up the remaining seven acres.
It’s clear when walking around outside that horticulture shaped the style of many of the buildings in the yard. There is about half an acre under glass – this extends to five huge glass houses and there is also a couple of mushroom tunnels. In order to give students a chance to design their own gardens, a dedicated students’ garden was commissioned, which is approached through a lovely stone arch. Inside, you can still see the work and the creative designs of a number of past students.
Overall, there are a lot of buildings on offer at Warrenstown. Some of these are contained within a beautiful, cut stone lofted courtyard, that features stables, tack room and cattle stalls. There is also a coachman’s house, a forge, a bell tower, two machinery sheds, a range of workshops and store houses, and a piggery. These can also be accessed from a back entrance.
For sale by public auction on 30 June at 3pm, in the auction room of Thomas Potterton, The Property Exchange, Trim, Warrenstown House will be offered in one lot only. Given the array of buildings and the period house that is on offer, the entire is keenly guided at €600,000 to €700,000.
In 2008, the sale of 450 acres at Warrenstown College Farm became the talk of the country when it sold under the hammer for €13.5m, or exactly €30,000/acre. This was the top price paid for land in May of that year, shortly before the country entered recession in November 2008.