Charlesfort House, Ferns, Co. Wexford Asking Price: €1.25M (AMV) Brokers: Kehoe and Associates (053) 9144 393
he 1947 All-Ireland Football Final is famous for two reasons. Hosted in New York, it was the only final ever played outside of Ireland. Even more unusual was Cavan beating Kerry.
The final in New York was meant to mark the centenary of the Great Famine and the waves of emigration to the United States that followed. And Cavan’s 2-7 to 2-11 day score was attributed by many pundits to this team’s shorter travel time, having opted for a 30-hour flight via the Azores. In contrast, the Kerry team made a long journey by sea.
Tens of thousands of Irish Americans descended on New York’s Polo Ground to cheer on their resident or select teams. At home, all of Ireland tuned in to Michael O’Hehir’s commentary on the radio. Overall the event was a great success (outside of Kerry).
Much of the planning was probably done at Charlesfort House, near Ferns in Co Wexford, the home of Martin O’Neill, the man who would be appointed referee of the historic game.
O’Neill was comfortable in GAA circles and served as secretary of Leinster Council. During his tenure many council meetings were held in Charlesfort and, as a passionate supporter of Wexford, he often hosted the big Rackard hurling brothers, who came out onto the lawn to chat and gamble.
But O’Neill’s home, a sizable 4,281-square-foot historic residence built in 1839, was later destroyed by fire in 1977, and for 30 years it seemed destined to remain a crumbling ruin until Tom Murray im year 2004 appeared.
Murray describes his decision to buy and rebuild Charlesfort as “accidental”. His bank manager and friends called it the “pile of rocks”.
Murray, who ran his own engineering and civil engineering business, was told about the house by a relative who worked for him. ‘He was always on my trail about Charlesfort. I ended up going up to see it and I have to say I didn’t like it, at least from the street. As I was walking up the back alley to the property, I saw a property for sale across from the back gate and I actually went to look.”
But his colleague convinced him to go back and see Charlesfort. This time he went in and walked around. The place was almost completely derelict: “There was no roof, no windows, no floors, there were trees growing out of the ground in the kitchen and dining room, and there was about four feet of rubble in the basement,” Tom says, “but I have to say the structure was fantastic, absolutely powerful.
“I didn’t know if I could make a house like that,” he says, “but I thought about it and I started to think it could be made into a very nice property. It was a known house, an GAA house and so on. So between the jigs and the reels, me and my wife Mary said we were going to try it.”
Once a deal was in place, Tom sought out his bank manager, who agreed to support him. But just as he was about to start work, the banker called a mutual friend to see how things were going. Apparently, when he heard the project was underway, his feet got cold.
Coincidentally, Tom was in the car with his friend when the banker called. Tom recalls thinking he wouldn’t mention the house to him again until he was “sitting at the kitchen table in Charlesfort.” So Tom avoided broaching the subject with his banker friend.
“One day he called me to ask if he could meet me. When he asked me where, I said, ‘Come up to the house.’” When the banker asked him what house he had, Tom told him to go to Charlesfort.
It arrived on schedule and, according to Tom, paled even more when he saw the finished product.
From the time of purchase in 2004, it took approximately two and a half years to complete work at Charlesfort. Although it was not listed, Tom and Mary remained true to the house’s origins. The building permit had certain conditions, including installing wooden sliding windows, maintaining door sizes, and the like. “We used lime mortar for the walls, which is traditional and also serves as insulation,” says Tom.
Structurally, the basement and ground floor follow the original floor plan, apart from the kitchen, which was moved from the basement to the ground floor. However, on the upper floor it was radically changed.
Mary took care of the interior design and gardens according to her own instincts, without reference to old photographs or anything like that. “I did all the donkey work and Mary did all the tasty work,” says Tom.
“The drains under the house didn’t need to be touched,” explains Tom, “they used ceramic pipes and when we put a camera down we could see they were all sparkling clean. They dug out the drains and built a wall with rocks on each side of the pipe down to the ground, fantastic job.”
Charlesfort House is a double arched country house located 3 miles from the village of Ferns. The whole consists of the main house, two guest houses, 5.5 acres of land, extensive gardens, a large workshop with additional double sided attic.
The two-storey basement of 4,821 sqm comprises an entrance hall, large reception/living room, dining room, four bedrooms, four bathrooms, kitchen/dining room, pantry, library/study, laundry room, wine cellar, courtyard cellar and storage rooms.
Granite steps between wrought iron railings lead to an entrance door framed by Doric columns on plinths. The hallway is a large room with a marble tile floor and a marble cut mosaic element framed by four arched supports.
The reception/living room features triple bay windows, a marble open fireplace, wide solid oak paneled floors and a double sided window set in a curved wall overlooking the backyard. The kitchen centers around a refurbished vintage AGA and is fitted with bespoke units in solid local oak, solid elm wood and granite worktops. The butler’s pantry features Pippy Oak cabinetry and a granite countertop. A door leads from the pantry to the backyard.
On the lower level of the garden is the formal dining room with natural stone flooring and double sided windows. A solid fuel stove is surrounded by a brick wall with red brick cornices and two distinctive arches.
Two bedrooms are on this level, which also includes a large walk-in closet, bathroom, laundry room and wine cellar. The spiral staircase from the main hallway leads to a landing overlooking the backyard. On the left is a room known as the Library Corner. Illuminated by three sliding windows, it could also be used as a study, while to the right is the guest bathroom.
On the actual first floor is the master bedroom suite with triple bay windows, a cast iron fireplace and a large walk-in closet. The bathroom has a freestanding cast iron bathtub next to the window.
Across the hall is another bedroom with curved walls and two sash windows overlooking the countryside. The home features cast iron radiators, splayed wall frames and baseboards, brass door handles, ornately carved door guards and key pull sliders.
The central courtyard, accessed through large arched gates, features two 1,200 square foot guest cottages with separate street access from the rear of the property. Each has two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen/living/dining area.
The corner courtyard unit includes an office, entertainment room with wet bar, pool table and bathroom. “The house is now too big for both of us,” says Tom, who, like all the neighbors, is enthusiastic about how Charlesfort has turned out. He wasn’t intimidated by the experience.
“I wouldn’t mind doing the same thing again.”
The Murrays’ work means a historic Wexford building is ready for a new generation to inhabit.
Kehoe and Associates is leading the €1.25 million sale of Charlesfort House.
https://www.independent.ie/life/home-garden/historic-wexford-house-painstakingly-restored-after-1977-fire-on-the-market-for-125m-41954568.html Historic Wexford house which has been carefully restored after a 1977 fire and came on the market for €1.25m