Inspired by a Countess: Inside the Kilkenny house designed to fit its ‘model village’

Caney Lodge, Talbot’s Inch, Freshford Road, Co. Kilkenny Asking Price: €1.495m Broker: Savills Country Agency (01) 663 4350

Ileen Duggan was not impressed when husband Richard took her to the site he had in mind for their new home at Talbot’s Inch on the banks of the Nore near Kilkenny City.

She thought he was crazy. “It was literally in the middle of dense forests. You couldn’t see beyond the trees and it was on a hill. I couldn’t see the potential that he could,” she says.

Undoubtedly, developing a home on the site had its charms and challenges.

In many ways some of them mirrored that of an exceptional woman, the Countess Desart, Lady Ellen Odette Cuffe, who was instrumental in the design and construction of the striking neighboring village of Talbot’s Inch a century earlier.

The site’s location next to the Nore, within walking distance of Kilkenny City, had obvious advantages. However, the dense forests and proximity to the famously ornate model village built in 1906 at the behest of Countess Desart presented two distinct challenges – how to build a home that is sympathetic to both.

The Duggans hired architect Nicky Fewer of Harrington and Partners, Waterford to help them create a modern home built to a traditional design, attempting to reflect the character of Talbots Inch Village itself, where almost every original home has a own artistic, unmistakable landmark.

The result is the 5,400-square-foot Caney Lodge, which just went up for sale with a guide price of €1.495 million.

The village of Talbot’s Inch is an example of a “model village” or “garden village” and is typical of social and architectural experiments undertaken by certain philanthropic industrialists and landowners in the second half of the 19th century.


The Countess: Lady Ellen Odette Cuffe (Desart)

It was the brainchild of Lady Ellen Odette Cuffe, a London-born dynamic personality and daughter of Henri Louis Bischoffsheim, a Jewish-German banker credited with founding no fewer than three of the world’s largest modern banks: Deutsche Bank, Paribas and Societe Generale. In 1881 she married Kilkenny landowner William Cuffe, fourth Earl of Desart, and became known as Lady Desart.

She immersed herself in the social, political and cultural life of her adopted country. Along with her brother-in-law, Captain Otway Cuffe, she was involved in the Gaelic League and a number of philanthropic endeavors including the Kilkenny Library, Aut Even Hospital, Woolen Mills, Kilkenny Theater and the Kilkenny Woodworkers. Lady Cuffe also wanted to improve the living conditions of workers at the Kilkenny Woodworkers’ Company and Greenvale Woolen Mills nearby and undertook the building of the village of Talbot’s Inch in 1906.


The garden terrace and the back of the house

The houses were built to the design of William Alphonsus Scott and typified the Arts and Crafts style then popular in England as part of a movement to support artisans and artists in new artisan villages.

At Talbot’s Inch they built 26 houses designed to differ from one another but share certain stylistic elements. On either side of a village green, some stood in semi-detached houses, others were arranged in a terrace. Originally thatched, the roofs were later replaced with diagonal tiles.

In recognition of her commitment to the Gaelic League and her work in Kilkenny, Lady Desart was appointed to the first Seanad Éireann in 1922 and is now one of the new state’s most important public representatives. She was also the first Jewish representative in the Senate.


Eileen and Richard Duggan with Pixie and Bella

Eileen and Richard Duggan were keenly aware of this heritage and wanted to reference the lavish Arts and Crafts style homes of Talbot’s Inch when building Caney Lodge.
“We went to a few architects before we found the one who really understood what we were talking about, Nicky Fewer of Fewer Harrington & Partners. He actually designed many of the homes on Mount Juliet so he could see what we were looking for,” says Eileen Duggan.

“He took a lot of the architectural design from the older houses in the village to make this house appear much older than it actually is.

“He did a great job down to the last detail. He took the style that was present in Arts and Crafts design, such as the idea of ​​pitched roofs, and modernized it only slightly. But it was still consistent with that era, which we felt was very, very important.”

Exterior features that reflect the village design include a pitched roof, stonework detailing, a curved eaves with natural slate, limestone sleepers and the fine details in the window designs. Internal arts and crafts features include custom hardware and paneling with a dado rail throughout.


hallway and reception room

Taking into account the designs from a century ago, the architect and builders also managed to deliver a building with an A3 energy rating. Underfloor heating on the ground floor and radiators on the upper floors are generated by a geothermal system that draws heat from one of the wells 500 feet below the site, an underground stream that feeds the Nore River.

“A lot of thought went into making sure it was built to the highest quality in terms of sustainability,” explains Eileen. “We have two wells, one for our own drinking system and one for the geothermal heating system.

Sustainability and sympathy for the local environment also extended to the garden. “We brought in a local garden designer because we wanted to make sure everything we were doing corresponded very well to the Arts and Crafts garden of the time,” she says.


The kitchen with an electric Aga

The Duggans retained many of the beautiful stands of trees in the original site, and new woodland vegetation and flowers appeared after the house was built. “The place was beautiful, wild forest flowers which we had never seen because of the trees appeared when the light came in. Suddenly new plants and vegetation appeared every year.”

Caney Lodge is a modern four bedroom family home built in 2008 to 2.5ac.
A driveway leads from an entrance with red brick pillars through the old growth forest to a clearing with the house on the left and the River Nore on the right.

Limestone steps and paving lead to double front doors which open onto an entrance hall, arranged around an oak staircase.


Another view of the front of the property

Double doors lead into the living room, which is arranged around a marble fireplace, while another set of double doors gives access to the garden terrace. An archway opens to the formal dining room with a Kilkenny marble fireplace.

The kitchen, which connects to an informal family room, the garden patio and the dining room, is fitted with Aga and Neff electric appliances, while a casement window lets in plenty of natural light. Right next to it is a shoe room and a utility room. The family room has a solid fuel stove and double doors to the garden, while other downstairs rooms include an office with a private patio.

The first floor has three large ensuite bedrooms, two of which open onto a rear south-facing balcony. There is a sizeable attic. Outside there is a garden shed with electricity.

“We raised a family here for 13 wonderful years,” says Eileen, “we have four children, two girls and two boys, and they just had the greatest childhood growing up in the middle of the country yet on the doorstep of the city.” .
“We have our own access to the river from the compound leading to the Riverwalk, a publicly lit walkway that takes us all the way along the river into town.”

Caney Lodge is offered by Savills for 1.495 million euros. Inspired by a Countess: Inside the Kilkenny house designed to fit its ‘model village’

Fry Electronics Team

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