A love story in the stables
Streamstown House, Rathmolyon, Enfield, Co Meath. Starting price: €1.1 million. Agent: Coonan Property (01) 6286128
aul Downes thought his three young children might like to go pony riding. The thought led him to Julie Allman and her three children. This eventually brought them all, including the horses, to a new life in a former vicarage in Co Meath.
It was 1997 and Paul had just separated. His three young children, ages three to seven, came to his house on weekends. “I was staying in East Wicklow, and I saw this sign for a pony ride and asked the kids if they’d like that,” Paul says. “They said, ‘yes, dad, we’d like that.’ So we went together and, who was running the company, only Julie. That’s how we met.
“A few weeks later, I needed to get my German Shepherd dog treated, he was in temporary accommodation. So I phoned Julie and asked her if she knew of a place. She said she wasn’t sure but she would get back to me. I phoned her again the next evening and when she couldn’t find a place she said if I got stuck she would take care of it.
He took the dog to Julie’s stables in Redcross. “I didn’t even ask her what kind of dog it was, I’m just an animal lover,” Julie says. After that Paul would come to Redcross once or twice a week to walk the dog and soon the romance blossomed. “The dog moved in before Paul,” Julie points out. “There was no turning back after that,” adds Paul, “we fell head over heels, and here we are.”
It wasn’t a simple encounter, however, as Julie was also going through a divorce and had three children between the ages of 3 and 12. to move on in life now, and the next thing we encountered and it was like two pieces of a puzzle coming together. Suddenly, between the two of us, we had six children,” says Paul.
They came to live in Portobello after that. Julie had sold most of the Wicklow Stud, but retained a few fields where she still kept her horses. Paul, a structural engineer, started his own company and she joined him as financial controller. “Life was very busy, and we had twice the size of the family one of us intended to have, so we needed more space,” Paul says. In the meantime, they added a seventh child to the clan.
“People called us the Brady Bunches,” Julie remarks, “and when we went on vacation, especially to Spain, we created consternation when all nine of us met at the restaurant.”
The business grew and soon gave Julie and Paul the freedom and means to seek a place with space for family, business and horses. It was then, in 2004, that they found Streamstown’s parish house, Rathmolyon with its coach house and stables. It had everything they wanted, so they bought.
Streamstown was built in the 1880s for Catholic clergy. It remained in church ownership for a century until the 1980s when it became privately owned and changed hands once or twice before Paul and Julie purchased it.
“It was in great condition when we moved in,” says Paul, “the masonry, millwork and hardware of the house are second to none, and the materials they chose to build it were meant to last.” Nevertheless, the new owners undertook a comprehensive program of renovations, ensuring that the work carried out by them was in sympathy with the original building and its materials.
Covering 3,897 square feet, the house is set back from the road on 12 acres of land, 4 miles from the M4 at Enfield. The property also includes an independent two-bed coachhouse, a courtyard with stables, equestrian facilities and a tennis court.
An elm lined driveway winds through the paddocks and landscaped gardens to the front of the house. A set of natural stone steps lead to the double paneled front door and a porch with a skylight above and the original Victorian mosaic floor below. Decorative glass paneled doors open into the hallway which, like much of the house, has high ceilings, cornices and decorative plasterwork.
The ground floor accommodation comprises a dining room with a bay window, a living room, a study/office and one of the five bedrooms. Among the other spaces on the ground floor are a pantry with ashes, a laundry room, a storage room and a laundry/shower room.
The modern kitchen features ash units, granite worktops, a large center island and appliances including a Belling oven and Maytag fridge freezer. There is also a wine cellar with racking for 200 bottles. Upstairs is the family bathroom and four large bedrooms, two of which are served by an ensuite.
During the renovations, the couple sought to bring out the best in the original house. As a structural engineer with an interest in heritage buildings, it was a labor of love for Paul. “Much of the beautiful fabric detail of the building has been repainted, the brick cornerstones, string courses, corbelled brickwork and red sandstone lintels all covered. We stripped everything, revealed the stone and then professionally repointed it using a water-resistant lime mortar. It will be 50 years before it needs repointing.
They also exposed the original pitch pine boards and, with the help of Paul’s carpenter father, brushed up on the intricate joinery details. This work consisted of restoring the original sash windows, interior doors, baseboards, cornices and window shutters. A new water system and two state-of-the-art bathrooms have been installed.
Other features include marble fireplaces, a wood burning stove in the office, central heating and fiber optic broadband.
Typical of large houses of its day, at the rear of Streamstown is a courtyard of stone buildings. These include a fully renovated two-bedroom coachhouse with a living room, kitchen and bathroom.
Julie, who has spent her whole life with horses, ensured that the equestrian facilities corresponded to her wishes. The site has seven boxes equipped with equimat floors, a tack room and a large workshop. Behind the stable block is a four-post hay barn with concrete floor, a Monarch walker, and a large sand arena.
The parish house is now too big for Julie and Paul because the “Brady Bunch” chicks have fled the nest. “When we found it, we fell in love with it,” said Paul, “it condensed everything for us, brought the family and the horses together in one house. But, when it comes to a property like this one, the owners are guardians who take care of it to pass it on.
Streamstown House is for sale by private treaty and is being guided by Coonan Property, Maynooth at £1.1million.