Thursday 26 February 2009

Plans to acquire Cork heritage estate abandoned

THE IRISH Heritage Trust has confirmed that it has had to abandon the negotiations which were close to completing its acquisition of the Anne’s Grove estate in north Cork because of current Government cutbacks.

Described by a spokesman as “a wonderful offer of an estate of international importance which we cannot now accept”, Anne’s Grove at Castletownroche is the home of the Grove Annesley family where a famous riverside garden is the centrepiece of a 500- acre estate comprising house, home farm, double stableyard, riverbank and woodlands.

It lies deep in the Blackwater valley close to Spenser’s home at Doneraile which was also the home of Canon Sheehan, close also to the Hennessys of Cognac fame at Kilavullen and to the birthplace of Edmund Burke, and long associated with Farahy, home of Elizabeth Bowen at nearby Bowens’ Court.

While a slight reduction in the core grant supporting the trust does not affect its ability to continue with the development of other projects, the endowment fund of €5 million and associated tax credits which had been allocated for Anne’s Grove were withdrawn two weeks ago. The spokesman indicated that “all bets are off now” with regard to the €35 million earmarked for the trust over the duration of the National Development Plan.

While the Grove Annesleys settled in Castletownroche in 1628 the present house was built in the early 18th century on a plateau immediately above the Awbeg river. Although much of the early plan of the gardens survives, its most significant development came with the dedication of Richard and Hilda Grove Annesley from 1907 to 1966. At present the estate is run by a family trust managed by Patrick Annesley and his wife Jane; it is understood that at one point the family offered to sell the farmland in order to provide a restoration fund for the Irish Heritage Trust, which has confirmed that it was offered the estate on very generous terms.

The dilemma for the Annesleys is that while the trust has not absolutely ruled out the possibility of re-opening negotiations, the value of the property itself has been reduced in the interval since the initial assessments. While the trust’s plan was to keep intact one of the country’s few examples of a complete country house estate, the family is considering other options in an effort to generate sufficient capital to ensure the continued preservation of the demesne.

Irish Times

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