See inside this relaxed COUNTRY HOUSE that dates from the 17th century …
Name: Tom and Mary Alexander live with their dog, Apollo and cats, Puss and Kit Address: Gloster House, Birr, Co Offaly Home: A seven-bedroom early Georgian residence surrounded by 140 acres The vibe: Relaxed country house and gardens with plenty of space for entertaining in style
When we moved to Gloster House in 2001, it had been unoccupied for over ten years and was virtually uninhabitable. Everything from the roof down, heating, plumbing, electrics, floors and decorative plasterwork had to be addressed. We also had to correct inappropriate interventions, which had been carried out in the past. It was a painstaking process but the end result has been rewarding.
The house was built c1720 although the centre of the house probably dates from the mid-17th century, while the end rooms are late 18th-century. We redecorated in keeping with the house’s differing architecture – mixing Baroque and early Georgian pieces. We mostly sourced our furniture and ornamental pieces from auction houses – Adam’s in Dublin, Mealy’s in Kilkenny and Sheppards in Durrow – adding them to inherited items, and other pieces sourced in London and Paris. Our favourite “finds” are a pair of sofas in the drawing room and bookcase in the green drawing room. Next on our wish list are urns for the balustrades in the gardens.
This house was originally designed for entertaining with its dramatic double-height hall and pillared gallery, so having been restored to its previous glory, it is great to see it used as was intended. We host a small number of weddings and events each year.
It’s a privilege to live in such wonderful surroundings with beautiful grounds planted with trees hundreds of years’ old. The garden has many fountains and other water features. The only problem is our two peacocks, both called Percy, who often eat the nicest plants and flowers in the gardens … but as they are so beautiful we forgive them.
In the Regency dining room a dramatic dark blue colour is atmospheric, especially by candlelight. The walls are decorated with black and white mezzotint portraits.
The kitchen was one of the first rooms the Alexanders renovated. It has traditional-style units, with a large island at its centre and an Aga on which they do most of our cooking.
Part of the bridal suite.
The earliest preserved room in the house, with Queen Anne fireplace and panelled walls. Paint is Farrow & Ball’s Folly.
Georgian busts in the inner hall.
The gallery overlooking the main hall is a typical Baroque feature of architect Sir Edward Lovett-Pearce, with Doric columns and barrel-vaulted coffered ceiling, embellished with decorative plasterwork.
The music room is Regency in style, with a high ceiling and west-facing Venetian windows and a Bechstein grand piano.
The bedrooms are all en-suite and are furnished with period beds. The green and gold fabric in the headboards was sourced in New York.
Gloster House comprises formal gardens and a walled garden.
Percy, one of the two peacocks who roam the garden alongside peahens and hens.
Photographs by Ruth Maria Murphy
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