Back in 2019, the most expensive property in Laois went on the market – and now it appears that a sale is very close.
Abbey Leix Estate, on the Ballacolla road out of Abbeyleix, was put up for sale two years with a simple eye-watering price tag of €20 million attached to it.
The 1,050-acre estate currently belongs to Sir David Davies – an 85-year-old British electrical engineer and educator.
But that may not be the case for much longer as speculation about a high-profile buyer have surfaced in recent days.
LaoisToday spoke to a source close to the property who confirmed that a sale was now ‘close’.
It is understood that John Collison, co founder of Stripe, is in the process of completing the purchase of the estate.
Brothers John and Patrick Collison have a combined wealth of €7.7 billion, were named third on the 2020 Rich List for Ireland and are the founders of Stripe.
Originally from Dromineer in Tipperary, the brothers are typically refereed to as being from Limerick as they attended Castletroy College before moving to the US at a young age to further their business interests.
Stripe is an online payments company that the brothers founded in 2009 and is now the most valuable ever Irish-made enterprise with a market value of just under €80 billion.
The Irish Independent has reported that “a source close to the transaction said that he has expressed an interest in acting as a ‘custodian’ for the property and its estate and regenerating its historic woodlands”.
A helicopter pad is already located in the estate with a small runway and it is understood that there is scope to extend this so that small aircrafts could land there.
At present, a stud farm is located in the estate and a thriving timber business.
The entrance to the mansion is just off the Ballacolla Road about 1km from Abbeyleix town.
Abbey Leix Estate’s mansion is augmented by 10 lodges and cottages on the estate and includes some of Ireland’s most notable ancient woodland as well as extensive frontage to the River Nore.
The history of Abbey Leix dates back to 1150 when some French Cistercian monks arrived and founded an abbey. The Reformation in 1550 spelled the end of their occupancy as the abbey was destroyed.
The De Vesci family took over a couple of centuries later, and in the early 1770s Thomas Vesey, the first Viscount de Vesci, commissioned a new house from a fashionable architect – James Wyatt.
Back then, the house was described as “an elegant three-storey Classical mansion of seven bays, the three central bays under a triangular pediment.
“The arrangement of rooms is elegant and simple, with three major rooms on the park front. There is a deep hall, with a screen of columns separating it from the east-west-running staircase hall and corridor.
“The music room at the south-eastern corner of the house retains the light, decorative plasterwork for which Wyatt was so admired. Plaster roundels framed by swags of husks were decorated with grisaille by the artist De Gree a few years after completion, probably about 1785.
“In the middle of the 19th-century the Italianate character was adopted and the great Classical library and a conservatory were added. At the same time the front of the house was enclosed within an Entrance Court with terraces added to the rear.”
However, according to the Sunday Business Post, things had deteriorated dramatically by 1994.
They say: “The estate had incurred £1.5 million in death duties, and a further £250,000 was needed for essential repairs.
“It is believed that the cash-strapped family were using the hall as a living room – being smaller than the reception rooms, it was easier to heat.”
In stepped Sir David Davies, who at that stage lived in Hong Kong, and after receiving a phone call from the de Vescis who were looking to see if he knew anyone suitable who could purchase the land when they put it up for sale, decided to take a look himself.
Instead of finding someone else, he bought it and carried out extensive renovation works.
MyHome.ie say: “A comprehensive and sympathetic restoration was undertaken in 1995. A new state dining room was created.
“The whole north-west corner of the accommodation was redesigned to provide a new family room, kitchen and butler’s pantry.
“A considerable programme of conservation of the major rooms followed. The works create a 21st-century family home with an appropriate balance between comfort and informality on the one hand and grandeur for entertaining and the display of art on the other.”
We await further news with baited breath – but the people of Abbeyleix could be about to gain some very famous neighbours.