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Sale of Kinsales Southwell gift houses was last resort

Monday, 19th October, 2015 5:10pm

Story by Kieran O'Mahony
Sale of Kinsales Southwell gift houses was last resort

The Southwell Houses in Kinsale, originally built to house Protestant widows, are to be sold by the diocese.

THE historic Southwell Gift Houses in Kinsale have been sold, pending final approval by a charities regulator.

The tender was accepted by Cohalan Downing Auctioneers, who were in charge of selling the buildings on behalf of the Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork.

The Gift Houses, or Alms Houses, were built in 1682 and endowed by Sir Robert Southwell. They were originally designed to house widows of Protestant tradesmen. 

There are four houses set within a small courtyard, which are overlooked, by a two-storey supervisor’s house, and these houses are listed and protected.  

‘A tender has been accepted slightly in excess of the guide price of €350,000, and we are sending this off to the Charities Regulation Authority for them to approve it,’ said Malcolm Tyrell, of Cohalan Downing Auctioneers, speaking to The Southern Star.

The decision to sell the Southwell Gift Houses at the Mall, wasn’t a decision taken lightly by Dr Paul Colton, according to Malcolm.

‘It was implied that Dr Colton, who is the sole trustee of the buildings, could have done more to save them, but his hands were tied and he had even tried to engage with the then existing Kinsale Town Council and Heritage Groups to do something. 

‘The problem with these houses is that they were not fit for purpose and the last time work was done on them was in the 1960s,’ added Malcolm.

‘There is no money left in the trust and it would of course have been lovely for someone to restore them to their former glory, but Dr Colton had no choice and this was a last resort for him. The houses needed to be insured, even though there was no one in them. 

‘A huge amount of work will have to go in to repairing them and it won’t be easy or cheap,’ said the auctioneer.

The houses retain much of their original character, including the slate hung gable and they occupy a prominent position overlooking the town and stand on a site, extending to approximately 0.3 acres, near the town’s Municipal offices.

The property comprises four semi-detached cottages as well as a detached supervisor’s house and the sale is subject to the consent of the Charities Regulatory Authority.