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‘Most horrendous’ renovations carried out on protected 18th century building

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PROTECTED The owners allowed work to be carried out on Knockglass House, eventhough it is a protected structure.

Anton McNulty


The owners of the former residence of the Church of Ireland bishop of Tuam, Killala and Achonry carried out the ‘most horrendous and detrimental interventions’ on the protected eighteenth century building.
Mark and Anna Sumeray were refused permission by Mayo County Council for the retention of works carried out on Knockglass House near Crossmolina, which is a protected structure. The works carried out included the part demolition of an outbuilding which was a protected structure along with the retention of a partly built 65-square-metre single storey rear extension along with the conversion of two single doors to windows and the conversion of a large window to double doors.
Knockglass House is on the Record of Protected Structures and requires planning approval for any works including maintenance works. Planning permission was never obtained for any work on the building.
In a planning memo, Kevin Keegan, an Executive Architect with Mayo County Council described the work which included the demolition of stable buildings as the ‘most horrendous and detrimental interventions’, while ‘modern inappropriate extensions’ destroy the ‘original fabric and architectural intent’ of the building. He said retention cannot be granted in this present form and recommended that planning enforcement should be contacted for their input.
In an equally damning report, the Conservation Architect of Mayo County Council, Siobhán Sexton said the work carried out was illegal and in her opinion the owners should have to reinstate all that has been taken out and damaged and revert back to what it was when they bought it.
Knockglass House is a large Georgian house located in a picturesque location on a bend of the River Deel, approximately 4km north of Crossmolina. It was built around 1820 as the main residence of the Paget family and afterwards it passed into the possession of Patrick Rowe, serving as the home of the Church of Ireland Bishop of Tuam, Achonry and Killala. When it was declared a protected structure in 2002, it was described as retaining most of its original exterior architectural features including sash windows, natural slate roof, elaborate chimney stacks, Doric door case and spider web fanlight which retains its original crown glass. It was put up for sale in 2012 and following an auction was sold to Mark and Anna Sumeray, a Swiss/German couple, for €350,000 in 2013.
Ms Sexton stated that intact eighteenth century houses with attendant structures, gardens and curtilage are extremely rare in Co Mayo.
“Each owner and occupier must ensure that neither a protected structure, nor any element of a protected structure that contributes to its special interest, is endangered through harm, decay or damage, whether over a short or long period through neglect, through direct or indirect means,” she wrote in an internal planning report.
In a letter to Mayo County Council, Michael Conmy, Conservation Architect with Bury Architects, on behalf of Mark and Anna Sumeray, stated that it was regrettable that the works were undertaken without the benefit of planning permission.
“The oversight occurred because the building owners reside in Switzerland and as far as they were aware, the contractor was responsible for fulfilling all the legal obligations associated with the works. In order that no further mistakes are made going forward, they have formally appointed me as Conservation Architect on the project,” he wrote.

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