up in flames

Gardaí are looking for witnesses after major blaze hits historic Cork mansion

Cork County Council believe the fire was probably caused by arson.

Updated 2.25pm.

Kieran Minihane Kieran Minihane

THE HISTORIC VERNON Mount House in Douglas, Cork has been “very badly damaged” after a fire last night, say gardaí.

The fire brigade arrived on the scene of the fire at around 9.40pm. The cause of the fire is being investigated by gardaí. The scene has been preserved as part of the investigation.

The Cork County Council believe the fire was probably caused by arson. A number of people were reported to have been in the area at the time.

Gardaí are asking anyone with information to contact the garda confidential line 1800 666 111.

Building ‘at risk’

The villa was described by the World Monuments Fund as “arguably the finest example of the this building form to survive in the country”.

The house was first built in 1784. Features of the house included its curved exterior, the neo-Classical wrought-iron balustrade, Corinthian columns, and ceiling paintings.

The building hasn’t been lived in for quite some time.

Kieran Minihane Kieran Minihane

Vernon Mount was deemed ‘at risk’, and was on the World Monuments list of 100 most endangered sites 2008.

The private owner, San Diego based Irish developer, Johnathan Moss, applied for planning permission to develop the house and its grounds, but permission was not granted by Cork County Council.

The house has suffered from continuous break-ins and local residents have raised concerns about the failure to secure the building. Vandals broke in a few weeks ago and damaged the wall.

In 2012 Cork County Council re-roofed three quarters of the roof and the remaining quarter had to be repaired. Repairs cost €106,000 including security and supervision. Further repairs have to be done after the winter storms in 2014.

An Taisce are asking the Cork County Council to initiate a compulsory purchase order of the house and grounds to protect the house from further deterioration.

Scandalous past

The son of the builder, Sir Henry Brown Hayes, became notorious after he abducted a wealthy Quaker heiress, Mary Pike, and forced her into a sham marriage.

download (2) Cork Past & Present / Cork City Library Cork Past & Present / Cork City Library / Cork City Library

Pike managed to escape and put up a £500 reward for the capture of Hayes. After going into hiding for two years, Hayes reportedly asked his barber to inform on him and gain the reward.

Hayes was found guilty of abduction and exiled to Botany Bay in Australia. He bribed the captain of the ship to allow him to bring his servant and was said to have lived a life of luxury in Sydney. He was later pardoned and returned to Ireland in 1812.

Read: This historic Cork Mansion was the scene of a kidnapping, and now it’s at risk

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