Couple find hidden gems while renovating 150 year old Irish home that is visible on oldest maps available

A child's shoe with ancient folklore significance hidden in the walls of a 150-year-old dwelling was discovered by a couple renovating a property in West Cork.

The pair had recently decided to move to Ireland from the UK as they disagreed with Brexit and so opted to retrace their heritage.

Author Austin Lawler who has recently written a book titled ‘The Shoreditch Exhibition’ and his wife Gwen told The Irish Mirror how they came across the historic property.

Austin said: "What set us on this path was that I had Irish grandparents. So I was UK born and bred, I didn't like Brexit and my wife, and I decided that we would move to Ireland in search of a better life.

"My grandparents had lived in the county of Cork, in Whitegate in Cork itself, so we thought we would look at the county as a sort of starting point.

"We had some experience of sort of doing up rather than renovating in the UK. We like older properties. We'd lived in a kind of 400-year-old cottage in the Cotswolds, and we are drawn to that older property, but we were quite surprised at the number of older properties in Ireland falling into decay."

He added: "We looked at six properties, some of which were… modern properties, but we realised we could actually make exactly what we wanted from a renovation, and so that is what we set about doing."

After seeing the old farmhouse and barn, Austin and Gwen instantly fell in love with its old stonework and endless character.

Austin said: "We found this property which we fell in love with instantly.

"It was an absolute ruin. I mean, it hadn't been inhabited in over ten years, and then the ten years prior to that, the last remaining member of the family was in ill health and hadn't done any maintenance, and in fact, there hadn't been any maintenance done to the property in 50 odd years, and the farm had fallen into disrepair.

"There were outbuildings that were so overgrown that we didn't even know they were there until after we bought the place.

Couple find hidden gems while renovating 150 year old Irish home that is visible on oldest maps available

"So it's been a real process of discovery as well and quite a journey."

The couple took on the challenge of a major renovation as they wanted to be able to fashion the home to meet their needs.

Austin said: "We already work from home, so we needed an office each. We enjoy sailing as well, which actually in the winter requires storage to put all the sailing stuff that you need to take off a boat. To do that, we were able to carve up the space really as we want to use it.

"We always wanted a party home. A space that's big enough that we can have people round for dinner and small parties and stuff like that, so that's been the enjoyable thing, but it's just watching it all grow."

Like many old buildings, the home had a few hidden surprises, but to their delight, some were good.

"It's fascinating to watch the construction process, and I guess we found some beautiful things," said Austin.

"We had to take down part of a wall, and within that wall was an old child's leather shoe which from doing some research we discovered that this was folklore.

"Families often put an old child's shoe hidden in a wall to increase the fertility of the female members of the household or sometimes to keep the naughty fairies away. So it was great to find it, and we repositioned it, and it sits in the spot where we found it in. Its own sort of exhibition hole in the wall.

"We also found two snipers windows dating back to the civil war, and we've since heard from locals that's exactly what they were. So we've reinstated those as well, these tiny little strips that look out across the valley.

"We found various bits of gun remnants which we've kept and done the same thing of just putting them in their own space in the wall where we found them. So uncovering the history has been fascinating as well, and old bits of farming equipment and stuff like that it's been great to literally unearth some of that."

The property exists on the oldest maps available in Ireland and so is well and truly steeped in rich history.

Austin said: "There's essentially two primary buildings. One is the farmhouse, and one is a stone barn which used to be the original dwelling before they built the farmhouse.

"The farmhouse we know was built sort of circa 1910, and then they put an extension on that a really good extension actually in 1950, and they moved out of the barn which is at least 150 years old and moved into the farmhouse.

"We have converted the barn back to a dwelling, and we now live in that bit while we continue the renovation of the farmhouse. So we will then move, almost following the pattern of the original family that lived here, we will then move into the farmhouse and live in that and then we will rent out this barn."