19 May 2022

210-year-old Offaly house gets stunning makeover

It's taken three painstaking years but Bernard and Melissa Westman's 210-year-old townhouse in Tullamore has been restored to its former glory. 

Despite the incredible transformation from rundown eyesore to bright and vibrant family home, Bernard says it is "far from finished."

"But we are happy to date," he added, "We tried to keep as much character as possible within the house with the stone walls. We also kept the original height of the ceilings in the bedrooms which are over 14 feet. Two of the bedrooms have the old iron cast fireplace and we restored them by sanding and spraying them back to their original look."

Store Street is one of the quieter streets in Tullamore now, but from 1800 to the 950s it was a busy place with the canal stores in use beside the busy harbour. The passenger boat traffic finished in the 1850s with the advent of the railway and the canal hotel became a parochial house for the Catholic clergy.

Now home to just over a dozen houses, the street is a portal back to those days, a stone's throw from the Grand Canal and the town centre. The bustle of draymen has been replaced by students heading to and from Tullamore College.

"My wife and I bought our first home back in February 2016. The banks were hesitant of lending still at this time. We bought our house through the Credit Union under the home improvement loan as we didn’t have to borrow your typical amount for a mortgage. We got great value for our home and are forever grateful for this luck. Having said that, it wasn’t gifted to us and especially wasn’t the finished article," Bernard explained.

"When I first set my eyes on this old historical building that oozes character resting in the heart of Tullamore, I couldn’t wait to get inside and see the rest of the building, Bear in mind at this stage, it was missing half the roof at the back, windows were broken and the door was boarded up," he added.

"The house was left idle for more than 15 years and the inside reflected the outside, it was rundown and needed a lot of work.

"I had a tough task of trying to sell it to my wife who was expecting our second child in May, a few months after we purchased the house. She wanted a readymade house which was understandable at the time, with a two-year-old toddler and about to give birth.

"We both had to make huge sacrifices for 12 months, we both moved back in with our parents for a short term until we finished the renovation of Store Street. A typical day would be, I would finish work at 5pm, rush home, get the dinner and work in the house until 12 or 1 am most evenings.

"Melissa had a tougher task of trying to attend to two kids under two years of age back living with her parents. It was the toughest times we ever experienced in our lives both mentally and physically challenging, but I promised Melissa I would get it finished within that time frame.

"We both stayed positive even with all the hurdles that we faced along the way. We are so blessed and grateful for our home and what we accomplished and now reap the rewards for our 8-year mortgage we have left. Mortgage-free before 40 will have its benefits. We took a gamble back then but now we are over the moon with the results," Bernard said.

"Looking back now, we didn’t get any additional funds for the renovation, we secured just enough to purchase the house at the time. We did it out of pocket from wages every week on top of paying for the mortgage and everyday bills. The struggle was starting to creep in when the biggest challenge was to pay for trades and materials. Melissa was in maternity leave at this time, it was all the more struggle.

"I was very fortunate to have my friends, brother and brother in law for helping me out with carpentry needs throughout the project. We used three local trades, plumber, electrician and plasterer. I couldn’t change a light bulb before this project, people thought I was mad, taking a huge undertaking and project like this but if you really put your mind to anything and have the drive and desire you will achieve and accomplish your goal, especially when it’s for your wife and kids.

The work was labour intensive but it paid off with the resultant home created, as you can see in the gallery above. Use the arrow at the top right corner of each image to scroll through.

Find out more about the history of the house and the work carried out on the Offaly History blog HERE.

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