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What does €20m buy Stripe cofounder John Collison in Co Laois?

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What can €20 million buy you in Co Laois? Considering the average property in the midlands county goes for €208,748, a purchaser could do a deal for 96 regular homes.

Or, if you are the billionaire cofounder of a global technology empire, you may prefer the large 18th-century estate and former ancestral home of the de Vesci family.

Abbey Leix: considered one of the finest 18th-century mansions in Ireland
Abbey Leix: considered one of the finest 18th-century mansions in Ireland

Stripe’s John Collison has paid some €20 million to acquire Abbey Leix, which is considered to be one of the finest 18th-century mansions in Ireland. The Georgian house is surrounded by 1,120 acres, including stands of specimen trees, walled gardens and farmland.

The main residence, which extends to 26,910sq ft (2,500sq m), is complemented by no fewer than 10 estate houses and cottages. Within the main home is a classical library, a conservatory, a music room and an aptly named Gold Room.

The property was brought to the market two years ago by joint agents Sotheby’s International Realty and Colliers seeking €20 million and is understood to have achieved in the region of that figure.

A source close to Mr Collison told Laois Today the entrepreneur intends to live in the property for parts of the year and to develop it for personal use. The source told the local news outlet that Mr Collison is “looking forward to getting to know the Abbeyleix community”. “He’ll be down at the local pub, in the butchers and doing all the things that normal people do.”

Abbey Leix: considered one of the finest 18th-century mansions in Ireland
Abbey Leix: considered one of the finest 18th-century mansions in Ireland

The historic home was attractive to Mr Collison as he aspires to mind the property and regenerate the historic woodland, the source added. “He wants to nurture the wildlife because both him and Patrick care deeply about the environment,” the source said.

“There aren’t many historic houses in Ireland, and very few people have the ability to repair and maintain them . . . these houses have lives far beyond their owners, and John wants to set it up for future generations too.”

An interior view of Abbey Leix mansion
An interior view of Abbey Leix mansion

Prior to Mr Collison’s purchase, the estate had been in the ownership of Sir David Davies, a businessman whose family put down roots in Ireland in the 1940s and who has had a successful career in banking and property.

Having reached his 80th birthday in 2019, and having finally become an Irish citizen, Mr Davies put Abbey Leix on the market with a view to downsizing to his family’s original Irish home, Killoughter in Co Wicklow, a Georgian house on a more manageable scale.

An interior view of Abbey Leix mansion
An interior view of Abbey Leix mansion

In a statement issued through Sotheby’s International Realty and Colliers, Mr Davies said he was pleased to confirm his trust has contracted to sell the Abbey Leix Estate and the majority of its contents to a private buyer.

The statement said “the selection of the buyer was made because of their ambition and interest in preserving the integrity of the estate, including buildings and importantly the trees, and their ability to invest in the estate”.

Mr Davies said he was delighted the future of the estate had been secured for the long term.

An interior view of Abbey Leix mansion
An interior view of Abbey Leix mansion

While Abbey Leix will require substantial investment over time, its new owner will have the benefit of the significant restoration and refurbishment presided over by its former owner.

Designed in 1773 by the noted architect James Wyatt, and home to the de Vesci family for over 300 years, the property was showing its age by the time Mr Davies acquired it in 1995. It had no central heating and needed to be completely rewired, according to an interview Mr Davies gave to the Leinster Express in 2017. It took, he said, four years to renovate, with all of the house’s 117 windows having to be replaced.

The restoration of the house has been documented in a book by historian William Laffan that was published by Mr Davies, who is president of the Irish Georgian Society.

An interior view of Abbey Leix mansion
An interior view of Abbey Leix mansion

“As few places elsewhere, Abbey Leix gives a sense of the longue durée of Irish history. Having been home to French Monks, O’More Princes, Ormonde Earls, de Vesci Viscounts, and a Welsh Knight, the house, its park and woods form a microcosm of our past,” Mr Laffan wrote.

Sotheby’s too described the property in reverential terms when offering it to the market in 2019. Commenting on the estate’s importance, they said: “Abbey Leix is one of the most venerable 18th-century houses in Ireland and, following a spectacular restoration, it is also one of the most congenial. In any list of important Irish country houses Abbey Leix has a prominent place.”

While the grounds of the estate are impressive and include some of Ireland’s most notable remaining ancient woodland and extensive frontage to the River Nore, the house itself is an imposing three-storey classical mansion of seven bays, with the three central bays under a triangular pediment. Inside, the property has numerous features of note, including a music room that retains the decorative plasterwork for which Wyatt was so admired.

Abbey Leix owes its origins to religious settlement, and specifically to the French Cistercian monks who came to Ireland in the mid-12th-century. The present demesne evolved out of the monastery’s granges, woods and fields. One tree, the oldest oak in Ireland, still survives from this period.

Abbey Leix: considered one of the finest 18th-century mansions in Ireland
Abbey Leix: considered one of the finest 18th-century mansions in Ireland

The property also includes farmland and a stud farm featuring a range of cut-stone outbuildings and a principal yard, complete with a clock tower fashioned out of local limestone and dating from 1822.

John Collison is, along with his brother Patrick, one of Ireland’s richest people. As the cofounders and principals of the online payments platform, the Castletroy natives were earlier this year estimated to be worth $11.5 billion (€9.65 billion) each following their company’s latest fundraise, according to Bloomberg.

Its billionaires index, a ranking of the wealthiest men and women in the world, puts them among the richest self-made millennial billionaires.

The brothers, who are aged 32 and 30, were previously valued at $4.3 billion each, according to the index. Forbes magazine had more conservatively estimated their worth to be $2.3 billion prior to their company’s latest fundraise.

In March, Stripe raised a further $600 million, giving it a market valuation of $95 billion. This makes Stripe the most valuable company in Silicon Valley and among the most valuable globally.

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New-build flats with communal work-from-home space are just the job 

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Whether it’s perching computers on ironing boards or struggling to find a peaceful corner in the chaos of a noisy family house, most of us have had to adapt our homes over the past 18 months.

But as the trend for flexible working looks set to continue, a new concept in housing is gaining traction.

Work from home (WFH) developments with a ‘hub’ shared by other residents are popping up across the country.

Modern living: Work from home developments with a 'hub' shared by other residents, which aim to retain the social aspect of office life, are popping up across the country

Modern living: Work from home developments with a ‘hub’ shared by other residents, which aim to retain the social aspect of office life, are popping up across the country

‘The hub is a way of retaining the social aspect of office life,’ says Karly Williams, director of Barratt North Thames. ‘Being close to home enables residents to manage domestic issues, while mixing with others staves off any sense of loneliness and alienation.’

At Barratt’s Linmere development in Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire, which is due to launch in December, the office hub will be surrounded by cafes, shops and green outdoor space.

WFH residents won’t feel they are missing out on the coffee breaks and sandwich lunches they used to enjoy as part of conventional office life. Barratt’s co-working offices and homes are priced from £101,000 to £439,500.

WFH developments can also be effective in regenerating rural areas where unemployment is a problem.

In the village of Lawrenny in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, planning permission has just been granted to a local farmer, David Lort-Phillips, to build a WFH development of 39 homes with shared offices. 

Lawrenny has been in steady decline since the 1980s and until recently looked like becoming little more than a cluster of holiday homes.

‘A village should be more than that; it should be a place to earn a living and to have a busy family life,’ says Lort-Phillips. ‘Many of the new WFH houses will be bought by people returning to Lawrenny, having been brought up here.

‘They will put back into the community, using local businesses and training up local young people.’

Prices of the new homes will range from £300,000 to £500,000 for two to four bedrooms, with management fees of £400 per annum.

One danger of building this kind of development in the countryside is that the new homes will jar architecturally with older, nearby properties. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Galion Homes builds its developments in Somerset with home-workers in mind, so all the homes have offices with superfast broadband as well as nearby hubs and cafes.

‘We won’t be ugly “tack-ons” to villages,’ says Victoria Creber, sales director at Galion. ‘We build developments of no more than 50 homes, at low density, using local stone with a big nod to the local vernacular.’

Disturbing research, based on figures from the Office for National Statistics, was published recently showing 25 per cent of WFH Londoners said they had suffered reduced well-being.

Fizzy Living, which targets its rental apartments at young professionals with an average age of 32 and earning £44,000 a year, tries to make life as stress-free as possible in its East 16 block in Canning Town. 

The scheme comprises 292 apartments, each with its own balcony. Amenities include a meeting room, residents’ lounge, games area and yoga studio.

It claims to be the most pet-friendly building in London, having a specially designed dog washroom (known as the Pawder Room) and it offers a pet-friendly furniture pack for the more delinquent cats and dogs.

‘This block works for me because I can use different spaces for different activities and this combats stress,’ says designer Asher Peruscini, 37, from San Francisco.

‘I use my desk when I’m in design mode, the balcony for more creative stuff and the meeting rooms downstairs for socialising.’ Rentals are from £1,430 pcm.

For those who appreciate the zany side of life, Quintain Living has built The Robinson, a collection of three apartment blocks at Wembley Park in North-West London, in what its describes as ‘retro kitsch’ style.

Each building has a roof terrace where there are surreal delights such as a giant orange-shaped juice bar, a 50-yard row of sun loungers — reputedly the longest in Britain — and a slide that runs down to a courtyard in the floor below.

The WFH component isn’t forgotten — high-speed wifi is found in converted campervans on the terrace.

To de-stress, there is even a rentable spa caravan with a hot tub. From £1,755 furnished; £1,670 unfurnished.

Are WFH developments here to stay?

‘I don’t think working from home will ever replace the buzz of a team of people working towards one goal in the same office,’ says Harry Downes, managing director of Fizzy Living.

‘But I do foresee people being given the freedom to work at home when they need to, reporting into the office only to be kept updated on the bigger picture. It’s a new lifestyle and this type of development caters for it.’ 

On the market… with office space 

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South Africa 17 Lions 22

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15 Stuart Hogg

Something of a flip-flop in terms of his strengths as a player as one or two misplaced passes in attack but resolute and solid in defence. A couple of glimpses of his footwork and pace but he’ll be hoping for more ball next Saturday. Rating: 6

14 Anthony Watson

He was excellent in the first half, the Lions most potent force in attack in being able to escape multiple tacklers, albeit most of the time in lifting pressure in his own 22/half. The ball didn’t run his way after the interval. Rating: 7

13 Elliot Daly

It was his first game at outside centre in Test rugby in five years and it showed. He gave away a couple of penalties, missed his trademark long-range penalty, was bested physically in the collisions and will be under pressure to retain his place. Rating: 5

Robbie Henshaw is tackled by Elton Jantjies. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Robbie Henshaw is tackled by Elton Jantjies. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

12 Robbie Henshaw

Shaded his physical duel with Damian de Allende, carried aggressively, was accurate in the tackle and scrambled well, highlighted by forcing a crucial knock-on from Lukhanyo Am. He made one fine break albeit losing possession and a couple of finger-tip knocks-on but generally good. Rating: 7

11 Duhan van der Merwe

A couple of snapshots of his power in the tackle but like Watson was never given the type of ball where he could impose his strength. He didn’t have many questions to answer in defence because Cheslin Kolbe got very little ball. Rating: 6

10 Dan Biggar

The Welsh outhalf kicked 14 points from the tee and in a general sense, one pulled place-kick aside, his kicking game was reasonably well directed. He didn’t really bring his backline into play at any stage, suffocated by the Boks’ defensive press but overall the ledger was appreciably positive. Rating: 7


The British & Irish Lions

Full coverage of all the action in South Africa READ MORE

9 Ali Price

He looked a little overwhelmed by the pace and physicality in the first 20 minutes but he gradually settled to the task. It was his excellent box-kicking after the restart that yielded opportunities for the Lions to regain possession and wrest control. Rating: 7

1 Rory Sutherland

A late call-up to the starting team due to Wyn Jones’s unavailability he was pinged twice at the scrum and the fact that his replacement Mako Vunipola made an appreciable difference when introduced could see him struggle to be in the matchday 23 next Saturday. Rating: 5

2 Luke Cowan-Dickie

Two errant lineouts, one overthrown the other crooked, were the only real blemishes on his try-scoring performance that was accompanied by a high work-rate on both sides of the ball. Rating: 6

Tadhg Furlong appeals to referee Nic Berry during the first Test. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
Tadhg Furlong appeals to referee Nic Berry during the first Test. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

3 Tadhg Furlong

Loves a good celebration from the lineout maul tries, he won an important scrum penalty and was an important buffer in that set-piece when the Boks chased dominance there. He carried and tackled with typical application in a robust performance over the 67 minutes. Rating: 7

4 Maro Itoje

Deserved man-of-the-match, three turnovers in the first half alone including one within a few metres of the Lions’ line that saved a try. Immense in every facet of the game, he led by example especially in defence; intelligent and unrelenting. Rating: 9

5 Alun Wyn Jones (capt)

He was very quiet in the first half but considering the injury from which he has recovered that was to be expected. He was a key figure in the Lions’ second-half revival that included work-rate and decision-making. Rating: 7

6 Courtney Lawes

A huge performance in all aspects of the game, out of touch, carrying, making an eye-catching break that took him through three attempted tackles as a pre-cursor to one of his side’s better attacking moments. Tackled with authority. Rating: 8

7 Tom Curry

There could be no faulting his desire and work ethic but in conceding three penalties he demonstrated an impetuous streak that proved a bit of a handicap to his team in that opening half. His place will be under threat. Rating: 5

8 Jack Conan

He provided illustrations of the many qualities that he brings to a team, making one of two line breaks, defending and tackling with intelligence and carried the ball more than any other Lions player. Rating: 7

Replacements

In a collective sense they, to a man, added energy and momentum at a crucial stage. Mako Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler gave their team a rock solid scrum, forcing a penalty there to boot. Hamish Watson was lucky to avoid a card for a dangerous tackle. Conor Murray and Owen Farrell brought control and maturity for the most part. Rating: 8

Coach

Warren Gatland deserves great credit for the team selection initially as most of the big calls that he made work out superbly. His half-time recalibration of tactics and focus worked a treat as did the timing of the replacements. He’s never been afraid to change things up and that may be reflected in a couple of changes for the second Test one of which could see Bundee Aki drafted in at 12 with Henshaw moving to 13. Rating: 8

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Norfolk’s Hemsby tops the list of villages with the biggest house prices

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Seaside sun… rises! Norfolk’s Hemsby leads villages with the biggest property value boom as buyers search for coastal countryside views

  • Norfolk’s Hemsby tops the list of villages with the biggest house price increases
  • The average value of a home in Hemsby is up 22% during the past year
  • Three of the top five villages with the biggest price increases are in Norfolk

Britain’s village hotspots for homebuyers have been revealed and dominating the list are seaside locations.

The pandemic has seen a ‘race for space’ with people living in cities moving to rural and coastal areas due to more flexible working practices.

They are shunning busy city landscapes for open green spaces in the countryside and easy access to expansive sea views.

Britain's village hotspots for homebuyers have been revealed by property website Rightmove

Britain’s village hotspots for homebuyers have been revealed by property website Rightmove

This four-bedroom house in Hemsby is on the market for £300,000 via Bycroft estate agents

This four-bedroom house in Hemsby is on the market for £300,000 via Bycroft estate agents

Hemsby, just north of Great Yarmouth, tops the rankings produced by Rightmove, having seen the biggest rise in average house prices during the past year.

The typical value of a home in the Norfolk village has increased 22 per cent in the 12 months from June last year, from £221,533 to £270,144.

Three of the top five villages with the biggest house prices increases were in Norfolk, with Heacham and Caister-On-Sea also making the list.

Heacham saw asking prices increase by 20 per cent in June 2021 compared to the same period last year, while asking prices in Caister-On-Sea rose by 12 per cent.

Caister-On-Sea also saw one of the biggest rises in demand for villages, with buyer demand up 46 per cent in June 2021 compared to June 2020. Average asking prices in Caister-On-Sea are £240,909.

David Lowes, of estate agents Mr & Mrs Clark in Norfolk, said: ‘With a general “escape to the country” desire prevalent for many, the rural county of Norfolk is in high demand.

‘With its 90 odd miles of varied coastline, the added possibility of a “next-to-the-sea” lifestyle, and the simple pleasure of a stunning sunrise or sunset means the coastal villages are of particular attraction.’

Heacham saw asking prices increase by 20 per cent in the year to June 2021, says Rightmove

Heacham saw asking prices increase by 20 per cent in the year to June 2021, says Rightmove 

This four-bedroom house in Heacham is for sale for £475,000 via Sowerbys estate agents

This four-bedroom house in Heacham is for sale for £475,000 via Sowerbys estate agents

He added: ‘Hemsby and Caister in the east and Heacham in the west of the county offer some of the more affordable options thus driving strong percentage price growth. 

‘Each of these villages are close to larger towns too which helps with the transition to the countryside in terms of availability of amenities and activities.’

Rightmove defined demand as the number of enquiries it had via emails and calls to agents via its website. 

Average prices percentage increases in these villages appear to be around three times as much elsewhere. But this may be affected by villages having lower stock and fewer transactions. 

The average price of a home in Britain increased 6 per cent during the past year to June, from £317,058 to £336,073, according to Rightmove.

This four-bedroom house in Caister-on-sea is for sale for £400,000 via Bycroft estate agents

This four-bedroom house in Caister-on-sea is for sale for £400,000 via Bycroft estate agents

Rightmove revealed that six out of the top 10 villages with the biggest annual price growth in June are near the sea. House price growth in all of these villages rose at a higher rate than the national average.

Rightmove’s Tim Bannister said: ‘During the past year, we’ve spoken a lot about the changes we’re seeing in where people are choosing to live, and this data shows continued demand from buyers looking for villages and rural locations outside of traditional major cities.

‘While we have seen signs that cities are starting to make a steady comeback, particularly in the rental market, price growth across all areas of Britain continues to be strong.

‘With the summer weather finally here, we’re seeing an added drive from buyers looking for that perfect village location by the sea, which is supporting price growth in these areas.’

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